Panel proposal: Linguistics as a Go-Between

Panel proposal for The Making of the Humanities VII, Amsterdam, 15-17 November 2018.

For the upcoming 7th The Making of the Humanities Conference, to be held in Amsterdam from November 15-17 2018 (link) I am contemplating to submit a panel session under the title “Linguistics as a Go-Between”. The theme of this session will be the interaction of linguistics with other fields of study. While perhaps all academic disciplines have at some point exchanged theories, concepts, metaphors, methods, instruments, etc. with other (proto-) disciplines in the course of their existence, the extent to which this epistemic transfer has occurred with respect to the study of language appears to be exceptional. This has of course not gone unnoticed in the historiography of linguistics, and many cases of the interaction of linguistics with for example biology, anthropology, psychology, chemistry, information science and of course the humanistic disciplines such as philology, history, etc. have been documented. Yet, the vast majority of these studies remain ‘isolated’, in the sense that they are not compared to other case studies of epistemic transfer with the aim to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon itself. In this respect a general picture of the history of linguistics is thus lacking.

The goal of the panel is to find out why linguistics exhibits the extraordinary capacity to interact frequently, and in many different ways, with other fields of study. How can we explain that these ‘other fields of study’ can be found across the whole spectrum of academic disciplines? Is it due to the special character of the field of linguistics or perhaps even of language itself? If so, what would that special character be? Or should we look for an answer in another direction and take the uncertain status of linguistics in the academic landscape as starting point? Did the need to establish legitimacy and find a stable place press past linguists to hook up with other specialities? What role did the interaction with other fields play in the modern discipline formation process? How did past linguists combine influences from multiple directions? Can we strike a balance between the number of times linguistics was at the sending end of communication and the number of times it stood at the receiving end? What conclusions can we draw from this information?

The Making of the Humanities conference series appears to be an excellent venue for such a themed panel session because one of the main goals of the conference series is to study the humanities disciplines as a connected whole, including the way they have interacted with the natural and social sciences (link).

All contributions that investigate specific cases of the interaction of linguistics with other fields of study can be considered for the panel. There are no restrictions with respect to historical period or aspect of the study of language, which may also include institutional topics such as language education. Hitherto less well-studied, or perhaps even neglected cases of epistemic transfer, are especially welcomed. Contributions in the form of general reflections on the main panel theme can be included as well. Depending on the response we will decide whether to apply for one timeslot of maximally 4 presentations of 20 minutes each with 10 minutes discussion per paper, or extend it to more. Again, depending on the response to this call, possibilities to turn the contributions into an edited volume of a journal or book (series) will be explored. The deadline to submit abstracts for the conference is June 1 2018. I propose a pre-deadline of May 25th for the submission of abstracts of maximally 250 words, which can be send to I will then still have enough time to fuse them together into one well-organized panel proposal. Should there be any questions about this proposal or about the conference in general please don’t hesitate to ask me!

Bart Karstens

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

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