Doing Literature and Linguistics in the Digital Age – The 4th Bentobox Lecture of 2017/2018

25 Jan 2018


How can we make a systematic use of digital resources in the humanities for better knowledge production and distribution? This is a noteworthy question, especially when the younger generation is more adapted to audio and video data than to printed words. In the first of the FAH Bentobox lecture series for Spring 2018, held on January 24, 2018, Professor Chiu Man Yin, Professor Glenn Timmermans and Prof. Mario Nunes shared with us the achievements of their research projects, which more or less answers the above question.

Prof Glenn Timmermans (left) and Prof Chiu Man Yin (right)

Professor Chiu Man Yin and Professor Glenn Timmermans reported an ongoing project to create a digital archive of contemporary writers. The project so far has interviewed a number of international writers, and the interviews have been video-recorded, and it is shown that the multimedia data recorded and transcribed can be valuable resources of literary studies for both postgraduate students and researchers. In addition, the pedagogic, research, and experiential learning opportunities derived from the project and their impact and implications have been introduced. At the end of the talk, some interesting questions, such as technological difficulties in the development of the digital archive, financial support needed for the maintenance of the platform, and ethics issues in data collection, were raised and answered.

Prof Mario Nunes

Professor Mario Nunes shared with us his rich experience in the language documentation practice of the Portuguese-based creole language of Makista, which is a severely endangered language. Starting from the definition of language documentation and different criteria of language endangerment, Professor Nunes introduced to us the current universal practice, general challenges and value of language documentation. Using his Makista project as example, Professor Nunes showed us variation and change within its written and spoken data, and the diversity among its heritage communities. A brief selection of early documented linguistic data of Makista has also been introduced for the overarching value that language documentation has for the scientific study of language. Several sociolinguistic issues, such as language maintenance and shift, language revitalization, contact language, creation of pidgins and creoles, digital archiving of endangered languages have also been discussed with regard to the value of the study of Makista for the fields of language documentation and language acquisition.

The next  meeting  will be held on March 15 (Thursday) with Prof. Cecilia Zhao and Prof. Custódio Martins as speakers. Prof. Zhao’s speech is titled “Authorial Voice in Second Language Writing” and Prof. Martins’ “Socio-cultural Factors in the Language Classroom”.