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[ from our man in Lyon, Peter K. Austin, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

As it approaches the halfway point, the 3L (Leiden-London-Lyon) Summer School on Language Documentation and Description is humming along. It started on Monday 23rd June and ends on Friday 4th July.

So far we have had five days of plenary lectures (in English) and discussions (in English, and French) on a range of topics, practical classes (on phonology, tonology, audio recording, Toolbox, multimedia, applying for research grants -- most available in both English and French), and areal classes (on Cushitic, and Mayan languages). There is a full list [.pdf] of course descriptions on the 3L website. There are around 65 students and researchers attending from a wide range of countries as varied as Togo, Gabon, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Guatemala, USA, Netherlands, Germany, France, Russia, UK, Taiwan and Australia. Teachers are from the University of Lyon-2, SOAS and Leiden. The local organisational team is made up of students and staff from Lyon-2 together with student volunteers.

On Wednesday evening there was a very interesting soirée which brought researchers and students attending the 3L Summer School together with researchers and students attending a summer school on Interactional Linguistics being run by the CNRS ICAR laboratory headed by Professor Lorenza Mondada at the recently opened École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (with brand new architecturally outstanding buildings and facilities). There were many interesting issues of common interest that surfaced in the short presentations given by researchers from the two groups, including problems of fieldwork (entering, being in and leaving the field, the role of gatekeepers and brokers), research methods and tools, and giving back to those participating in the research. There are sure to be more useful interactions between the ICAR and DDL research groups in Lyon in the future.

Today there is a student conference, or rather two conferences since there will be presentations of around 20 papers in two parallel sessions, one in French and one in English. The students are so keen to discuss their work that the programme starts at 9:30am and goes to 7pm (on a Saturday, mind you!). This level of enthusiasm and willingness to share ideas and experiences has been a feature of the past week both in class and outside.

Some other features of the summer school so far that I have noticed include:

  • excited, enthusiastic, motivated and polite attendees at classes and discussion groups
  • real opportunities for discussion with participants from the Francophone and Latin American linguistic communities that I don't often get a chance to meet
  • vibrant conversations and discussions in English, French, Spanish and other languages

  • wonderful local arrangements and facilities with everything operating seamlessly for participants

  • great public transport that is both efficient and cheap, including bicycles that can be rented by the hour from one pickup point and dropped off at another

  • great food and restaurants and cafes, including local Bouchon Lyonnaise, as well as some of the best moules belges that I have ever had (and some excellent tapas, Vietnamese nem etc etc)

  • excellent weather, though most have found the 32 degree long summer days without any breeze or access to air-conditioning trying -- strangely, after seven years living in Europe my personal thermostat seems to have been reset and now 28 degrees and above feels really hot. Long gone are memories of 40 degree February days in Melbourne.

Unfortunately, I have to go back to London on Monday for meetings, student supervisions and the usual mundane business at SOAS (and a partly cloudy 22 degree day, according to the BBC weather forecast). The 3L summer school continues next week with a focus on fieldwork and research methods, morphology, language contact, and video techniques. There will be a conference on the last day on issues in evaluating the vitality of languages -- wish I could stay on for another week of what are sure to be interesting and stimulating events.

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The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.
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