Thursdays at Mundolingua

A special soirée awaits you every third Thursday of the month at 19:30 at Mundolingua!

Since most of our soirées are in French, please check the page in French. Thank you!

Soirée 21st March 2024

Just as exotic as we are

We all know that foreign languages are different. But most of them are ‘differently different’ than our school knowledge would lead us to expect. And it’s not just the languages as such: the people who speak them also have widely diverging outlooks on many linguistic questions. Who’s wrong, who’s right? No-one can tell: Us and Them are equally exotic.

Gaston Dorren is the author of the linguistic bestsellers Lingo and Babel, both of which have been translated into a dozen or more languages, not including French. Like many of his fellow Dutchmen, he’s fluent in several languages, not including French. He has five given names, all of them French.

Soirée 6th March 2024

Politeness in Grammar – Address and more
All cultures seem to feel a need to organise sociability through language. Hence, all languages provide means to differentiate between (different types of) interlocutors, but also to maintain social cohesion through the expression of ‘friendliness’. Quite a few languages, though, go further in that, they incorporate such politeness features into their grammatical systems.

In my presentation, I will first give an overview of the various grammatical means that are employed in the languages of the world in order to express politeness, providing examples from Japanese, from Classical Nahuatl and other languages. I will then look at a range of European languages and their ways of expressing politeness through the use of different pronouns of address. In this context I will trace the history of polite address in German and also look at non-standard varieties of French. It will turn out that grammar proper does indeed play a role in the expression of politeness in European languages, even though to a lesser degree than elsewhere.

Horst Simon is Professor of Historical Linguistics at Freie Universität Berlin. (Before that he taught at King’s College London and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He was Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Vienna as well as Visiting Professor at Peking University and various other institutions in China and in Europe). His current larger projects include the study of variation in politeness phenomena in German in Central Europe, a grammatical description of the German variety in Namibia in the context of intense multilingualism, and a collection and analysis of historical foreign language textbooks in Early Modern Europe. Among others, he is managing editor of the book series “Topics in Address Research”, published by Benjamins (Amsterdam/Philadelphia).

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