Connecting people through languages

Lahore, Pakistan, 2014. | Photo courtesy of Anne Murphy

The online Language Sciences flash talks at the University of British Columbia features the diverse research done on language sciences by several leading members of the UBC faculty. Everyone is welcome to attend the May 19, 1 p.m. presentations.

“The event features three Language Sciences members, from different research themes, who will each give a talk of five minutes or less, using only one slide,” says Alex Walls, Communications Specialist of the Language Sciences Initiative. “There will be five minutes for questions at the end of each presentation, and time for general discussion once all the talks are complete.”

The theme of the event, as decided by the three speakers, is “Language Repositories <=> Language as a Repository.”

The Punjabi language

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language mostly spoken in the Punjab region of Pakistan and India. Anne Murphy, Department of Asian Studies associate professor and co-director of UBC’s Centre for India and South Asia Research, is a historian and researcher whose work explores this Punjab region. With a focus on the themes of sustainability and transnationalism, Murphy will be discussing her work on Punjabi language advocacy efforts in Canada, India, and Pakistan, as well as the importance of literary and performance arts in the preservation of the language.

“My current research goes in two related directions right now,” says Murphy. “Firstly, I am writing a book about modern Punjabi language and literature across the India/Pakistan border – about how the commitment to the Punjabi language was configured in the language and religious politics of the late colonial period; and how the Punjabi language has offered a way of reaching across the border to a shared culture among the millions of Punjabis now divided by the international boundary drawn in 1947 at decolonization.”

Murphy is also researching the history of the Punjabi language’s emergence as a language of literature in the early modern period, and holds much of her research close to her heart.

“I came to my work as a scholar, but also with deep personal interests,” explains Murphy. “I am Irish American, and grew up with a strong sense of the deep imprint of British colonialism on Ireland, and on my family.”

For her, the story of the division of the single cultural/linguistic region of Punjab into two Punjabs – the Indian Punjab and the Pakistani Punjab – tells us the story of how colonialism and its legacies have divided people, and how we need to work to celebrate the commonalities that cross borders and community boundaries.

Murphy’s further work includes a book-length translation of the short stories of Lahore, Pakistan-based Punjabi language writer Zubair Ahmed that will come out in the near future. It is titled Grieving for Pigeons: Stories of Lahore (Athabasca University Press).

A spillover of ideas

Anne Murphy, Department of Asian Studies associate professor and co-director
of UBC’s Centre for India and South Asia Research. | Photo courtesy of Anne Murphy

Aside from Murphy, Department of Linguistics Associate Professor Kathleen Currie Hall and Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at UBC Library Susan Atkey will talk about their respective research fields.

“The aim of the talks is to show our members’ research on language sciences, and introduce this work to other members, particularly those from other disciplines and departments,” says Walls. “Interdisciplinarity is key to UBC’s strategic plan, and core to Language Sciences’ mission.”

In addition, it’s an opportunity to share ideas and inspiration.

“We hope the talks will help our members, and other language researchers, think about their research in new and exciting ways, perhaps sparking new interdisciplinary collaborations or innovative research ideas,” concludes Walls.

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