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UTSA hosts world’s largest gathering of historical linguists

UTSA hosts world’s largest gathering of historical linguists

(July 25, 2017) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio will host more than 250 linguists from around the world in downtown San Antonio this July.

Professor Bridget Drinka, UTSA Department of English, is organizing the 23rd International Conference on Historical Linguistics, scheduled for July 31, 2017 through August 4, 2017.  

An important component of the conference is a series of panels celebrating the rich cultural history of San Antonio entitled,  “Las lenguas de San Antonio a 300 años:  Reconstructing the Linguistic Roots of a Multicultural City”, as part of the city’s Tricentennial celebration commemorating San Antonio’s 300th anniversary.

“It’s a huge honor for UTSA because this conference is only hosted by Tier One universities and is the most important gathering of historical linguists in the world,” said Drinka. “The conference focuses on historical linguistics and attempts to answer the essential questions of how and why languages change.”

UTSA is one of a few universities in the United States to host this conference since it began more than forty years ago. In the past, the conference was hosted in Oslo, Naples, Montreal and at UCLA. Future hosts will include the Australian National University and Oxford.

During the conference, the community is invited to a series of free events at Hotel Contessa, focusing on the linguistic history of San Antonio.

The four free panels include:

  • Spanish Socio-historical Linguistics: Isolation and Contact, focusing on connections between Old and New World Spanish, and the special status of Spanish in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands
  • African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and the Ecology of Language Evolution, exploring the history of AAVE and the role of the socio-historical contexts that shaped the dialects, in Texas and beyond
  • The History of Texas German, centering on the historical role of German in our community and region, and on the communities which still use it
  • Endangered Languages and Historical Linguistics, bringing together experts on the Native American languages of Texas and the U.S., as well as specialists in other endangered languages of the world

Drinka hopes the panels will connect San Antonians to their linguistic past. Hundreds of people are expected to take part in workshops and panels throughout the conference.

“Some of the linguists attending the conference have never been to the United States,” said Drinka. “This puts UTSA on the map in a monumental way.”

The conference will give UTSA students a unique opportunity to network with top researchers, from more than 40 countries, in the linguistics field.

“This will be a great opportunity for UTSA students and the entire city to understand San Antonio’s history by exploring our linguistic roots,” said Drinka.

Drinka is the president of the International Society for Historical Linguistics. Her research focuses on Indo-European and historical linguistics. Her recently published book, Language Contact in Europe: The periphrastic perfect through history, makes a case for language contact as a major force in language change.

A $20,000 grant from the National Science Foundation was awarded to Drinka to organize this year’s conference. Drinka said UTSA graduate and undergraduate students, alongside students from UT-Austin and Trinity University and faculty members from UTSA, UT-Austin, UTRGV, Texas State, and Texas A&M San Antonio, have played an integral role in the planning of the conference.

Kara Mireles

Learn more about Bridget Drinka.

Learn more about the International Conference on Historical Linguistics.

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