World Philologies Seminar
Thu 05 Dec 2013 | 15:00–17:00

Linguistic Justice v. Linguistic Diversity

Jürgen Trabant (Freie Universität Berlin), Chair: Markus Messling (Universität Potsdam)

Freie Universität Berlin, Raum J24/122d, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

You will find Jürgen Trabant's article "Linguistic Justice vs. Linguistic Diversity" in the inaugural volume of Philological Encounters

The linguistic uniformity of Europe (or even the globe) is currently enforced not only by powerful economical and political forces but also more increasingly by sociologists and social philosophers. At first, the learning of global English was only considered as a necessary professional skill, then, the positive connotations of "multilingualism" were evoked for fostering its universal adoption. Now, the acquisition of "globalese" is promoted as a means to achieve social justice. The rhetoric of justice immunises this discourse against any criticism (what can you say against justice?). Its political aims and measures are reminiscent of the aims and measures of the linguistic Jacobinism in the French Revolution. The - rather convincing - propagandistic moves of the social sciences are accompanied by a polemic against linguistic diversity and the connection of language and culture. They are based on a reductive conception of language that underestimates the cognitive and, consequently, cultural potential of languages.
Seminar Text:
Wilhelm von Humboldt: "The Work of the Spirit," in: On Language, 1999, pp. 46-64.

Jürgen Trabant (1942) is Professor emeritus of Romance Linguistics at the Freie Universität Berlin. He has taught at the Universities of Tübingen, Bari, Rome, Hamburg, FU Berlin. He was Visiting Professor at Stanford University (1988/89, 1991), Leipzig (1992), University of California Davis (1997), EHESS Paris (1998, 2003), Limoges (2003), Naples (2005, 2007), Bologna (2008), and Brasília (2013). He was Professor for European Plurilingualism at Jacobs University Bremen (2008-13). His fields of interests include French and Italian linguistics, semiotics, especially literary semiotics, history of European linguistic thought, philosophy of language, historical anthropology and language politics. Jürgen Trabant has published widely in these fields. His books include: Zur Semiologie des literarischen Kunstwerks, 1970 (Spanish transl. 1976); Elemente der Semiotik, 1976, 31996 (Jap., Port., It., Korean transl.); Apeliotes oder Der Sinn der Sprache. Wilhelm von Humboldts Sprach-Bild, 1986 (French transl. 1992); Traditionen Humboldts, 1990 (Korean 1998, French 1999 transl.); Neue Wissenschaft von alten Zeichen: Vicos Sematologie, 1994 (Italian transl. 1996, English transl. 2004); Artikulationen. Historische Anthropologie der Sprache, 1998; Der Gallische Herkules. Über Sprache und Politik in Frankreich und Deutschland, 2002; Mithridates im Paradies. Kleine Geschichte des Sprachdenkens, 2003; Europäisches Sprachdenken, Von Platon bis Wittgenstein. 2006; Cenni e voci. Saggi di sematologia vichiana, 2007; Was ist Sprache? 2008; Die Sprache. 2009; Weltansichten. 2012.

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