Migration, Transfers, Cultural Contact

Group leaders: Professor Ulf Brunnbauer, Professor Björn Hansen

The study group comprises doctoral students, postdocs and principal investigators from two disciplines: history and linguistics. Our main points of interest are the encounters of(and the transfers between)people, cultures and languages. Encounters bring about communication as well as miscommunication, increase as well as loss of shared information. Failed recognition of a common historical experience (often a result of miscommunication), or conversely, recognition and consolidation around common experience, has direct impact on the preservation or disintegration of cultural and linguistic identifications.

Cases of information loss are for example fading migrant memories, obsolescence of traditional cultural practices or reduction and loss of grammatical categories in language contact. A process of information reduction may, however, give rise to new complex phenomena as well. Examples from linguistics are the innovations occurring in the grammar of semi-speakers of dying languages. In migration contexts, the detachment from the original cultural and social context is often linked to the emergence of new identifications and patterns of interaction. Furthermore, cultural and linguistic transfers often bring as a counter-reaction conscious revitalization and renewal attempts; examples include deriving novel identity anchors on the basis of shared fragments of common memory, imagining of stable though trans-territorial “national bodies” or introducing new grammatical structures on the basis of archaic or reconstructed forms.

As historians and linguists we merge our expertise and strive for synergy as regards both theory and practice. The practical consideration behind our cooperation includes exchanging methodological know-how (e.g. data extraction, sampling, reductionist techniques, patterns of logical reasoning, and methods for identification of recurrent patterns). The theoretical interfaces between our disciplines and individual research projects include issues related to complexity, illocutionary acts and performativity (both in narrative discourse and grammar), as well as common interest for those cognitive capacities that are crucial in information processing, reduction and renewal.