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Linguists from more than 20 nations to hold conference at Illinois

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scholars from more than 20 countries will meet at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Sept. 1-5 for the 10th International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences.

It is the first time the group, which gathers every three years, has made Illinois its conference site. Linguists hail from Brazil, China, Finland, France, Japan and Poland.

Participants will consider a wide range of topics, including linguistic politics in France during the German Occupation, linguistics and the struggle for Irish sovereignty, the controversy surrounding the ancient Japanese vowel system – were their eight vowels in ancient Japan or only five? – and linguistics at the Chicago World’s Fair.

The University of Illinois has made “a strong contribution” both to the history of linguistics and to the history of the history of linguistics, said Douglas A. Kibbee, the organizer of this year’s conference and a professor of French and of linguistics at Illinois.

From 1910 to 1920, for example, the U. of I. had Leonard Bloomfield, “one of the greatest linguists of all time,” on its faculty, Kibbee said.

Illinois also was among the first universities to offer courses in the history of linguistics, beginning in the mid-1960s.

According to Kibbee, linguists study the history of linguistics to get at a variety of key questions such as how the study of language is structured, what the relationship is between the study of language and other disciplines, and how historical forces have changed the balance of approaches in the field.

The conference is sponsored by the Cultural Services of the Consultat général de France in Chicago and by many U. of I. units, including the French department, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Office of International Programs and Studies.

For the conference schedule and registration details, go to the conference Web site or contact Kibbee at 217-333-2020 or