With Professor Erik Anonby of the Department of French and the School of Linguistics and Language Studies
Iran: ancient, ambitious, unpredictable, and diverse. After more than a century of documentation, the language situation is still unclear. How many languages are there? What are they all called, and where are they located? How are they related? Even today, there’s no reliable map of the country’s languages.
Since the 1950s, there has been a succession of major language atlas projects, but none has ever been completed. The latest project to attempt this “impossible” goal is the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI). Initiated in 2014 by Dr. Erik Anonby, work has proceeded slowly but steadily, grappling with an absence of language-related census information, starkly contrasting perspectives on language identity and distribution, and perennial challenges of funding, logistics, and project design. These complications have resulted in an unexpectedly resilient field research process that navigates international and domestic events of major proportions, widespread internet outages, and a host of disruptions brought about by COVID-19.
This talk reflects on challenges, accomplishments and surprises in the life of the Atlas over the past year. Highlights include the importance of local, spoken placenames and their role as part of language distribution maps; creation of a detailed attribution framework that recognizes the contributions and intellectual property of individual consultants and researchers; and curating audio and video recordings as linked open data, accessible in a public archive. Finally, a series of first-ever detailed language distribution maps for individual provinces of Iran will be unveiled.
Maps and images above are from fieldwork for the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI). Photo credits: Mahsa Atakhorrami, Erik Anonby, Mortaza Taheri-Ardali, Maryam Amani-Babadi and Hassan Mohebbi Bahmani. Photos © 2022, CC BY 4.0.
Dr. Erik Anonby is a Professor in the Department of French and in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies (SLaLS) at Carleton University. His research interests include language documentation and revitalization, community-based language mapping, and collaborative development of orthographies for unwritten languages. He leads an international team of 60 researchers in the Atlas of the Languages of Iran (ALI).
Please let us know you plan on attending the 2023 Marston LaFrance lecture by completing the registration form below.
Each year, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences awards the Marston LaFrance Research Fellowship to one of its outstanding faculty members, in order to facilitate the completion of a major research project that requires significant release time. Once the year has completed, the Fellowship winner delivers a lecture on the research they were able to accomplish during their time as the Marston LaFrance Fellow.
The Fellowship was established in 1979 by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in memory of Marston LaFrance, former Professor of English and Dean of Arts at Carleton University. Each year, the recipient presents a seminar or public lecture on some aspect of the research conducted while on the LaFrance Fellowship.
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