Humboldt Forum
© Tom Güldemann
[sound] Listening to the World

June 8, 2018, 7:00 PM

Conversation and Concert

Preserving Languages

@ Haus Ungarn

Free admission, registration required

in German

Before this century comes to an end it is predicted that half of the 7,000 languages currently spoken in the world will have fallen silent forever. Humankind is rapidly losing its linguistic diversity, and undocumented languages are disappearing without a trace.

What does this mass extinction of languages mean for our cultural diversity? What technologies and strategies are researchers using to react to this development? From pencil and paper to audio recordings and video cameras – how are languages documented in the twenty-first century? These are themes and questions that are also addressed in the exhibition [sound] Listening to the World.

Linguists and musicologists Mandana Seyfeddinipur, Elisabeth Verhoeven, Tom Güldemann and Oliver Gerlach will talk about their work documenting languages and open up new perspectives on the phenomenon of language.

In the lecture concert that follows you can hear the incredible complexity of the linguistic and singing traditions of the Arbëresh, which are at risk of dying out. Sebastian Klotz, co-curator of the exhibition [sound] Listening to the World and head of the Lautarchiv that also holds a number of Arbëresh recordings, will give the welcoming address. The evening will be hosted by Mandana Seyfeddinipur.


Please register by 07 June 2018 if you wish to attend. Due to limited seating capacity, we can only guarantee you a seat if you pick up your tickets on the day of the event by 6:45 pm. A limited number of tickets will be available at the ticket office from 6:45 pm for those who decide to attend at short notice.

Please take note that this event will be held in German!

Lectures and Panel

In her keynote entitled Die Geister, die ich rief … Der Zauberlehrling (The spirits that I called… The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), taken from a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Mandana Seyfeddinipur will show how globalization, climate change, urbanization and political unrest all lead to languages dying out around the world. Mandana Seyfeddinipur is a linguist and director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at SOAS, University of London, which supports the documentation of endangered languages everywhere. As an expert in language use and multimodality, she trains scholars to develop multimedia collections of endangered languages.

Elisabeth Verhoeven, junior professor at the Institut für deutsche Sprache und Linguistik of the Humboldt-Universität, will talk about her analysis and documentation of the Maya and Chibcha languages in Latin America. Tom Güldemann, professor at the Institut für Asien- und Afrika-Wissenschaften of the Humboldt-Universität, will discuss the research situation and projects in the African region and the documentation of African languages. He will focus on what are known as the Khoisan languages, whose click consonants differentiate them from other languages in the same area.

In the follow-up panel discussion Mandana Seyfeddinipur, Elisabeth Verhoeven, Tom Güldemann, Oliver Gerlach and Gianni Belluscio will talk about questions of scholarly responsibility, the urgency of linguistic and musical documentation and the role of digital technologies and archives in preserving our immaterial world heritage.


In a few villages in southern Italy the remarkable combination of Arbëresh music and language continues to accompany Italo-Greeks and Italo-Albanians at landmark events such as carnivals, weddings and funerals. But how will the language survive when it is no longer taught in schools?

The musicologist Oliver Gerlach provides an insight into the language and music of the Italo-Albanians in Calabria and the kalimeret tradition in the community of San Basile. Gianni Belluscio, dialect researcher, linguist, phonetician and singer, will join forces with Alberto Bellizzi and Samuel Bellizzi to give an impression of the richness of Arbëresh in a lecture concert.

Spread the word


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