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International Workshop "Visible and invisible borders"

2014_04_07_082355_1 ©hoefler

111. Colloquium "Migration und Minderheiten"

"Visible and invisible borders: Language use expressing group belonging and change in the Georgian Greek community" - 01.09. - 03.09.2014

The workshop “Visible and invisible borders: Languge use expressing group belonging and change in the Georgian Greek community?“ aims at discussing the complex question of a correlation between linguistic change and the feeling of belonging to a particular group in a transdisciplinary way. The Greek minority of Georgia is an ideal starting point: This Greek population expresses a similar sense of belonging but there are two subgroups that diverge in terms of their language use (Urum, a Turkic language, vs. Pontic Greek, mutually incomprehensible). Furthermore, in the Southern Caucasus and beyond these two language varieties are perceived to prototypically “stand for” different religious affiliations, namely Islam and Orthodox Christianity.

There are (at least) two questions to be answered regarding this community. One concerns the processes of language contact and language change in the different migratory spaces in Georgia and Greece. The other concerns the identity-forming factors and boundaries that are made relevant by the speakers, as well as their language use and migratory processes. Both questions are closely related – even though they haven’t been addressed in such a related way in traditional forms of linguistics – and it is arguably impossible to fully answer one without an understanding of the other.

Some of the researchers participating in this workshop are currently intensively working with this community in the project “The impact of current transformational processes on language and ethnic identity: Urum and Pontic Greeks in Georgia” (funded by the VolkswagenStiftung). In order to broaden and deepen our discussion, we have invited exciting and insightful scholars from related fields. They will discuss our results, methodology and generalizations from their perspectives and share some of their research on related communities and methodologies. Together we will come to a better understanding of how the (re)drawing of communal boundaries is expressed linguistically and leads to new social realities.