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While the field of linguistics knows an increasing amount about the nature of linguistic diversity, we still have no more than a basic understanding of its causes. Why are there such radical differences, across the globe, in the distribution of linguistic diversity – whether measured in numbers of languages, of language families, or of typological variability? While many partial explanations have been proposed, at all levels from environmental (rainfall) to language practice (how ideologies of minor language difference can be harnessed for group distinctions; what are the effects of egalitarian multilingualism).
These questions lie at the heart of Prof Nick Evans’ ARC Laureate Project ‘The Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity’, and in this talk Nick will present some of the broad findings to emerge from work carried out by the Wellsprings project team, drawing on case studies from Arnhem Land, Southern New Guinea, Vanuatu and Polynesia.
Professor Nick Evans is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL). For three and half decades he has carried out linguistic fieldwork on languages of Northern Australia (Kayardild, Dalabon, Bininj Kunwok, Iwaidja) and Papua New Guinea (Nen). His interests span linguistic typology, the interrelation of language, culture and thought, the wide variety of forms that language systems can take, and the forces that drive their diversification.
This seminar is free and open to the public.