Session 08

Language (as) Heritage (in) Place: Political geographies of linguistic heritage geographies (IGU Commission on Political Geography)
Chair: Virginie Mamadouh (University of Amsterdam)

Language is highly political as meaning producer, as tool of communication, and as identity marker. Language is also intrinsically linked to heritage: both as a vehicle to communicate heritage, as a tool to write heritage in space, and as heritage itself.
Mother tongue is often key to the transmission of intangible cultural heritage, especially among members of linguistic minorities. Heritage languages are cherished by many migrants, while others abandon them in the acculturation process and the appropriation of the main language of their new country of residence.
Language use is also part and parcel of place making processes and of bordering processes. The presence of a minority language in the linguistic landscape of a particular city (i.e. on the signs in the public space) is often read as a sign of vitality. The configuration between different languages in the linguistic landscape and soundscape attests of power relations between language groups and their evolution over time. In border regions the historical role of languages in contact has been contested. Linguistic heritage, including distinction from other, neighbouring languages, has been shaped by competing narratives about their origin and evolution.
States and other institutions have deployed language policies to foster, maintain and develop their preferred language(s), to protect it (or them) from the intrusion of other languages, more specifically hegemonic languages: typically English with globalization, but also French in former French colonies, Russian in the Soviet bloc, and in the near future perhaps Chinese in Africa. More specifically national languages have been constructed as core value of national identities and heritage and nationalist ideologies have often promote the idea that territory of the state, the nation and the language should coincided.
Moreover linguistic heritage is fundamentally spatial and should be studied in its socio-spatial dimensions. Language ideologies shape our understanding of the relation between languages, places and territories. Territorial claims are often justified by language facts and narratives about languages shape social and spatial borders. Territorial cleansing often includes the erasure of a specific language from the local heritage. Toponymical practices are part of such linguistic encoding of space.
This session on linguistic heritage welcomes conceptual and empirical papers about heritage geographies pertaining to the many relations between language and space, addressing politics, use and governance of linguistic heritage. Diverse approaches are welcome. Themes include:
" Geographical imaginations of past language contacts
" Migration and heritage language
" Language as vehicle for intangible heritage
" Linguistic landscape and (material) heritage
" Contested geopolitical representations of languages and language groups
" Language standardization and homogenization and heritage at the margins of national territory
" Extraterritorial language policies and diasporas
" The role of supranational and international organizations regarding to linguistic heritage
" Toponymy and heritage