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Conference "Typology of small-scale multilingualism"

From 15-17 April a conference organized jointly by the Laboratory of Language Convergence, the University of Lyon, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the Institute of Linguistics (Moscow) was held in Lyon. The conference was dedicated to the study of multilingualism in minority language communities - a field of research which has been actively pursued by Laboratory faculty for some time thanks to extensive fieldwork in Dagestan.

Researchers from Russia, France, the USA, Australia, Finland, the UK, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Cameroon, and Pakistan participated in the conference. In the plenary talks Friederike Lüpke (SOAS, London) and Nicholas Evans (ANU, Canberra) discussed methods of describing traditional, village multilingualism and its significance for our understanding of the evolution of language.  Dr. Evans presented his theory - set forth in his article "Did language evolve in multilingual settings?" - that during the early stages of language’s history the fact that people lived in very small language groups which actively interacted with each other, including in part, through exogamy, played a central role in the evolutionary process.  The active exchange of linguistic material through multilingualism influenced how the inventory of functional resources in human language developed as a whole.

Reports on various multilingual regions of the world were presented, including work on South America, Africa, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, China, Siberia, and Dagestan.  Many young researchers were among those presenting, including some from HSE University, whose participation was made possible thanks to financial support from the University of Lyon, HSE, and the Institute of Linguistics.  A poster session was held on the second day of the conference.

The conference was of great interest to the faculty of the University of Lyon, who also study areas of high language density.  At the closing session Dr. Lüpke discussed how the conference had opened a new line of research. Along with Kaius Sinnemäki of the University of Helsinki, Dr. Lüpke proposed holding a conference on this subject matter regularly. The next conference is planned for two years from now in Helsinki.