Goodbye to Linguistics at MPI-EVA and current research

In Leipzig there is the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA). There is a linguistics department there and their director is Bernard Comrie. He is now retiring and the department is closing down. This department has been very, very important in the research field of linguistic typology (systematic cross-linguistic comparison). I cannot begin list all their contributions, why don't you just have a look here? Perhaps you've heard of WALS?

In honour of the department's history and also to discuss the future of research into linguistic diversity they are organising a closing conference this spring: Diversity Linguistics: Retrospects and Prospects. They're inviting former and current researchers of the department to come and present their work.

If you are interested in linguistics and want to know more about current research in linguistic typology/diversity linguistics then go have a look at the abstracts of this conference. Looking at abstracts of interesting workshops and conferences is generally a good idea if you want to keep updated, even if you can't go there. My interest was for example piqued by, among others, Östen Dahls talk on "How WEIRD are WALS languages?", Sebastian Drudes talk on "Languages, "languoids", ISO-codes and the Glottolog: Creating reference systems for language diversity and variation", Ulrike Zeshans talk on "Early pidginisation of incipient signed jargon" and Jeffrey Heaths "Typology and extreme languages". If you look you'll also find that our fellow tumblrer Linguisten is participating; Jan Wohlgemuth will be talking on "A typology of language naming principles". So, much excitement to say the least!!

In 2013 they hosted the biennial conference of the Association for Linguistic Typology (together with the University of Leipzig). In the closing of that conference Johanna Nichols talked about what this department has meant for the field and how we now need to search for a new such forum for typologists to exchange ideas and collaborate. What will happen next remains to be seen, but this is indeed the end of an era.

Also, don't worry: there is still linguistics in the Max Planck Society, primarily at the department of Language and Cognition at the MPI of Pscyholinguistics in Nijmegen and the newly started department of Linguistics and cultural evolution at the MPI of Science of Human History in Jena (read more about the Max Planck society and this newly started department in our post here and on the DLC blog here).


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