“Languages, worlds and action”, the residence on linguistic diversity in collaboration with Linguapax

Faber participated in the organisation of the cycle of “Languages, worlds and action” conferences within the framework of the two-day series of events entitled “Cities, arts and experiences of the word”. The speakers talked about different linguistic fields, such as language theory, cultural anthropology, language revitalisation and performing arts where language becomes an art form. Each one complemented their presentation with an explanation of the project they had been working on during their residence at Faber. Below, we present them to you.

Genner Llanes – “Túumben Maaya K’aay: destigmatising the Maya language in the Yucatán region”. The Yucatán Peninsula is the cradle of the Maya culture, however the use of the language has gradually been declining since the 19th century. Mexico’s independence and its national policies stigmatised the Maya language, relegating it to an unofficial status. Nowadays, though, thanks to new communication technologies and emerging trends, the Maya language is being revitalised with the creation of rap and folk songs amongst circles of younger people.

Sheena Shah “The role of language activists in revitalisation projects”. The death of a language is irreversible in the great majority of cases, but, within the field of linguistics, there is plenty that can be done. To revitalise disappearing languages, exhaustive documentation work needs to be carried out that involves collecting all possible manifestations of it, from short stories and songs up to established traditions and rituals. Most of these are spoken languages with no coded alphabet. When recording them, new technologies have significantly simplified the work of linguists, thanks to phonetic transcription software. Sheena Shah explained the full process that needs to be followed to recover languages that are in the process of extinction. The next step is the revitalisation and gradual growth of the language. To make this possible, it is necessary to turn to the help of language activists who, whether they be inside or outside the speaking community, encourage the use of the language in social settings.

Sonia Antinori – “The jungle of the city. The irruption of reality”. Language is a key element in dramatic art. Through theatre, an authentic space for intercultural dialogue can be created. Social and economic conflicts of all eras have ended up being portrayed on stage and the current European immigration crisis cannot be an exception to this. At a time when borders are more conspicuous and marginalising than ever, the Italian playwright Sonia Antinori brings Nella Jungla della Citá to the stage, a play using multiculturalism as a ground-breaking artistic initiative. Her international company is formed of refugees and immigrants of all ethnicities who perform to liberate themselves from the stigmas that historical context has forced upon them. With this work, Antinori seeks to rebuild a cultural European imaginary that goes beyond the age of migration and crises, and her aim is to do this by empowering her actors and the rest of society to eventually succeed in bringing about change.

Jan van Steenbergen – “New perspectives on the creation of languages”. Language is always an artificial creation. However, not all languages are rooted in history: that is, not all languages have their origins in a process of evolution from earlier languages, as is the case of Romance languages that are derived from Latin. Constructed or invented languages also exist. Jan van Steenbergen explains what these newly-created languages consist of and what types there are. The emergence of the Internet has permitted many language creators to work together and has also permitted the creation of associations such as the Language Creation Society (2007) and platforms like CONLANG (1991).

Jenny Green – “Multimodal diversity: indigenous storytelling practices from the Central Australian deserts”. Before colonisation, there were hundreds of aborigine communities with different language systems in the Australian steppes. The arrival of the British on the island drastically reduced the number of these speaking communities and today the majority of these languages are extinct. Jenny Green has carried out a project to recover the legends and stories of a group of survivors who communicated by drawing in the sand. These narrative practices were mainly performed by women and also included songs and chants.

José Antonio Flores Farfán – “Methods of research and language revitalisation”. Revitalising a language requires the deployment of a comprehensive methodology of a linguistic nature. A sociological exercise is also required involving popularising once again the atavisms associated with a language in decline: take it out of libraries and museums and convert it into a tool to use. For this reason, J. A. Flores Farfán is carrying out research into the most dynamic aspects of an endangered language, such as Maya, and looks to find its tongue twisters, wordplays, rhyming couplets, etc.

Inky Gibbens – “Tribalingual”. When a language disappears, a unique way of viewing the world also vanishes with it, through a way of thinking. Evidence of this is that each language develops certain words and not others, depending on how that specific community thinks. Faced with the danger of irreversible demise, linguistics can serve to record what is left before it is too late, but Inky Gibbens, a language activist, prefers to try and save these languages and for this reason has founded “Tribalingual”, an online platform to teach endangered languages to interested students and increase the number of speakers.

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún – “Revitalisation of Yoruba through an online dictionary”. Yoruba is a language that is spoken in several countries in West Africa. Kọ́lá is devising a multimedia dictionary (Yorubaword.com) to spread knowledge of the language for free and beyond borders on the Internet. The author had already developed similar initiatives in the past, such as the Yorubaname.com platform, a dictionary of Yoruba names.