Lapkričio 20 d., penktadienį, 15.00 val. kviečiame į dr. Vuk Vukotič seminarą Proto-languages: why do we need them? Towards a rough sketch of a critical history, with examples from Baltic and South Slavic proto-language ideologies.

Seminaro kalba – anglų, tačiau klausimai gali būti užduodami ir lietuviškai, rusiškai ar skandinaviškai.

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Seminaro anotacija: 

The discovery of linguistic kinship, and with it, the idea of a proto-language – a hypothetical common ancestor of contemporary languages – is considered to be the birth of modern linguistics. Although highly criticised in terms of theory and method, the idea of a proto-language is still relevant in diachronic, comparative and evolutionary linguistics. The criticisms focus on the positivism of the methods of reconstruction, the omission of non-systematic changes, partial exclusion of social history and its effect on language etc.

But apart from practical and theoretical criticism, a more encompassing ideological critique of 19th century linguistics arose following Michelle Foucault’s 1965 analysis of Franz Bopp in his ground-breaking book “The Order of Things”. His analysis pointed out that the methods of comparative and historical linguistics were shaped by and in order to serve the more large-scale processes of the time, namely nation-building and modernisation (although Foucault did not refer to them in those exact terms). This inspired a number of linguists to turn their eyes towards the connection between theories of language change / development and ideologies such as ethnocentrism, nationalism and even Nazism.

In this presentation, after a short overview of the critique of Western historical linguistics, I turn to the largely ignored development of historical linguistics in Eastern Europe, exemplified by the discussions around proto-Baltic and proto-South-Slavic. In East Europe, historical linguistics do not seem to have gone through a process of transformation typical of the West and seem to keep the 19th century tradition of comparative historical grammar more alive than in the West (ironically, as I will demonstrate, mostly due to the influence of state-socialism). The comparative analysis of the Lithuanian and South Slavic academia will show how theories of proto-language are, in both cases, adjusted to fit geopolitical ideologies. I will conclude with a few notes on political economy of historical linguistics in Eastern Europe and its consequences on the production of academic and political dogmas about language, identity and nationhood. 


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