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The Amelia Murdoch Speaker Series

May 2, 2010

GRAND OPENING: EMERGING AMERICAN LANGUAGE IN 1812

2 - 4 pm, Main exhibit hall, National Museum of Language, 7100 Baltimore Ave Suite 202., College Park, MD 20740.
Join NML friends to celebrate the opening of our new exhibit, funded in part by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. Refreshments will be served. Orin Hargraves, lexicographer, author, and expert in British and American English differences, will give an overview of the exhibit at 2:30, followed by a guided tour. Admission is free - no RSVP required.
Directions.


Amharic | Beyond Words | Chinese Poetry | World Englishes | Arabic Calligraphy | Writing an Unwritten Language | Cherokee | Yiddish | Persian | RunesFamily Language Learning
Beyond Words:  The Unlimited Potential of Visual Communication
Presenters: Amy Carattini, Doctorial Student and Dr. Gail Thakur, Sociocultural Anthropologist
The history of the Western Alphabet often begins with a discussion of cuneiform, clay tablets discovered about 5,000 years ago in the Mediterranean that document the pictographic elements upon which the alphabetic writing system has evolved.  However, these pictorial forms were eventually abandoned in the West in favor of symbols connected to sound, thus eliminating the need for thousands of pictures to represent mental concepts in which to communicate ideas.

Severing written forms of linguistic communication from their pictorial origins prematurely disengaged us from further developing a visual language already in existence, diminishing the complexity inherent in its form and discarding its linguistic relevance as a language in its own right.  

Despite this, the study of visual communication, through other forms, is becoming increasingly salient.  This is evidenced by the proliferation of still and moving images in the media, on the street, through the internet, and on television.  Furthermore, because technological innovations occur rapidly and regularly, new and creative forms of visual language are continually produced and readily dispersed throughout the world.

We demonstrate how visual languages, aside from words, are composed differently, such as comprising smaller units of analysis through lines, forms, colors, depth, and dynamic movement. Yet, these elements, while not the same as more conventional alphabetic systems, share some important similarities, as well as significant differences, in their communication potential.   

This recognition is critical.  As we argue, by taking advantage of other specific forms of visual language that are available, and utilizing them interactively with the written word, the reach and depth of communication potential is broadened.  This entails both thoughtful selection of written and other visual forms, and careful arrangement, or juxtaposition, of these. Especially in our increasingly interconnected world, this collaboration between the written word and other visual languages may most effectively achieve cross-cultural communication.

Dr. Gail Thakur is a sociocultural anthropologist, who has been an Adjunct Assistant  Professor at UMD, and is presently at American University.  Her particular research interests are in identity, belonging and its negotiation, and self-representation among marginalized groups.

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Saturday May 16, 1 - 4 pm
Informal Language Learning In and Around DC: Families Welcome! Kaaren Agnez, Minilinguists.com & Mashinke/Marcia Gruss Levinsohn, Jewish Educational Workshop, Talia Kowitt, University of Maryland. Download flyer

People who want to learn a language outside of traditional classrooms can choose from a wide, sometimes confusing variety of informal local and online resources for many languages. These resources are also available for parents searching for the best methods and environments for their children to acquire second language proficiency. The key is knowing how to integrate language learning into everyday life, leading to fluency. Techniques for individuals or families to use cassettes, online resources, books, computer programs such as Rosetta Stone, and private tutors or group classes are presented and evaluated. Participants' questions will be addressed about their own and their children's interests and experiences in language learning. Mashinke Gruss Levinsohn (bobe mashinke), read a favorite children's book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, in Yiddish and showed how to help children understand a new language through use of the five senses. Talia Kowitt shared resources available in the International Digital Children's Library.

Sunday, April 19: Paper, Rock, Bone, and Bronze--An Epigraphic Odyssey with Dr. Edward D. Rockstein, L-3 Communications (download flyer)rockstein

Take this odyssey through the learning and experience processes stemming from Rockstein's interest in languages and, most particularly, in the development and evolution of writing systems.  His journey goes from Latin, Greek, and Russian to the Korean han'gul 한글 alphabet and Hancha 漢字 Chinese characters used in Korean, the development of the Japanese kana カナ syllabaries, to various Runic scripts with a side journey into Ogham along the way. Rockstein has had a life-long interest in the decipherment of unknown scripts, in writing systems, and in  the origins and evolution of scripts.  He stumbled into Norse Runic cryptography and pre-Columbian American epigraphy "by accident." This eventually led him to a long correspondence with Barry Fell, the author of America B.C., Bronze Age America, and editor of the Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, that prompted him to look into the origins of the Turkic and Hungarian runiform scripts. He eventually studied the Turkic and Hungarian runiform scripts. The story of the Turkikc 'runes' begins in the early 1700's when inscriptions in an unknown script and language were found on the banks of the Yenisei River in Siberia. They were deciphered with the aid of a bilingual text with Chinese. Early in the 20th century F. Babinger was preparing and editing a text of a 16th-century travel journal which included a transcription of an inscription in "litterae incognitae." Vilhelm Thomsen later identified the script as the Hungarian Szekely script and applied it to decipherment of the Turkic inscriptions from Mongolia. Ed will share some of his experiences and insights while "rambling among the Runes" in this presentation.

