Past events
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Languages are containers for knowledge. Not only can content be formulated directly in language, but it can also be stored in the way individual words are formed, in grammatical concepts and linguistic structures. So it’s no wonder that the different languages in the world fascinate scientists.

To mark UNESCO World Mother Language Day on February 21, we talk to experts about linguistic field research and language archives, the documents that are created in the process and what can be researched with them.

In order to get to know a language, researchers have to make contact with a wide variety of people and record their utterances. This is how sound and language archives are created, such as those kept at the Humboldt Forum. But how do you document a language? Do you record everyday conversations or lists of words? Are sounds enough or do you also need video recordings? How do you get people to speak in front of a microphone or camera? And who owns the language once it is in the box?



Albrecht Wiedmann is an ethnomusicologist and curator of the Berlin Phonogram Archive in the Media Department of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art.

Christopher Li is a musicologist and head of the sound archive at the Hermann von Helmholtz Center of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Mandana Seyfeddinipur is a linguist and director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Program and the Endangered Languages Archive at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Uta Kornmeier is an art and cultural historian and curator for science and research at the Academy of the Humboldt Forum Foundation in the Berlin Palace.

The event marks the start of the academic discussion series MitWissenschaft: Weltsprachen – Sprachwelten, which will begin at the Humboldt Forum in October 2024. In six events, it will focus on various indigenous languages and the knowledge stored in them in conversation with linguists and other experts.