Linguistic Anthropology (COLA)
Dr. Anita Sujoldzic
Department of Linguistic and Sociocultural Anthropology
Institute for Anthropological Research
University of Zagreb
Dr. Alexandre Duchene
University of Fribourg, Switzerland
This commission was founded in Florence, Italy, 2003, and the chairpersons are Dr. Anita Sujoldzic and Dr. Alexandre Duchene.
Over the last century linguistic anthropology has been developing its distinctiveness as an interdisciplinary field based on the fact that in three main domains of human existence – biological, socio-cultural and psychological, language plays one of the crucial roles in establishing human identity. Drawing from the intellectual heritage and methods of both linguistics and anthropology its goal however is continuity between these domains separately studied within independently established disciplines. Such a broad perspective of language as a central characteristic of human behavior and experience enables the study of various cross-disciplinary topics through the prism of language as related to biology and evolution on one hand, and society and culture on the other recognizing both universality and diversity of this unique human capacity.
In addition to always intriguing questions of the origin of language and its evolution in the context of homo sapiens, the role of language in cultural identity as well as the preservation of linguistic diversity along with that of species and cultures due to the global processes of cultural and environmental disruption, have become a major concern to many researchers of various backgrounds. Some forecasts indicate that more than half of the six thousand languages spoken today could disappear during this century. It is increasingly evident that the adoption of an integrated scientific perspective is needed to address these problems. Anthropology lends itself naturally to this kind of work because of its holistic and multidisciplinary perspective, which helps us to recognize interrelationships when they exist. Linguistic anthropologists have never considered language in isolation from the real world but have focused on the multifaceted relationships between language and both its natural and social environment, as well as the interaction of the various languages in contact situations.
A broad understanding of language as an open system affected by outside forces allows interdisciplinary approaches to the exploration of the socio-cultural correlates of language dynamics and change as well as the definition of factors that sustain the vitality and maintenance of languages in their environment in the most diverse situations and regions. Current vital issues such as the biological and socio-cultural functions of linguistic diversity and other relevant themes of language ecology including language policies and linguistic rights, require the interaction between disciplinary boundaries and the abandonment of an atomistic, fragmented conception of specialized disciplines.
The statement of purpose
During the last 10 years we have often heard expressed, and indeed, many among us have voiced ourselves, the need for more active inclusion of linguistic dimension of anthropology into the work of IUAES, which in spite of its unquestionable importance to anthropological science due to interdependencies between language and all other aspects of human existence has somehow disappeared from its congress symposia. As a matter of fact, the last IUAES linguistic symposium took place 15 years ago during the 12th ICAES held in Zagreb, Croatia in 1988. It was, in addition, a highly successful symposium on languages in contact organized by late Professor Filipovic and attended by almost fifty participants from all over the world. Based on this tradition and with firm belief that anthropology as a holistic science makes a natural framework for the research of complex linguistic problems we have decided to propose the establishment of the IUAES Commission on Linguistic Anthropology as an international body that could gather again researchers aware of the need for interdisciplinary efforts in the research related to language as a unique and ubiquitous faculty of man. We believe the Commission on Linguistic Anthropology can play a useful role in providing the forum for linguistically minded anthropologists and/or linguistically informed linguists as well as scientists from other academic backgrounds, where vital language questions approached from different disciplines could be shared and discussed.
The main purpose of this Scientific Commission is to promote the further consolidation of linguistic anthropology as an interdisciplinary field and to establish effective liaisons not only between linguistic anthropologists and other branches of anthropology but also with linguists in general, with firm belief that such scientific communication can make significant contributions to the science of anthropology as a whole and to a more coherent and comprehensive understanding of language in general.
The initial specific aims of the Commission are as follows:
- To provide a forum for cross-disciplinary communication and encourage the cooperation of researchers from different backgrounds and theoretical approaches concerned with human language in discussion of current issues in broadly conceived language matters.
- To foster research on human language and its interdependencies with other aspects of human existence based on an integrated perspective
- To facilitate the above initiatives by organizing scientific sessions concerned with linguistic anthropology and meetings at IUAES Inter-Congresses and Congresses, as well as other meetings on specific topics of interest to the Commission.
- To publish materials resulting from the above events and other relevant scientific contributions.
- To establish a web site and an electronic newsletter of the Commission.
- To advocate and actively promote the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights as inseparable from human rights in general.
Steering Committee Members:
Brunetto Chiarelli (Italy), Tjeerd de Graaf (The Netherlands), Joseph J. Errington (USA), Olga A. Kazakevitch (Russia), Lachhman Khubchandani (India), Angéline Martel (Canada), Patrick McConvell (Australia), Vesna Muhvic-Dimanovski (Croatia), Peter Nelde (Belgium), Naz Rassool (UK), Anita Sujoldzic (Croatia), Qingsheng Zhou (China).