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Seminar: Language Diversification in Remote Oceania, Hedvig Skirgard, 28 Aug

Date: 23 August 2019

Seminar: Language Diversification in Remote Oceania

Speaker: Hedvig Skirgard

When: 28 Aug 2019, 11am-12.30pm

Where: Seminar 1.13, Coombs Extension Building, ANU


Why are there so many languages in some parts of the world and so few in others? In this talk, I will suggest some answers to this question as it pertains to Remote Oceania.  Vanuatu and Samoa were settled at comparable dates by people sharing a common cultural ancestry, yet Vanuatu sports 120+ languages and Samoa only one. Island size and other environmental factors play a part - but is it possible that cultural variables influence diversification too? Pawley (2007) suggests the answer may lie in societal structure: communities with more stratified political organisation diversify at slower rates, while egalitarian community structures are more likely to give rise to language splitting.  By examining island groups in Remote Oceania and using data from D-place, Glottolog and other databases, we can statistically test if this correlation holds when we control for factors such as time depth, shoreline, Net Primary Production and other ecological variables. This talk will present exploratory research that forms part of my PhD thesis about language diversification in the Pacific and is my final oral presentation.

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