Ecological Transformation and the Reorganization of Multilingualism in South and Southeast Asia

Author: Nishaant Choksi, Vysakh R., Kalpesh Rathwa, Sakuntala Longkumer, Sommor Panyavong, Khammanh Siphanxay, Nathan Badenoch, Bouathong Xaimaly (Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar)
Speaker: Nishaant Choksi, Vysakh R., Kalpesh Rathwa, Sakuntala Longkumer, Sommor Panyavong, Khammanh Siphanxay, Nathan Badenoch, Bouathong Xaimaly
Topic: Critical Linguistic Anthropology
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 Colloquium


“The regions of South and Southeast Asia are not only ecologically varied but also highly linguistically diverse. For most of these communities, multilingualism is a persistent and highly salient feature of social organization. In much of the early literature on language loss, it was believed that the loss of biological diversity was related to the loss of linguistic diversity. However anthropological studies have shown that linguistic diversity is not something to be gained or lost, but is a form of sociality that is subject to transformation in relation to changing political, economic, or ecological conditions.

The papers in this panel will focus on areas in South and Southeast Asia where there has been rapid ecological change due to human-induced development activity, natural disasters, climate change, or migration. Although there has been new research focused on the “anthropocene” which shows how local communities adapt to such changes, the role of language, multilingualism, and language ideologies in facilitating social adaptation and transformation is underexplored. These papers present case studies highlighting the response of multilingual communities to ecological change.

The panel features papers by Vysakh R. (Doctoral student, IIT-Gandhinagar) entitled Name-avoidance and its effects on multilingualism: A perspective from Nicobar, which will examine how the linguistic taboo of taking the name of a deceased person in the Nicobar Island chain in the Indian ocean has led to linguistic innovation and the construction of new multilingual repertoires in the context of inter-island migration and ecological change in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Sakuntala Longkumer (Postdoctoral Fellow, IIT-Gandhinagar) in her paper Nagamese: The language of belonging in Multilingual Nagaland will focus on city of Dimapur in Northeast India, analyzing the relation between multilingualism, language, and space among different generations of urban residents. Nishaant Choksi and Kalpesh Rathwa (IIT-Gandhinagar) in their paper, Multilingualism and the vocabularies of displacement in Western India will address the reorganization of multilingualism in the aftermath of forced displacement and resettlement of indigenous communities in western India as a result of dam construction. Finally, Sommor Panyavong (National University of Laos), Khammanh Siphanxay (Lao Academy of Socio-Economic Science) and Bouathong Xaimaly (Researcher, Samphanh District) will present on Ritual multilingualism in ecologies of human-spirit symbiosis, focusing on the organization of multilingual language use within the changing ecology of Northern Laos with regard to ritual interactions with local landscape spirits.

The discussant for the panel will be Nathan Badenoch, Villanova University.”

Keywords: Multilingualism, Ecology, Language ideology, Speech community, Migration, Performance.