Fifth International Symposium on European Languages in East Asia: Crises, Changes, and Chances: The European Conundrum

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European Languages Division, Department of Foreign LAnguages, National Taiwan University
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Fifth International Symposium on European Languages in East Asia

Crises, Changes, and Chances: The European Conundrum

Taipei, October 24-25, 2014

As Europe finds itself engulfed in a long-lasting socio-economic crisis, the languages of Europe have tracked the developments by changing, innovating, and adapting to the new circumstances. In this year's Symposium we would like to examine the role that language in all its manifestations (i.e. linguistic system, literature, public discourse, language teaching) has played both in the current and in past periods of crisis in Europe. In the next few paragraphs we will try to provide an outline of the particular areas we suggest the submitted papers address.

The enormity of the changes that occurred in the last 3-4 years is so noticeable that in June 2013 the Spanish Royal Academy updated the Diccionario de la lengua española so as to add words that came into existence or their meanings changed due to the ongoing crisis. Similarly the latest update of Duden, an authoritative dictionary of German, includes a great amount of new entries that reflect the influence of the crisis. Not surprisingly the crisis-induced linguistic changes have already encouraged a book-length study, Les Mots de la Crise by Denis Muzet. Of course the close connection of language and socio-political developments is nothing new. As long ago as the fifth century B.C. Thucydides would suggestively comment on how in the Corcyrean Revolt the struggle for control over political affairs was closely connected with a struggle for control over language. Similarly in modern times G. Orwell, Politics and the English Language, stressed: "Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

Apart from language as a semantic system, we would also like to address the question of the usages this system is put in. Undoubtedly, one of the most prestigious usages of language is literature, and literature has played an instrumental role in understanding the human experience during periods of crisis. Berlin Alexanderplatz is probably a prime, but far from unparalleled, example of problematizing issues related to thinking and talking about crises that shatter a person's social environment.

However, not only literature, but also other usages of language (e.g. journalistic writing, political speeches, jokes, etc.) play extremely important roles in social life in general and especially so in periods of crisis. While literature meditates on past events, these types of discourses document/chronicle/comment on a crisis as it is in process, thus they represent the immediate reaction of the various social groups to their daily happenings.

Finally, but not lastly, we would like to explore the relationship between crisis and language teaching. In particular, examine whether periods of crisis influence the teaching of languages in Europe or the teaching of European languages elsewhere; and whether language learning helps, and in what ways, persons and societies to deal effectively with crises.

Ideally contributions to the Symposium would address the relationship between the languages of Europe and the various periods of crisis European societies have experienced by examining the following sub-topics:
How have crises shaped the languages of Europe (whether on the level of the vocabulary or on that of grammar)?
How the different stresses exercised on different social groups have given rise to distinct linguistic innovations?
How and why the struggle between the various competing linguistic innovations developed?
How have the literatures of Europe responded to crises?
How has literature contributed in assisting European societies to overcome periods of crisis and move to the future?
How political/journalistic/public discourses have either in past times or in the present redounded with the events of the crisis and their dialectical relationship of "shaping it & being shaped by it"?
How do periods of crisis influence the teaching of languages in Europe or the teaching of European languages elsewhere?
How does language learning relate to dealing with periods of crisis?

The language of the Symposium is English, and the duration of each paper should not exceed 20 minutes. Abstracts should be submitted as email attachments to, for additional information the Symposium website ( cab be consulted.

Important Dates:

Abstract (500 words or less) due: July 15, 2014
Paper for inclusion in Transcripts due: September 7, 2014
Symposium Date: October 24-26, 2014