TM2 Keynote: Debbie Folaron

Interpreting the Roll of the Linguistic Dice

Debbie Folaron

Concordia University

Abstract: While contemporary neuroscience continues to tease out the relations and connections between areas of the neural networked brain, and to advance its general understandings of the biological and cognitive links to language in the human species as a whole, matters of language do not depart from such a position of equality for many speakers of the world’s nearly 7,000 languages. Within the theatre of politics and economics, the linguistic dice does not roll in their favour, but rather positions them in a ‘minoritizing’ asymmetric relationship to more dominant or major world players, and in so doing reconfigures notions of multilingualism and translation. Recent linguistic research maintains that at least 50% of the planet’s languages will become extinct by 2100. Emerging less as a matter solely of choice, any question of language survival for these groups operates by default in modes that are necessarily reactive as well as proactive.

The acquisition and exercise of language are intimately bound to personal and localized identities, embedded within the broader, complex networks of social, political, cultural, and historical dynamics. When considering translation in a minor/ity context, it is essential to take into account multiple disciplinary points of view in order to interpret more substantively the relations of minor/ity languages to concepts of their cultures, and these in relation to many other intervening dynamics. They include issues of human rights, education, literacy, language revitalization, historical redress, migration, minority politics, transterritorialism, language legislation, and oral history, among others. Within the scaffolding of this multi-layered discourse, the possibility of translation emerges as able to mitigate the challenges that arise when the natural vitality of a group’s linguistic, cultural identity alone cannot sustain it in the struggle for social inclusion in the global world today.

Bio: Debbie Folaron is Associate Professor of Translation Studies at Concordia University in Montreal.

Her current research focuses on translation in the contexts of technologies and contemporary digital society, multilingualism, oral history, social justice, Romani, and minority translation. She is co-editor of the international academic journal Translation Spaces: A multidisciplinary, multimedia, and multilingual journal of translation. Her multilingual website “Translation Romani”, launched in 2011, presents two worlds of knowledge, Romani and translation, in relation to one another and to other world languages and cultures. She is Core Member of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, and Chair on the Board of the Montreal-based NGO Romanipe.