This coming April, a body of prominent scholars from around the world will convene in Tucson for Multilingual, 2.0?, a symposium supported by UofA’s newly founded Confluence Center for Creative Inquiry. Coming from disciplines as diverse as computational linguistics, anthropology, second language acquisition, comparative literature, and translation studies, this esteemed group of leading thinkers will collaboratively inquire how our understandings of multilingualism and its counterpart concept monolingualism frame our perceptions of knowledge, identity, learning, governance, creativity, and the missions of higher education.
On the opening night of the symposium, Friday, April 13, renowned humanities scholar and Slavicist Michael Holquist (Yale University) takes on the daunting question “What is monolingualism?” by surveying some of the work done across diverse fields such as psychology, biology, cryptography, information theory, political history, and, of course, linguistics. In her talk, “If English was good enough for Jesus: Monolinguismo y mala fe,” Mary Louise Pratt (New York University) shows how the well known "if English was good enough for Jesus..." joke offers a rare selfconscious glimpse of US society's craziness around language, and the religious and geopolitical entanglements involved. Her lecture will be given in Spanish with English supertitles.
Saturday morning opens with a conversation about contemporary practices of multilingualism through the examples and insights offered by three speakers. Computational linguist and entrepreneur Rohini Srihari’s (University of Buffalo) discusses the various potential motivations for multilingual text mining, including commercial and societal applications, digital humanities applications, and, government applications, where the value proposition (benefits, costs and value) is different, but equally compelling. Sociolinguist Laura Callahan (CUNY-Graduate Center) investigates how multilingualism expresses itself through the pre-imposition versus in-situ construction of group and individual identities. Pan-Africanist and linguist Sinfree Makoni (Pennsylvania State University) analyzes language practices of taxi inscriptions in Ghana during the mid-20th century, demonstrating how the autobiographical details and orientation towards the discourses and inscriptions on drivers’ cars produces a personal linguistic portfolio which runs counter to the code-based frameworks such as urban language practices and truncated multilingualism.
In one of the features hour-length talks, sociolinguist Deborah Cameron (University of Oxford) Cameron examines the practices of “verbal hygiene” involved in the ongoing, post 9/11 (re)construction of “monolingualism” and “multilingualism” in the discourses which circulate in contemporary British society. This is followed by a cluster of three talks that focus on multilingualism as simulation. Literary comparatist and Germanist Yasemin Yildiz (University of Illinois) focuses on the impact of monolingualism as a historically specific yet currently dominant paradigm and introduces her concept of the “postmonolingual condition,”. Language acquisition theorist Glenn Levine (UC-Irivine) argues for a critical, multilingual approach to pedagogical design and questions whether multilingualism can be simulated in a classroom environment. Comparatist Brian Lennon (Pennsylvania State University) explores how, in the Cold War United States, the imagination of human language successfully manipulable by an electronic computer was embraced by some prominent postwar mathematicians and engineers, contested by others, and regarded with caution or dismay by most humanists and writers and many journalists. Anthropologist Don Kulick (University of Chicago) takes a second look at the assumed virtues of advanced language learning for research and field-work purposes, and explores some of the benefits he sees in doing research among people who speak a language that one doesn’t know.
On Saturday evening, applied linguist Claire Kramsch (UC-Berkeley) continues this line of thought, asking to what extent do foreign language learners have to be concerned about inauthenticity and imposture in our late modern era or have these notions become irrelevant now that “the native speaker is dead”?
The final day of the event begins with three presentations that look at how multilingualism is “invented”. Literary comparatist Thomas Paul Bonfiglio (Pennsylvania State University) examines the ideological legacy of the apparently innocent kinship metaphors of “mother tongue” and “native speaker.” In his discussion of neoliberal globalization and the role of English, language policy scholar Thomas Ricento (University of Calgary) will address the following questions: (1) where does power reside? (2) who has agency? (3) who decides which language has value? and (4) who has rights? Linguist Carol Pfaff (Free University Berlin) explores the language development of multilinguals in Berlin, with a focus on the development of Turkish, German and English of children and adolescents of the 2nd and 3rd generations of migrants from Turkey.
Translation Studies theorist Anthony Pym (Universitat Roviri i Virgili) explores how institutions like the Catholic Church have grown and its ideologies spread outwards, in a hierarchical and controlled multilingualism. Further, Pym asks whether we can take this model and ask to what extent the same basic terms might be applied to other supra-national cases like the European Union, Facebook, Arabic democracy, or the liberal humanism of the Western university?
In the final cluster of talks, Alison Phipps (University of Glasgow), a theorist of intercultural studies, considers the experience of “unmoored multilingualism” through autoethnographic reflection, literary fiction, anthropology of movement and the embodied relationship between pain and languages, including those reflected in local Tucson author Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Poisonwood Bible. Literary scholar Joshua Miller (University of Michigan) examines recent literary and cinematic portrayals of linguists and translators within multilingual worlds in order to question how these mixed-language engage the lexical features of the everyday in old and new media environments. Film studies expert and Germanist Randall Halle (University of Pittsburgh) looks at the transition from silent to sound film as an important moment in the development of monolingualism, in which the binding of soundtrack to imagetrack bound the image to specific linguistic communities and particular national markets.
Attendance at the symposium is free and open to the public, but participants are asked to register in advance, as seating may be limited. All talks will be held at the Center for Creative Photography auditorium, University of Arizona Campus.
A full schedule and further information can be found at the web site multilingual.arizona.edu.