Sunday, March 15,
From Abyssinia to Addis Ababa: A Live Painting Demonstration with Amharic Characters
Solomon Asfaw
Download flyerSolomon Asfaw

Art inspired by GeezBorn in Ethiopia, Solomon Asfaw graduated from the University School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa and has exhibited his work in Africa, Europe, and the United States.

Solomon will give visitors the opportunity to explore an Ethiopic writing system, the alpha-syllabary, through a live painting presentation.  He will create an original art-work, which will be inspired by Amharic characters.  Through this presentation, visitors will also be encouraged to investigate the connection between Ge’ez, an ancient Ethiopic language, and Amharic, the dominant language of Ethiopia today.

Finally, this live painting will expose Solomon’s unique perspective as an Ethiopian artist whose interaction with the Amharic script since childhood has become a catalyst for exploring his cultural and life experiences and for seeing how they are transformed on canvas.

Sunday February 22
Persian Poetry and Calligraphy

Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Director of The Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute of Persian persian Studies. Download flyer

Persian poetry, which has developed over 1400 years, is beloved and known by modern readers for the influence and achievements of poets like Sa'di, Hafiz, Rumi and Omar Khayyam. The Persian language, which uses the Arabic writing system, has spread across Central Asia from its roots in Iran. The beauty of the form of the language as well as the content will be demonstrated by examples of Persian calligraphy. Details will be given of current and future efforts of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute of Persian Studies to promote understanding of Persian and Iranian language and culture. Reservations requested by February 20.

Sunday January 25: Discourses in Dying Languages: My Story With Yiddish

Miriam Isaacs, Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies, University of Maryland Download flyer
What is the place of Yiddish in the context of a globalizing world? The role of Yiddish as a heritage language and its present uses by Jewish and non-Jewish speech communities around the world are considered, including Hasidim at one end of a cultural spectrum and European Christians at the other end. A theoretical description of the instruction of Yiddish and language competition with Hebrew and English will be supplemented by a personal reflection on what it means to be a Yiddish speaker and Yiddish teacher in today's world. Reservations requested by January 23.

yiddish

Sunday January 25, Discourses in Dying Languages: My Story With Yiddish

Miriam Isaacs, Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies, University of Maryland Download flyer
What is the place of Yiddish in the context of a globalizing world? The role of Yiddish as a heritage language and its present uses by Jewish and non-Jewish speech communities around the world are considered, including Hasidim at one end of a cultural spectrum and European Christians at the other end. A theoretical description of the instruction of Yiddish and language competition with Hebrew and English will be supplemented by a personal reflection on what it means to be a Yiddish speaker and Yiddish teacher in today's world. Reservations requested by January 23.

October 12 (Sunday)
World Englishes
Rebecca Oxford, University of Maryland. Discover the vast variety of “World Englishes”; how English has spread around the world and how World Englishes can be a two-edged sword, offering gifts and dangers. How do power, oppression, imperialism, and resistance link to World Englishes? See PowerPoint presentation

Saturday November 8: Lost In Translation: Collaborative Translation of Chinese Poetry Liang Huichun, University of Maryland, & Steven Schroeder, Shenzhen University and the University of Chicago small
A guided tour of two translation projects on which the speakers have collaborated over the last several years: translation of Li Nan's Small and translation of poems included in Two Southwests, an anthology of 27 poets from the southwestern United States and southwest China. Liang and Schroeder demonstrate how collaborative translation becomes a conversation out of which a new work emerges. They understand that the translation, inscribed in written form, will always be a new creative work. Liang and Schroeder experiment with treating the poem as music by reading simultaneously in Chinese and English, resulting in an experience of musical improvisation, helping audiences understand what a poem is about, and what we are about when we are making poetry.

We have completed our Summer 2008 series of presentations which brought fascinating experts of language into the museum. The photos at left are from the Arabic Calligraphy presentation on August 23rd. We want to thank Amy Carattini, our star volunteer, for organizing this unexpectedly successful series of presentations, and helping the museum to grow by leaps and bounds.

See materials on loan to us in the museum by Dr. Khaled Mohamed.

Dr. Khaled Mohamed Calligraphy Presentation at NML

Writing an Unwritten Language by David Weber. See Resources

Cherokee By Carrie Clarady. See Resources

PLEASE COME VISIT US AT:
The National Museum of Language
7100 Baltimore Avenue – Suite 202
College Park, Maryland 20740

For ages: 9 to 99.
Open hours:
Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM;
First and Third Sundays, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM.

We are seeking volunteers to act as docents and to assist in other capacities in connection with the opening.  Readers in the Metropolitan Washington area who may be interested in participating are asked to contact Dr. Amelia Murdoch either by telephone at 301-864-7071 or email to

The Museum has received a Community Services Grant from the City of College Park in support of this exhibit, and the Center for Heritage Studies of the University of Maryland as well the Museum of the Alphabet in Waxhaw, NC are also providing technical assistance and funding.  These contributions are greatly appreciated but there are many expenses not covered by these grants.  Members are encouraged to renew their membership promptly, and if possible to renew at a higher level.  Special contributions to celebrate the opening of the Museum will be most welcome.  We encourage contributions in honor of or in memory of a friend, mentor or loved one; major donations will be suitably recognized.  All such contributions will be published in the Newsletter as appropriate.

Silent Auction

The Museum holds a silent auction each year as part of the annual dinner. We thank the donors of merchandise and services for the 2008 auction. See a complete list here.

Become a Member Today!


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