It’s just not quite the same


On 21 September 2019, I was invited to give a speech at the departure reception of Professor Morten Kyndrup, former executive director and founder of Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, honoring his work in establishing the institute. I ended my address with a mention of a short skit I did with a Dutch friend for a Norwegian-American friend’s birthday in August 2019. The birthday deal? No gifts, only performances.

My Dutch friend and I had been speaking a lot about a concept we were both enamoured by and heard often in Denmark spoken by Danes to non-Danes when the latter try to make sense of many things Danish: “Well, you see, it’s just not quite the same.”

The sketch went

Island languages

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Why do so many linguists undertake research on islands and study the languages of islands? For some researchers, it is appealing from a common sense perspective: Islands are often socially and geographically isolated, the cultural traditions that thrive on such islands are often unique due to the relative isolation of the community, and researchers make the logical leap that this uniqueness could also characterize the island community’s speech. Despite these facts, islands as specific research sites in their own right have been given little direct attention by linguists. The physical segregation, distinctness, and isolation of islands from mainland and continental environments may provide scholars of language with distinct and robust sets of singular and combined case studies for examining the …

What can linguistics do (for me)? – or how I turned (from) science (in)to art

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Cover photo: Video still from Some Islands: Pitcairn Island 2016

I write this purposefully provocative piece from Adelaide, South Australia. The University of Adelaide is where I studied linguistics as a graduate student from 2007-2011 and where I worked as a postdoctoral researcher from 2011-2013. From one of my intellectual ground zero points I want to ask myself: what did I learn about linguistics during that time? And further: what can linguistics as a discipline do for me and possibly for others? I pose these two questions because I am situated at a verge; I have begun work in earnest as an experimental documentary film maker where I am turning the arduous work of several of my jaunts of linguistic …