Rescuing Endangered Native Languages

Lenore Grenoble (Photo by Andrew Nelles)

The following article appeared in UChicago News on 13 October.

How do you save a language?

That question has occupied linguist Lenore Grenoble since the early 1990s, when she made her first trek to a remote area of Siberia to study Evenki, the rapidly disappearing tongue of a Siberian indigenous group.

A Slavic linguist by training, Grenoble had been studying languages like Russian, Polish, and Old Church Slavonic for years. But she wanted to apply her expertise beyond the academy.

“I decided when I got tenure that I would take my expertise and do something that was also socially meaningful,” says Grenoble, the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in Linguistics.

Grenoble’s work on Evenki launched a new phase in her career. “I became interested in not just Evenki, but the kinds of things that happen when a language is lost: the linguistic changes, the social changes, the factors that drive people to speak one language over another,” she explains. “I started looking at the broader picture globally.”

Today, Grenoble is an internationally respected expert in the study of endangered languages and the author of several books on the topic.  Although much of her work focuses on the indigenous languages of the Arctic, she has conducted fieldwork on other languages such as Māori in New Zealand and the Wolof language in Senegal.

She is also taking an active role to protect indigenous languages as coordinator of the Arctic Council’s Arctic Indigenous Languages Vitality project.

Berlin Family Lectures: Lawrence Lessig on Institutional Corruption

For many, the term “institutional corruption” evokes memories of American scandals ranging from Watergate to the downfall of Bernie Madoff. But Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig expects to complicate that perception when delivering the 2014-2015 Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures, a five-week series that begins Oct. 16 in Mandel Hall.

DoVA Faculty Members and Alumni Recognized as "Chicago's Artists' Artists"

Color Jam, Elizabeth Stockholder
Seven faculty members and alumni from the Department of Visual Arts appear in Newcity’s 2014 Art 50. Newcity publishes the list every other year “…to celebrate the accomplishments of a few people who work hard and smart, and who happen to call Chicago their home,” billing the artists as “Chicago’s Artists’ Artists.”

Learning Through Play

Patrick Jagoda and Melissa Gilliam with students.
Donning lab coats and pretending to be a group of time-traveling scientists in contact with the future would never qualify as a traditional teaching tactic. Nor would acting out a three-week sci-fi role-playing game along with 70 teenagers. But the team behind the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab believes such games can impart knowledge in ways that ordinary lectures can’t.

Gray Center to Continue Bold Collaborations Between Artists, Scholars

In its first three years, the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry has made possible everything from a conference featuring the world’s leading cartoonists in dialogue with each other and a cross-section of faculty; to a monthlong alternate reality game involving students, a professor of English and an experimental phenomenologist from Montreal; to a yearlong collaborative exploration of low-level light undertaken by a distinguished physicist and an award-winning architect.

Joan Harris One of Three Arts Leaders With UChicago Ties to Receive National Medal of Arts

Joan Harris with President Obama
President Barack Obama will present the National Medal of Arts to three arts leaders with University of Chicago ties, the National Endowment for the Arts announced today.The honorees are longtime University supporter and arts patron Joan Harris and architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, who designed the University’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. The ceremony will take place on Monday, July 28 at the White House.