Objective and Content of the Conference

Impacts of Colonial Thinking on Intercultural, Transcultural and Translational Processes and the Influence of the Missionized Other in Missionary Linguistics.

This conference aims at exploring missionary linguistics within the wider context of (political and spiritual) colonization. The cognitive appropriation of foreign cultural givens and the transcultural processes such as transference and translation implicated in these processes (based on intercultural encounters and interactions between the European missionaries and the speakers of the various indigenous languages and cultures in the Americas, Asia or Africa can be considered activities of colonizing or only influencing the Other. Within this framework, the learning, recording and studying of the indigenous languages by the missionaries can be described as complex processes of perception of the language and culture (semantics and pragmatics) of the Other and of oneself in confrontation with the Other, processes at the interface between subjective and socially constructed knowledge.

The historical process of recognition in the context of colonial thinking and missionary ideology starts within the basic cognitive experience and operation of an implicit – or even explicit – contrastive (interculturally-based) take on the perceived object: the indigenous language, its variation and normativization, its social function in the new context. The missionary perception here is very specific since the description implies language politics and planning. The formerly socially constructed knowledge about the concept of language, the structure of language, grammatical category and lexical inventories (the linguistic discourse of grammar and lexicon) forms the memory base for the study and record of the given language. The ongoing discourses on language situated in a specific temporally and culturally determined context further determine the study and recording of language and its function in society. On the other side, confrontation with the languages and cultures which are the object of missionary activities, may result in changes of such (pre-)conceptions.

The output (grammars, dictionaries, language courses, catechisms etc.) is a transcultural hybrid of given and new information: known structures and a differing language. The studies, records, descriptions, analyses of the indigenous language can thus be described in terms of a process by which the missionary linguist having been formed in Europe or by European conceptions translates the unknown language into the known structures of language (assisted by native informants and “colleagues”). On the other hand, the missionary-linguist translates the known paradigms and concepts of European languages into the indigenous languages overcoming sometimes traditional thinking about language and language categories. Asymmetries and incongruences between different systems could operate both as a negative and a positive inspiring factor. Facts could be overseen when the traditional paradigm was applied too strictly, whereas in other cases, the differences offered new challenges for describing typologically different languages.

The conference lLanguages will be English, Spanish, and German

See also Call for Contributions