Migration Studies to hold lunch hour seminar, lecture, April 19-20

Suzanne Romaine, Merton professor of English language at the University of Oxford, will present two talks on April 19 and 20 on Penn State's University Park campus. At noon on April 19, in room 124 of the Sparks Building, Romaine will present “Language, Poverty, Development and the Millennium Development Goals” as part of the Migration Studies Lunch Hour Series. Then, at 5 p.m. on April 20 in room 117 of the Osmond Building, she will present the Migration Studies Spring Distinguished Lecture, "Identity, Migration and Language."

The distinguished lecture is open to all. Those who plan to attend the lunch hour seminar should RSVP to Madhav Kafle at msp@la.psu.edu by noon on April 18 for catering purposes.

Abstract for lunch hour seminar (April 19):

Both poverty and conservation of biodiversity are at the top of the international agenda as the two defining challenges of our era. The year 2010 marked a significant milestone. The theme of the 2010 United Nations International Day was biodiversity for development and poverty alleviation. In September 2010 the development community met at the United Nations in New York to review progress so far on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the largest and arguably most ambitious initiative on the international development agenda, and to agree on strategies and actions for the next five years in light of the release of the Millennium Development Goals Report 2010. Meanwhile, we are also in the midst of a global language extinction, with linguists predicting that as many as 60 to 90% of the world’s languages may disappear within the next 100 years. The fate of most of the world’s linguistic and, by implication, its cultural diversity lies in the hands of a small number of people most vulnerable to pressures of globalization. In a rapidly globalizing world with a handful of very large languages and many thousands of small ones, maintaining linguistic diversity is inextricably linked to the survival of small communities, whose subsistence lifestyles depend on healthy ecosystems. Without such resources, these groups find it hard to maintain their lifeways and cultural identities on which continued transmission and vitality of their languages depend. The high overlap between regions of high biodiversity, high cultural-linguistic diversity and poverty means that keeping the promise of the MDGs requires a new understanding of the critical role of language in human development. My talk will show why language matters and argues for the centrality of language and linguistic diversity to sustainable and equitable human development.

Abstract for distinguished lecture (April 20):

Understanding the relationships between identity, migration and language is more timely than ever in view of the fact that globalization has intensified migration and brought about increasing linguistic and cultural diversity to much of the world, along with new challenges to traditional linkages between languages and identities. My talk will examine some of the ways in which language plays a role in constructing the identities of individuals and groups in migration contexts. I will conclude with some reflections on why identities matter and identify some of the challenges ahead.

Last Updated April 07, 2011