HCIAS Blogcast with Cécile Vigouroux and Salikoko Mufwene
We are excited to announce the first post of the HCIAS Blogcast! This is a new category of post on the HCIAS blog where we summarize some of the key points from our most recent podcast episode. For our first Blogcast, we have a great episode featuring two distinguished guests: Cécile Vigouroux, an Associate Professor of Socio-linguistics at Simon Fraser University in Canada and currently a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Paris, with Salikoko Mufwene, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. In the podcast, recorded during their visit to Heidelberg in January, our guests shared some insights from their research with Dr. Héctor Alvarez Mella
Professor Mufwene starts by discussing his contributions to fundamental questions in linguistics such as the evolution of language in mankind and the way the structures of language change over the course of history. His search for adequate explanations for these phenomena led him to the ecological approach to the study of language, the interdisciplinary method that combines linguistics with sociology, history, and biology for which he is now well known. He explains that ‘ecology’ is an umbrella term designed to invite scholars to consider things outside language that influence not only the structures of languages but also their vitality.
Professor Vigouroux focuses on the impact of migration on linguistic practice, drawing on extensive fieldwork in Africa to offer an empirical perspective on the ways migration can create a multilingual environment. She addresses key questions about how language repertoires are re-shuffled when a speaker arrives in a new environment and what factors influence whether migrants transmit their heritage language to the next generation or not. He research emphasizes that migration affects not only for those who move but also for people in contact with them.
In addition to their individual research, the connection between linguistics and economics is a shared interest of Professors Mufwene and Vigouroux, which led them to co-edit a book titled “Bridging Linguistics and Economics.” The book’s introduction, titled “Do Economists Need Linguists and Linguists Economists?” explores the intersection between these two fields. In the podcast, our guests explain that the two disciplines need each other despite (or perhaps because of) their different ways of understanding economies and languages.
The final topic covered in the podcast is the need to de-center linguistics and what linguists can learn from the Global South. Professor Mufwene remarks on the importance of acknowledging the Eurocentric bias that linguistics has had historically and stresses the need to listen to voices from the South. Professor Vigouroux encourages scholars to be open to asking new questions and not to take their toolkits and methodologies for granted.
This HCIAS Blogcast has been just a short recap of a wide ranging and thought provoking discussion. If you would like to learn more about our fascinating guests and their research into topics like the ecology of language, the impact of migration on linguistic practice, the intersection between linguistics and economics, or the need for a more decentralized and diverse approach to linguistics, you can listen to the whole episode here.