New Public Lecture – Elie During

We are happy to announce that the latest lecture in the EGS Open Lectures series will be conducted by Elie During.

Make Up Your Own Accent: A Beginner’s Guide

We all produce distinctive accents in foreign languages according to the phonological profiles of our preferred tongues and dialects. Every language harbours a myriad of accentual traits, whether regional or generational, upper or lower-class, generic or idiosyncratic, etc. However, if we wish to turn this into a matter of individual and political (re)subjectification, we must acknowledge that the function of accents in the making of identities is not chiefly that of embodied markers of origin or belonging. Perhaps there is no such thing as an immemorial mother tongue leaving its sonorous imprint on all our linguistic performances. Despite objective constraints, accents typically are differential and somewhat elusive phenomena arising from the interplay of linguistic perspectives. They are in the end constructs, serving as a basis for various symbolic projections, and more importantly for performative and adaptive strategies in the social world.

Accents are appropriated, fantasized and sometimes made up, as much as they are caught. How can one be Persian? We are all German Jews and Arabs by adoption. Drawing on the contrasting views of Deleuze and Derrida, as well as topical examples from sociolinguistics, literature and cinema, we will delve deeper and consider the accent as a focus for creative de-identification. Regardless of their linguistic skills, every speaker navigates between monolingualism and multilingualism. The question is not whether we can manage to hear our own accent and then correct or learn to cherish as we strive to become Babelian polgyglots or fluent Globish speakers in the worldwide, polyphonic Cosmopolis, but how far we can twist our tongues to develop and cultivate an accent, and preferably many accents, in our own, so-called ‘native’ language.

This event is scheduled for May 6, 2024, at 8 pm CET (2 pm EST).

Zoom link can be found here.