The importance of being a Less Commonly Taught Language

Viola G. Miglio is an affiliate Associate Professor at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Iceland and will give an open lecture on Friday 19 May at 12am-1pm in Veröld at the University of Iceland. The lecture is entitled "The importance of being a Less Commonly Taught Language: Basque at home and abroad" The lecture will be given in English.



Basque is a non Indo-European language spoken by about 700,000 people in two regions across the Spanish-French state border. As such, it is a language in contact with two major Indo-European languages with a long and important written literary tradition. How can a minority language survive the onslaught of much more commonly spoken languages such as French and Spanish? Why should the Basque people even bother with learning such a "useless" language in a globalized world that is characterized more and more by the predominance of English varieties? In this talk, I will suggest some answers and undoubtedly raise more questions about the importance of linguistic diversity, translation, language policies, immersion learning, and the future of so-called 'small languages' (with fewer than a million native speakers), both in the countries where they have been traditionally spoken and in areas where they are taught as foreign languages, such as the USA. Parallels with the status of Icelandic will no doubt become apparent along the way. 

Viola G. Miglio is Associate Professor of Linguistics in the Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She heads the Iberian Linguistics graduate program, her department's Phonetics Lab and holds the Barandiaran Endowed Chair of Basque Studies at UCSB. She works on the intersection between literature and linguistics, such as discourse analysis, Romance and Germanic languages, language change, Basque studies and translation. She is honored to have been recently appointed an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Iceland (2014).

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