Fwd: Language and culture research group

Ljuba Veselinova ljuba at LING.SU.SE
Thu Jan 15 11:16:40 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Alexandra Aikhenvald <a.y.aikhenvald at live.com>
Date: Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 8:11 AM
Subject: Language and culture research group
To: lingtyp-request at listserv.linguistlist.org

It gives us pleasure to announce the establishment of the Language and
Culture Research Group within the Cairns Institute at James Cook

The Language and Culture Research Group (LCRG) brings together
linguists, anthropologists, social scientists and those working in the
humanities, under the leadership of Professor Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald
and Adjunct Professor R. M. W. Dixon. The primary aim of the LCRG is
to investigate the relationship between language and the cultural
behaviour of those who speak it, and the relations between human
biology, cognition studies and linguistics.

The LCRG is concerned with the fundamental business of linguistics and
especially anthropological linguistics — our faculty and research
students undertake intensive studies of previously undescribed (or
barely described) languages, with a primary focus on the languages of
the Pacific (especially the Papuan languages of New Guinea), the
languages of Amazonia, and of Aboriginal Australia. We also
concentrate on studying minority languages, including languages of
immigrants, within the context of the majority populations. We work in
terms of basic linguistic theory, the cumulative framework which is
employed in most linguistic description, providing anthropologically
informed grammars and analyses of languages and language areas. Our
work has a sound empirical basis but also shows a firm theoretical
orientation, seeking for explanation hand-in-hand with description.

Building on reliable descriptive studies, the LCRG also puts forward
inductive generalizations about human languages, cultural practices
and cognition. We enquire how a language reflects the environment in
which people live, their system of social organization, food
production techniques, and the ways in which people view the world.
For instance, groups living in mountainous terrain often have to
specify, for any object, whether it is uphill, downhill or at the same
level as the speaker. And if there is a chiefly system, a special term
of address may be required for speaking a high chief, and a different
term for a minor chief. Why are languages the way they are? We seek
scientific explanation and motivation, combining the expertise of
linguists, anthropologists and social scientists from other domains.

Another focus of study concerns the ways in which languages influence
each other. What kind of words, and meanings, are likely to be
borrowed between two languages spoken next to each other, and under
what social circumstances? Are some kinds of systems particularly open
to diffusion, so that they are likely to spread over all the languages
in a geographical area, and are other kinds of systems less likely to
be diffused?

The Group comprises a number of students and research staff. Its scope
includes work within a number of projects funded by the Australian
Research Council — including 'Are some languages better than others?'
and 'The world through the prism of language: a cross-linguistic view
of genders, noun classes, and classifiers'. Each year, we plan to
attract PhD students and Post-doctoral Fellows, and invite leading
national and international scholars as Visiting Fellows and Honorary
Visiting Fellows, to spend their sabbatical in the vibrant
intellectual atmosphere of the Cairns Institute at JCU.

The LCRG organises international workshops on topics in
ethnolinguistics and linguistic typology, continuing the tradition
laid by A. Y. Aikhenvald and R. M. W. Dixon since 1997.

The Cairns Institute is an exciting new initiative which aims to
establish JCU as the world's leading research university in the area
of peoples, societies and cultures of the tropics. Our mission is
consistent with that of the Cairns Institute as a whole — to enhance
human life in the tropics, with particular focus on Australia, the
Pacific and South America, so as to materially contribute to a
brighter, more enriching future for tropical peoples. This will be
achieved by assisting them with linguistic and cultural maintenance
and understanding of their identity and heritage, and through
globally-informed scholarship, research excellence, and a mobilising
commitment to social justice. We envisage working in close
collaboration with colleagues from the Department of Anthropology,
Archaeology and Sociology, in particular, Associate Professor Rosita
Henry, Dr Mike Wood, Dr Nigel Chang, and Professor Bruce Kapferer, the
Cairns Institute's International Strategic Advisor.

Cairns is a vibrant town — a centre for numerous Aboriginal and Torres
Straits Islanders communities, and a multiplicity of immigrant groups.
It is strategically located with respect to the Pacific Islands and to
New Guinea — a real gateway to the world of tropical people.

            The LCRG is jointly coordinated by Professor Alexandra Y.
Aikhenvald and  Adjunct Professor R. M. W. Dixon.

            Alexandra Aikhenvald has worked on descriptive and
historical aspects of Berber languages and has published, in Russian,
a grammar of Modern Hebrew (1990). She is a major authority on
languages of the Arawak family, from northern Amazonia, and has
written grammars of Bare (1995, based on work with the last speaker
who has since died) and Warekena (1998), plus A Grammar of Tariana,
from Northwest Amazonia (Cambridge University Press, 2003; paperback
2007), in addition to essays on various typological and areal features
of South American languages. Her comprehensive grammar, The Manambu
language from East Sepik, Papua New Guinea, was published by Oxford
University Press in 2008. Other monographs with OUP are Classifiers: a
Typology of Noun Categorization Devices (2000, paperback 2003),
Language Contact in Amazonia (2002), Evidentiality (2004, paperback
2006) and Imperatives and commands (due in 2010).

            R.M.W. Dixon has published grammars of a number of
Australian languages (including Dyirbal and Yidiñ, both spoken in the
Cairns area), in addition to A Grammar of Boumaa Fijian (University of
Chicago Press, 1988), The Jarawara language of southern Amazonia
(Oxford University Press, 2004) and A Semantic Approach to English
Grammar (Oxford University Press, 2005). His works on typological
theory include Where have all the Adjectives Gone? and other Essays in
Semantics and Syntax (Mouton, 1982) and Ergativity (Cambridge
University Press, 1994). The Rise and Fall of languages (Cambridge
UP,1997) expounded a punctuated equilibrium model for language
development; this is the basis for his detailed case study Australian
Languages: their Nature and Development (Cambridge UP, 2002). The
first two volumes of his seminal study, Basic Linguistic Theory,  will
be published by OUP in late 2009.

For further information, research opportunities and visits, contact us
at Sasha.Aikhenvald at jcu.edu.au or nyamamayratakw at gmail.com

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, PhD, DLitt, FAHA
Professor and Research Leader (Peoples and Societies of the Tropics)
The Cairns Institute
James Cook University
PO Box 6811
Queensland 4870

mobile 0400 305315
office 61-7-40421117
home 61-7-40381876

sasha.aikhenvald at jcu.edu.au


> Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 06:32:58 -0500
> Subject: You have been added to the LINGTYP list
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> CC: Frans.Plank at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE; Jean-Christophe.Verstraete at ARTS.KULEUVEN.BE; ljuba12 at GMAIL.COM; ljuba at LING.SU.SE; p.kahrel at LANCASTER.AC.UK
> Sat, 13 Dec 2008 06:32:57
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Ljuba Veselinova
Dept of Linguistics, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-8-16-2332 Fax: +46-8-15 5389
URL  : http://www.ling.su.se/staff/ljuba/

"We learn by going where we want to go."
                                          Julia Cameron

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