May 20, 2013
334 Royce Hall
Professor Dirk Geeraerts, Van Dyck Visiting Professor at UCLA for 2012-13; Chair of Theoretical Linguistics and head of the Research Unit for Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics at the University of Leuven, Belgium
The Dialectics of Dialect: Rationalist and Romantic Models of Language Variation and their Historical Entanglement
Professor Geeraerts’s many publications include Woordbetekenis (1986), Diachronic Prototype Semantics (1997), Words and Other Wonders (2006), and Theories of Lexical Semantics (2010). He was the founder of the journal Cognitive Linguistics and a co-editor of the Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics.
In this lecture, Prof. Geeraerts will argue that the social evaluation of language variation (such as the relation between standard language and dialects, or the relation between dominant languages and minority languages) is crucially shaped by two cognitive models: the Rationalist view that languages are communicative tools and the Romantic view that language is the vehicle of expression of an authentic identity. These models are fundamentally antithetical, but two periods may be identified in which there was an attempt at synthesis: in 19th century nationalism and in our contemporary postmodern era. By systematically comparing the way in which the rationalist and romantic models have interacted since the Enlightenment, we may arrive at a conceptual map identifying the underlying issues in past and present debates about language variation.