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WiSe 2021/22 SoSe 2022 - Languages of Latin America I & II

This course is a joint class with students from the University of Cologne and New York University. Lessons are jointly given by Prof. Aria Adli (UzK) and Prof. Gregory Guy (NYU).

The class examines the linguistic diversity of Latin America, in particular the regions of the Americas where Spanish and Portuguese are the dominant languages. These languages have flourished and diversified: the Spanish spoken in 20 countries of the New World shows dialect differences between regions and nations, and collective differences with European Spanish. Brazilian Portuguese is markedly different from its European source. This diversity in variation is partly a result of contact with other languages currently or formerly spoken in Latin America. These include indigenous languages like Quechua, Guaraní, and Maya, and African languages like Yoruba and Kimbundu.

The course examines regional and minority and indigenous languages like Riograndenser Hunsrick, and Yucatec Maya, as well as contact languages and creoles. In addition, national, local and other dialect differences in Latin American Spanish and Portuguese will also be covered. Social diversity will be explored by observing how different social classes or ethnic backgrounds speak a certain language. Along this, the linguistic history of Latin America will be expanded on, by looking into the linguistic consequences of conquest and colonialism, and how and why the languages spoken there spread, developed, changed and interacted.

To illustrate the diversity of languages in Latin America, this course will engage in a sort of virtual field trip that takes us from Havana, to the Yucatec Peninsula, to Lima, and Bahia in Brazil, to finally land in Rio Grande do Sul.

Follow our virtual trip on Google Earth by clicking on the image. 

SoSe 2021 Comparative issues in linguistics I: Cross-cultural questions & Comparative issues in linguistics II: Register variation across languages

This course is a joint class of graduate students of Cologne and New York University. It is highly recommended to participate in both related courses, "Comparative issues in linguistics I: Cross-cultural questions" as well as "Comparative issues in linguistics II: Register variation across languages". Lessons are jointly given by Prof. Adli (University of Cologne) and Prof. Guy (New York University).
Corpus-based research on language use has concentrated on a small number of languages, mostly drawn from the advanced industrial societies of the Global North, and mostly those for which an established ‘standard’ exists supported by normalizing institutions including mass literacy and schooling. Most work in this tradition focuses on one language at a time, rarely considering cross-language and cross-cultural comparisons. This leaves many open questions about the generality of research results: are they specific to particular languages, language typologies, or cultures; has diversity in usage and grammar been homogenized by standardizing influences (such as has been documented in work on dialect leveling).
In the first course we will concentrate on external factors in comparative linguistics, in particular on cross-cultural questions. We carve out major questions that require a cross-cultural perspective, such as different types of social stratification, multilingualism, prestige, etc. Students will also prepare a project, in which they explore neighborhoods in Cologne or elsewhere with high ethnic diversity in order to better understand the issues of identity of heritage speakers, institutional support of multilingualism (or the lack thereof), and linguistic landscape. These results will be compared to communities in the US, in particular in New York City.
In the second course we will concentrate on the interaction of internal and external factors in comparative linguistics, in particular with regard to the topic of register variation. Register variation builds on the knowledge of speakers to adapt their speech to the respective situation. However, the repertory of linguistically relevant situations varies from society to society. Furthermore, register features are not the same across languages. In this course we will discuss issues of style and register in different languages, also highlighting the importance of a cross-cultural perspective on situative analyses.

WiSe 2020/21 Language and Society

This course is offered as part of a pilot project on international digital mobility together with the Department of Linguistics at New York University. Half of the participants are NYU students, the course language is English.
How can we do justice to the fact that, on the one hand, communication requires a common system, but on the other hand, all individuals are different, have different identities, and each has different versions of a language? How does social organization show up in language and how do speakers use language to create identity and map their relationships with each other?
We address diversity factors within and between speaker communities and discuss language change, the emergence of different dialects and languages, multilingualism, and the differentiation of varieties and registers. Linguistic conformity is considered in terms of social norms, institutions, and power dynamics.

Course evaluation