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Introducing the ICHL24 conference, with Dr Bethwyn Evans

Australian National University, Bethwyn Evans

Date: 3 May 2019

Centre Chief Investigator Bethwyn Evans has had the daunting, yet exciting task of leading the committee which has put together the program for one of the longest running and most respected of linguistics’ conferences – the 24th biennial International Conference on Historical Linguistics.

This year, the conference takes place at The Australian National University from the 1st to the 5th of July 2019.

When crafting the program, Beth says the committee wanted to continue and expand on a proud tradition.

“We have presentations from both internationally renowned scholars and exciting new voices across the many domains of the field,” says Beth. “That includes detailed studies of the history of Indo-European languages that form the foundations of our discipline. But also new directions in the field, such as innovative methods using big data, and multi-disciplinary approaches to understanding language across time.

“I think the keynote speakers demonstrate this best. All are leaders in their field, but alongside established authorities there are scholars at various points in their academic careers, each with different experiences and perspectives.”

Those keynote addresses underline the trans-disciplinary nature of the gathering. Prominent language variation expert Anita Auer will speak on the emergence of Standard English; Johann-Mattis List from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History will take participants through problem-solving strategies in computational historical linguistics; while Chris Ballard, an ANU Pacific historian, will present a series of Melanesian case studies to ask what history can say about the evolution of contemporary language diversity.

“We are such a broad field that we need varied perspectives,” adds Beth. “So we’ve looked for those people who are driving historical linguistics forward to showcase the different ways they’re shaping the field.”

This approach is also evident in the breadth of workshops during ICHL24. For example, over three days Max Planck Institute scientists Simon Greenhill, Russell Gray, Johann-Mattis List, Robert Forkel and others will explicate the latest in computational and phylogenetic methods. Luisa Miceli, Mark Ellison and colleagues will compare linguistic and biological phylogenies in the context of Oceania and beyond – how they can they be reconciled? And a new generation of younger researchers will take participants on a two-day tour of the history of Papuan languages and their speakers.

The organisers are also keenly aware that 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. ICHL24 will highlight the very diverse languages and language families of our region, especially those of Australia, mainland Southeast Asia and New Guinea.

With a packed program that includes seven concurrent sessions daily, ten intensive workshops and seven plenaries, Beth says the committee did not forget the importance of a social calendar with a distinctive local flavour.

“We’ve left the afternoon of the third day free and will be offering a choice of three guided excursions to major attractions in our picturesque bush capital!”

The full program of ICHL24 is now available: please visit the conference website for more information.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University