Signal and Process: reconstructing language histories in Melanesia

Event details


Date & time

Monday 30 September 2019


Australian Centre on China in the World Seminar Room A+B


Dr Bethwyn Evans


School of Culture, History & Language


Historical linguistics and the reconstruction of language histories have long played a pivotal role in the cross-disciplinary comprehension of the human past in Oceania.

This seminar aims to explore how cross-disciplinary case studies of particular historical trajectories can help refine general theories of language across time. Using three small-scale case studies of language history in Melanesia—the Mount Bosavi and southern Bougainville regions of Papua New Guinea and New Georgia in the Solomon Islands —the aim is to illustrate the value of narrative explanation in the reconstruction of linguistic histories.

The comparison of such case studies can lead to more nuanced interpretations of likely associations between the linguistic signal and processes of sociocultural continuity and transformation, and thus the role of language in reconstructing the human past.

About the Speaker

Dr Bethwyn Evans’ focus is historical and comparative linguistics and how language can be a window on the linguistic and non-linguistic past. She is a lecturer in Linguistics at the School of Culture, History & Language at the College of Asia & the Pacific.

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