Language standardization is often looked to by language communities as a means for language maintenance and strengthening cultural integrity, yet it may also contribute to varying degrees of linguistic discrimination and social conflict. In the case of Tibetan language, which has a diversity of spoken dialects as well as a standard written language, new challenges and opportunities presented by urbanization, economic development, resettlement, and other factors present strong incentives to switch to other dominant languages in everyday usage. Thus many Tibetans support the idea of promoting a standardized Tibetan, but disagree as to what should be the basis for the standard.
In this lecture event, we will bring together scholars who have worked extensively on language standardization issues for Kurdish, Hungarian, Tibeto-Burman languages, and the three major dialects of Tibetan to examine questions such as: What should be the role of a standard language? What are its pros and cons? What are the experiences of other language communities in implementing standardization? We hope to understand these topics for minority languages in the world in general, the Tibetan language in China in particular, and what practical steps can be taken.
David Bradley, based at La Trobe University in Australia with visiting professorships in China, France, Thailand and the UK, works on the sociolinguistics and historical linguistics of various Tibeto-Burman languages, language maintenance and language policy. He is the author or editor of 28 books, including Language Endangerment and Language Maintenance. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Humanities, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Comité International Permanent des Linguistes.
Born in Kardzé Prefecture of Sichuan Province, Jimga is a native speaker of the Kham dialect of Tibetan. He began his career in language as an interpreter in the pastoral areas of Litang County. Since those early days, he has become an editor at the Central Nationalities Translation Bureau in Beijing where he has played an important role in the formulation of national standards for new Tibetan terminology, including IT terms, and the compilation of lexicographical works. In his current position, he has organized many meetings for examining and approving national standards for Tibetan language.
Jaffer Sheyholislami is an assistant professor at the School of Linguistics and Language Studies, Carleton University, Canada. Committed to a critical understanding of the function of language and discourse in social life, his teaching and research interests include critical discourse studies, language and national and ethnic identity, minority language media, and language policy and planning. In his PhD thesis he investigated the interface between national identity, language and new media focusing on the Kurds. His current research focuses on Kurdish language planning and policy.
Miklós Kontra is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Szeged and Head of the Sociolinguistics Research Group in the Linguistics Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest. His primary interests lie in variation in Hungarian; the contact varieties of Hungarian in Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria; Hungarian-American bilingualism; educational linguistics and Linguistic Human Rights. Among other volumes he has edited "Hungarian Sociolinguistics" (International Journal of the Sociology of Language, with C. Pléh), Language: A Right and a Resource, Approaching Linguistic Human Rights (with R. Phillipson, T. Skutnabb-Kangas, T. Várady), and "Language Contact in East-Central Europe" (Multilingua, 2000).
Marielle Prins, a native of Holland but a long-term resident of Chengdu, is working on the phonology and grammar of Gyelrong dialects, spoken by some 150,000 people in the northwest of Sichuan Province in China. In addition to this, she has examined language standardization perspectives of Amdo Tibetans, conserved classical Gyelrong texts, and conducted numerous word surveys of Gyelrong dialects. Over the last decade, she has worked for various international development NGOs in the Tibetan Amdo and Kham regions.
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