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GeoCurrents ventures into the classroom

Submitted by on June 21, 2012 – 4:57 pm 5 Comments |  
Dear Readers,

Starting next week, Martin W. Lewis and I embark on the GeoCurrents‘ first joint teaching venture. We will be co-teaching a course titled “Language, Geography, and Geopolitics” for Stanford’s Continuing Studies program. As the course description below states, we are going to make heavy use of the GeoCurrents site for our teaching, and we will certainly write here on topics insprired by classroom discussions.

This is a 5-week course that will take place on Monday evenings from June 25 through July 23. The class is open to the public; for further information and to register, check out the Continuing Studies website.

In this unique interdisciplinary course taught by linguist Asya Pereltsvaig and geographer Martin Lewis, we will combine tools from both disciplines to explore the relationship between language and geography. There are 6,909 languages spoken in the world today, and the geographic distribution of these languages affects geopolitics on global, national, and regional scales. We cannot talk about some of the world’s most pressing problems without taking language into consideration. In turn, geography affects the distribution and diffusion of languages, how they change over time, and even their structural properties. For example, open plains facilitate the spread of languages, whereas areas of rough topography can provide refuge for small ethnic groups, thus becoming highly linguistically diverse. Meanwhile, languages imposed by empires on subjugated groups tend to get grammatically simplified, whereas languages of smaller tribal groups can grow impressively complex.

Drawing on a large number of maps, the instructors will take students on a virtual journey to the Caucasus and Papua New Guinea, India and former Yugoslavia, and Israel and Indonesia to demystify the ways in which language and geography shape the world as we know it. Readings will include Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler, Languages of the World by Asya Pereltsvaig, and the instructors’ blog, GeoCurrents.

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  • Nick

    Will it be available on iTunes U?

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Good question! I don’t know so, but let me get in touch with the program director and see what he has to say. At any rate, we are glad to hear that there is interest in such an arrangement!

  • Rebecca

    I’d love to follow the course on iTunes also! 

    • Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for the show of enthusiasm, everybody!

      I am still waiting to hear about iTunes U… but we are also considering the idea of doing GeoCurrents podcasts.

  • David

    Yes, I have the same question as Nick and Rebecca. I’m sorry I don’t live in the area.