October 31, 2014

Keren Rice talk at UTM

Faculty member Keren Rice will be giving a talk as part of the Department of Language Studies Speaker Series at our Mississauga campus:

"Fieldwork, community, variation, and change."
Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 1 PM - 3 PM
North Building 262 (Dean’s Lounge)

During my career, I have been interested in addressing and trying to understand the tension that exists between universality and variability in language; I have also been interested in examining ways of working with people in fieldwork where the role that the people that linguists work with are taken into account, with a focus on people as well as on language. In this talk, I examine variation from two very different perspectives, a general approach to research and specific research that I have been doing. The general approach to research that I address concerns the definition of collaborative or community-based models of research, and how those both enhance and restrict research.

The linguistic approach (the focus of this talk) concerns the reported absence of types of phonological variation at a time in the history of the Dene (Slavey) language that has important ramifications for the history of how communities were settled, a topic of interest in the communities. The ethnographic record speaks to the emergence of two varieties of the language in the early 20th century. This does not fit well with people’s sense of their history. Work with a dictionary compiled in the late 19th century reveals that the linguistic varieties were in fact distinct at that time, suggesting that the linguistic record supports the community interpretation of its history.

These topics both address variation, albeit of very different types, but these represent the kinds of variation that are often found in doing fieldwork today.

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