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New course, Blok 2, 2012/13
Communication in Drum Languages
Secondary modes of Linguistic Communication: Drums, Signs and Whistles

Many cultures have developed secondary means of linguistic communication as alternative to speech. Some of the common alternative means of communication involve drumming, slit gongs, whistling and signing, as well as secret or sacred alternative spoken languages.

The course will give an illustrated overview of some central secondary means of communication across cultures, and analyze their relevance for linguistics, cognitive science, anthropology and musicology. We will exemplify and discuss different practices of speech surrogates in African, Native Australian and Native American cultures. After some lectures focusing on the wordsmith and musicians of traditional Senegal, the course will end with a mini-workshop of drum linguistics with select Senegalese artists.

Students will take active role in developping the course, by selecting literature and audio-visual materials, in group presentations and by preparing interviews with African musicians who will illustrate their expertise in one of the meetings. There will be some assignments during the course; the final assignment will consist of a short essay about one of the subjects in the course, on the basis of a list of subjects about different cultures and forms of communication.

Reading lists and articles for presentation in class (PDF)
The reading list
contains texts that will be covered in class.
From the list
articles for presentation each pair of students will choose two articles for presentation in the tutorials.

Scheme of student presentations (PDF)

Course Schedule
        12 November 2012 - 26 January 2013
        Teachers: Eva Poortman and Dr. Yoad Winter

Week 1  (12-17 nov)
Overview: the variety of modalities of linguistic communication
- Nature of language: Dialects, Linguistic universals, Language typology
- Language in various modalities: speech vs. sign
- Secondary languages: overview
WC: assignment of topics to students
Week 2  (19-24 nov)
Learning language
- Processes underlying language acquisition
- Critical period
- Bilingualism
- Sociolinguistic aspects of language acquisition
- Pidgins and creoles
- Sign language acquisition
- Stages of language acquisition (babbling etc.)
WC: presentations (1)
Week 3   (26 nov - 1 dec)
Specialised languages and secondary languages
- Whistled speech
- Holy languages
- Secret languages
- Male/female languages
- Morse code
- Smoke signals
- Sign language and home sign
- Secondary sign languages
- Language for the deaf/blind
WC: presentations (2)
Week 4   (3-8 dec)
Music and language
- Tone languages
- Processing of language and music
- Representation of language and music in the brain
- Musical and linguistic disorders
- Factors in musical and linguistic aptitude
WC: presentations (3)
Week 5   (10-15 dec)
Drum communication in Africa
- Historical background
- Musicological background
- Case studies: Lokele (Congo), Yoruba (Nigeria), Akan (Ghana), Banda-Linda (Central
       African Republic)
WC: presentations (4)
Week 6  (17-22 dec)
Conducting language research
- Conducting fieldwork
- Dealing with informants
- Analysing fieldwork data
- Experimental vs. observational studies: pro’s and con’s
WC: presentations (5)
Week 7   (7-12 jan)
Griots: music and language intertwined in Senegal
- Griots in West African cultures
- The Sabar drum griots of Senegal and Gambia
- Grammatical characteristics of sabar drum communication
WC: presentations (6)
Week 8   (14-19 jan)
Workshop preparation
WC: workshop
Week 9   (21-26 jan)
Synthesis session: The significance of secondary modalities for cognitive science
-Overview of topics
-Student discussion