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The Politics of Language Contact in the Himalaya

Selma K. Sonntag
Mark Turin


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Bendi Tso completed a Master of Arts in Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016. She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests lie in linguistic nationalism, linguistic identities, and language ideologies. Her current research explores how the ideology of ‘authentic Tibetanness’ — the idea that speaking Tibetan is taken as a claim to be an authentic Tibetan person — has been played out among Chone Tibetans in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture by the Chinese state and by Tibetan ethno-nationalists. Her research also examines the ways in which Chone Tibetans engage, mediate, resist, and reject such ideology based on their own linguistic realities and experiences, in history and at present.

Maya Daurio earned a Master of Science in Geography from the University of Montana, where her research focused on language maintenance and social-ecological resilience within an endangered language community in Nepal. She has worked for over eight years in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and is interested in anthropological, ecological, and humanitarian applications of GIS. Concurrent research interests include language endangerment and maintenance, traditional ecological knowledge, social-ecological resilience, indigeneity, and mountain geographies. Maya will be pursuing a doctorate in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

Uma Pradhan is Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Oxford School for Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford. Prior to this, Uma was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Education Anthropology, Aarhus University, Copenhagen. Uma’s research focuses on power-laden dimensions of education and examines the interconnection between state, society, and schooling. Uma holds a DPhil in International Development from the University of Oxford, where she studied the cultural politics of minority language use in schools. She received the Dor Bahadur Bista Prize 2015 and Nations and Nationalism Prize 2018 for articles based on this research. Before joining academia, Uma worked in the development sector for several years.

Gerald Roche is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics, Media, and Philosophy at La Trobe University, and has previously held positions at the University of Melbourne, Uppsala University, and Qinghai Normal University. His research focuses on the politics of language endangerment and revitalization, particularly within Tibet and the Himalayas. Recent edited publications include the Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization (with Leanne Hinton and Leena Huss) and two open access publications: Indigenous Efflorescence: Beyond Revitalization in Sapmi and Ainu Mosir (with Hiroshi Maruyama and Isa Virdi-Kroik), and Long Narrative Songs from the Mongghul of Northeast Tibet: Texts in Mongghul, Chinese, and English (with Limusishiden).

Selma K. Sonntag is Professor Emerita of Politics at Humboldt State University in California and Affiliate Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research area is the politics of language, primarily in South Asia, but also in the United States, Europe and South Africa. Her numerous publications on language politics in South Asia have appeared in Language Policy, The Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, and Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, among other journals, as well as in over a dozen edited volumes. Her books include The Local Politics of Global English: Case Studies in Linguistic Globalization (2003) and State Traditions and Language Regimes (2015). Dr. Sonntag was a Research Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Studies in New Delhi in spring 2012 and the recipient of two Fulbright research awards. She recently completed her tenure as chair of the Research Committee on the Politics of Language of the International Political Science Association.

Hiroyuki Suzuki holds a D.Litt. in linguistics from Kyoto University (2007) and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo, Norway, and a visiting scholar at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan. His principal research interests are descriptive linguistics, geolinguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics of languages in the Tibetosphere. He has published various works on preliminary descriptions of individual Tibetic languages, grammar sketches, geolinguistic analysis, and narrative analysis with interlinear glossing. He is an author of two books: Dongfang Zangqu Zhuyuyan Yanjiu (2015) and 100 Linguistic Maps of the Swadesh Word List of Tibetic Languages From Yunnan (2018).

Tunzhi (Sonam Lhundrop) is a Ph.D. student in linguistics at La Trobe University, Australia. He is writing a descriptive grammar of the rTa’u language, a rGyalrongic language spoken in western Sichuan Province, China. He is a native of the rTa’u community and for the last decade he has been engaged in language and cultural documentation projects.

Mark Turin is an anthropologist, linguist and occasional radio presenter. An Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Mark has held research and teaching appointments at Yale, Cambridge, Cornell and Leipzig universities. He directs the World Oral Literature Project, an urgent global initiative to document and make accessible endangered oral literatures before they disappear without record, and the Digital Himalaya Project, which he co-founded in 2000 as a platform to make multimedia resources from the Himalayan region widely available online. Mark has worked in the Himalayan region (Nepal, northern India and Bhutan) since 1992 and is the author or co-author of four books, numerous articles, the editor of nine volumes, and edits a series on oral literature.


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