University News

6,000 Languages in One Discussion

Published: January 09, 2013 | Category: Academics

Approximately 6,000 languages are spoken around the world today, each an offspring of the tongue first used 150,000 years ago. On Tuesday, January 15, world-renowned linguist Dr. John McWhorter will discuss this evolution from one to thousands of dialects and its historical and sociological underpinnings.

McWhorter’s presentation, “What Language Is What It Isn’t and What It Could Be,” explores languages ranging from rare and endangered, spoken by only a few hundred individuals, to the major dialects that are used by millions. McWhorter will offer numerous revelations about the jumbled nature of languages—particularly English— teaching attendees how to see and hear language as a linguist does. At the conclusion of his presentation, Dr. McWhorter will field questions from the audience.­

Part of University Convocations, “What Language Is What It Isn’t and What It Could Be” is slated for 11:30 a.m. next Tuesday in the Gilbert Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center.

In reference to McWhorter’s presentation, SUU academic information and program officer Raymond Grant said, “This is a very provocative look at how languages originate, divide and work and is a great start to this year’s Convocation Series”.

Linguistics has emerged as a prevalent subject of interest at SUU in recent years, largely because of its newly-expanded foreign language curriculum but also because of the University’s widely diverse student body.

A prominent linguist, McWhorter has authored more than a dozen books including “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English” and the New York Times bestseller, “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America.” He is a professor at Columbia University, teaching linguistics and western civilization studies, and earned his Ph.D. in linguists from Stanford University.

Other distinguished scholars visiting SUU this spring semester include presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood, a number of prominent psychologists, and many others.

These guest speakers for our Convocation series,” explained Grant, “are there to foster the education of not just students but everyone in the community. The topics addressed can broaden perspectives and enhance the minds of anyone, no matter their field of interest.”

As always, SUU’s Convocations Series is free and open to students and the public alike. Stay tuned for future presentations and lectures from some of our nation’s most dynamic and compelling voices.

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