Professor to speak on Language Barrier in Europe

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Apr 3 19:11:17 UTC 2005

The Daily Illini - News Issue: 3/31/05

Professor to speak on future of language barrier in Europe
By Kiran Sood

Susan Gal, professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of
Chicago, will discuss the politics of language inside and outside of the
European Union today at 4 p.m. in room 101 of the International Studies
Building, 910 S. Fifth St. The lecture, entitled "Language and the Future
of (Eastern) Europe," is a part of the Colloquial Series held by the
Russian, East European and Eurasian Center (REEEC), which aims to organize
diverse programming activities and supporting area research.

Gal received a doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of
California at Berkeley and is one of the leading scholars studying
language and gender issues of post-socialist Eastern Europe. Gal also
co-edited Languages and Publics: The Making of Authority with Kathryn
Woolard and co-authored The Politics of Gender after Socialism with Gail
Kligman. "The current supra-national and very powerful European Union is
not officially tied to any language at all, or rather to more than 10
different languages," Gal said. "So, the politics of language in Europe
today is a whole new kind of phenomenon than ever before."

She said that during the last 200 years, Europeans constructed national
standard languages as the ultimate symbols and signs of national and
political belonging. Gal will discuss her views on how the lack of
linguistic unity among Europeans is dangerous to attaining political
unity. She said her speech will take a number of different examples of
language situations in Europe today and examine them as ironies of
language in that region.

"I hope to shed light on aspects of European language usage that are not
usually examined by the political scientists who worry about language
politics," Gal said. Lynda Park, assistant director of the REEEC, said the
lecture would address a fascinating and important topic of language policy
and politics in Europe. "We are at a time when the newly enlarged European
Union has pretensions of functioning more and more like a nation-state,"
Park said. "As a leading anthropologist of Eastern Europe, Gal should
provide quite a different perspective on this topic than, let's say, the
official line of the European Union."

Sara Tsai, freshman in LAS, has not yet taken anthropology courses at the
University but feels that this topic is definitely worth a second chance.
"Communication between people is something that helps us get our ideas and
feelings across to one another," Tsai said. "If we lose the ability to
communicate because of a language barrier, then we will be at a great

Nina Polyn, freshman in LAS, had a different opinion on the issue. She
said that Europe as it is today - with many individual languages - is
beneficial. "I think it makes (European countries) unique to not have a
common language and it keeps their cultures and lifestyles original,"
Polyn said.  "They need to know how their ancestors had carried their
language on. They should continue this tradition as well."

Alex Joo, freshman in LAS, also shared her opinion, adding that the
diverse languages spoken there define Europe. "I am simply against the
application of one language throughout Europe,"  Joo said. "I believe the
most important thing is the preservation of the uniqueness of each country
in Europe through its own special language."


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