Symposium: Globality, Locality and Contact

Matti Miestamo matti.miestamo at HELSINKI.FI
Wed Apr 16 09:04:25 UTC 2008



An interdisciplinary symposium to be held at the

17-18 November 2008

The planned symposium will bring together linguists, anthropologists and
scholars from other fields in the Humanities and Social Sciences looking
at their subject matter from the global and/or the local perspective,
and interested in how motivations stemming from the global and the local
compete and converge in shaping human behaviour and culture in general
and language in particular. A central factor in this interplay is
contact – between distant/unrelated cultures and languages on the one
hand and adjacent/related local habits and languages/dialects on the
other. However, we would also like to invite contributions on other
motivations, for example on how general cognitive and pragmatic factors
are reflected in flows towards globalized varieties.

It is our common conception that languages differ the more the more
distant they are from each other in terms of geography and genealogy
(historical relatedness). Linguists have, however, become increasingly
aware of the fact that different dialects of one and the same language
may show important structural and lexical differences. Clearly then,
there are other important factors than just areal and genealogical
distance that can be responsible for differences between languages. The
aim of the symposium is to identify and describe situations that are
interesting in terms of global similarities and local differences, and
to discuss historical developments and motivations behind these
situations. The symposium will also address similar questions in other
spheres of human culture and interaction, one of the aims being a better
understanding of whether and how language differs from these other
spheres in terms of the local and global forces driving similarity and

While two of the keynote speakers, Professors Peter Mühlhäusler
(University of Adelaide) and Tom Güldemann (University of Zurich and the
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig) approach
the above-mentioned questions from the point of view of language, the
expertise of the third, Professor Deborah Kapchan (New York University),
permits us to widen the scope of the conference to include themes such
as the interaction of local and global forms of music making, examining
the intersecting structures of both music production and music
performance. The former deals with the question of what kinds of
accommodation happen when different systems of organizing and rewarding
music making come together (e.g. the application of global concepts such
as copyright and ownership in Africa), while the latter looks at the
kinds of semantic and conceptual modification that take place in a
particular performance genre when it travels from local to global
contexts (e.g. Moroccan healing music winning large international
audiences). Other media of artistic expression are also included in the
thematic scope of the symposium.

In line with the keynote speakers’ research emphases, we envisage a
programme of contributions taking shape around the following topic areas:

▪ Typological micro- and macrovariation, i.e. similarities and
differences between linguistic/cultural varieties viewed from the
perspective of different points on the scale from local to global
▪ The role of common origin vs. contact in the areal distribution and
diffusion of linguistic and other cultural features
▪ How globalization and contact give rise to new forms of language and
▪ How globalization and contact (or lack thereof) affects the simplicity
vs. complexity of linguistic and other social structures
▪ Theory and methods of a comparative description of practices and varieties
▪ Identities, coalitions and communities as social and cultural constructs
▪ Contacts and networks between varieties and variant practices
▪ Mechanisms of diffusion within and beyond local practices
▪ Mechanisms of borrowing and re-contextualisation
▪ Interaction of local and non-local concepts of authorship and
ownership in music or art production and exchange
▪ The role of music/art/performance genre in the codification or
objectification of cultural identity
▪ (Re-)interpretation of function and meaning of local music/art or
performance genres in a global context and of global genres at the local
▪ Emergent semantic forms and aesthetic formations in the global music
or art market
▪ Traveling and non-traveling meanings/concepts in music/ art/ performance
▪ The role of intermediaries as translators/negotiators of meaning

Keynote speakers

Professor Tom Güldemann, University of Zurich / Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig

Professor Deborah Kapchan, New York University

Professor Peter Mühlhäusler, University of Adelaide

Abstract submission

The deadline for the submission of abstracts (in English; max 500 words)
is May 31, 2008. Please submit your abstract by e-mail to
<>. The abstract should be included in the body
of the message. Participants will be notified about acceptance by June
15, 2008. The abstracts will be published on the web pages of the
conference <>.


Anneli Meurman-Solin (Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change
in English, University of Helsinki)
Matti Miestamo (Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies / Department of
General Linguistics, University of Helsinki)
Tuulikki Pietilä (Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology,
University of Helsinki)

Collaborating institutes and research units

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Department of General Linguistics, University of Helsinki
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English, University
of Helsinki

Symposium website


Matti Miestamo

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