Sunday, May 02, 2010

Patrick Stevenson lecture: The Times of Their Lives: Time, Place and Space in Central European Language Biographies

For our readers in Wisconsin with an interest in language in its social context, we're hosting a Worldwide Universities video seminar by Professor Patrick Stevenson (University of Southampton):
The Times of Their Lives: Time, Place and Space in Central European Language Biographies

Time: 10:00-12:00
Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.
Thursday, 6 May

Two kinds of story are typically told about language in the complex and volatile region of Central Europe. One involves small-scale language contact phenomena studied by sociolinguists working on linguistic variation and change. The other, studied by sociologists and historians, concerns ways in which language myths are worked and re-worked in support of competing national interests. Both kinds of story - about the history of language and about language in history - rest on tensions between movement and stasis and are built around variables of time, place and space: how do linguistic variants travel and re-shape linguistic landscapes? how do the ebbs and flows of human migrations impact on the linguistic configuration of societies and communities?

However, in the search for generalizations both kinds of story tend to neglect both the agency and the experiences of individual language users, who themselves have their own stories to tell. Focusing on German-speakers in eastern Central Europe, I will try in this talk to show how such language (auto)biographies can contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of language in social life and how they serve to arrange individual lives in temporal and spatial terms.
He'll be speaking from Southhampton with a video link to Madison and several over universities. We've done this become and the technology is remarkably good — the Q&A allows good interaction even intercontinentally.

The talk is free and open to the public. A handout for the talk is available here, and references are available here.

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