Where Do We Need to Go From Here?



Continuing the Conversations – COVID-19: Can Linguists Save Lives?

On the 28 May 2020, Mandana Seyfeddinipur and Pierpaolo di Carlo will be discussing the role linguists play in translating COVID-19 related information into endangered languages. The event will be the second of the series.

Continuing the Conversations – SOAS Virtual Events Series 
COVID-19: Can Linguists Save Lives?

Date and Time: Thursday, 28 May 2020 | 6 PM (BST)

Speakers: Mandana Seyfeddinipur & Pierpaolo Di Carlo

Moderator: Leonore Lukschy 

COVID19 is spreading through urban centres and is reaching remote areas. One global response is to implement social isolation and distancing measures and to provide information about behaviour change to save lives. However, getting the message across to people is not only a matter of translation into major languages. Half of the world’s population speaks one or more of the 6000 unwritten languages. Media penetration for information transmission is not a given in many areas of the global South. And even in the urban centres in the global North, the cultural and linguistic mosaic of diaspora communities is a challenge that needs addressing. Not only the language, but also the style, the metaphors, the untranslatable words, the medium of transmission, and the very identity of the messenger are all key in getting the message across about what is at stake and what needs to be done. Linguists, anthropologists, and social scientists have been working with vulnerable communities from urban diasporas to remote areas all over the world. The linguistic knowledge and experience can now contribute to the global efforts to save lives and to get the message across. We will introduce one initiative that has taken up this challenge: virallanguages.org.


Mandana SeyfeddinipurDr Mandana Seyfeddinipur is a linguist and the director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme and the SOAS World Languages Institute. She also heads the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS. Her expertise includes theory and method of modern language documentation, language use and face to face interaction, multimodality of language in interaction and cognitive basis of language production.

Pierpaolo di CarloDr Pierpaolo Di Carlo is an anthropologist and linguist at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. His expertise includes the documentation of endangered languages, African anthropology, and the study of multilingualism in rural communities of Africa. He is co-director of the US National Science Foundation-funded research project KPAAM-CAM furthering the use of multidisciplinary methods for the study of traditional multilingualism in areas of Cameroon.
He is author and co-author of articles published in venues like the Oxford Research Encyclopedia and, together with Jeff Good, co-edited a book entitled African Multilingualisms whose contributors are for the most part African scholars. He received ELDP funding for his Documentation of Ajumbu and Ngun.

Lecture Series

The Continuing the Conversations event series is designed to engage SOAS alumni but open to all. These lecture series will discuss COVID-19 in relation to an academic topic presented by a member of SOAS’ Academic staff. The event will include a talk for about 20 minutes and then a discussion regarding questions from the audience for about 20 minutes. Please make sure to submit your questions when you register for the event.

This event is free but booking is required. Book your place via the Eventbrite page.

Organiser: SOAS Alumni Engagmenet, SOAS Events

Contact email: events@soas.ac.uk

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