Previous Einar Haugen Lectures

The lecture is an annual event at MultiLing held to celebrate the European Day of Languages. 


Language Learning in a Post-COVID World

How is COVID-19 affecting second language acquisition? The 2020 Einar Haugen Lecture will be given by renowned researcher Lourdes Ortega.

Time: Sep. 23, 2020 3:15 PM–5:00 PM

Lourdes Ortega is a professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University. Her main area of research is in second language acquisition, particularly socio-cognitive and educational dimensions in adult classroom settings.

Abstract: Technology, health and race in multilingual learning

COVID-19 has shaken the safety and livelihood of millions, also putting a spotlight on systemic inequities that beg to be addressed. There is potential for all nations and all communities to be either painfully united by the experience of the pandemic, or painfully fragmented by it.

How will research into multilingual learning during adulthood be transformed in response to the new realities? In her talk, Ortega will single out three domains: technology, health, and race.

Technology: We need studies that will illuminate how fully digital language learning can be designed in inclusive and sustainable ways. Research into critical digital multiliteracies will also be needed to enable more multilinguals to participate in the online education of their children, and to increase their access to high-skilled occupations that allow telework from home.

Health: We need to exponentially increase research that generates capacity for a more multilingual health care workforce and that supports more effective interpretation practices in health contexts, particularly under-resourced ones. New alliances must also be forged with scholars of health and pandemic communication. They have traditionally been mostly concerned with making health messages accessible to diverse communities only in their society’s majority or dominant languages; researchers of multilingual learning are well positioned to foster additional forms of health communication that are grounded in local funds of knowledge and local languages.

Race: Theories of the intersections of race and language must be taken to heart by the mainstream of language learning researchers. Race, racialization, and racism matter in language learning. Race-evasive scholarship seems not only untenable but possibly harmful in a post-COVID world.

Lourdes Ortega

Lourdes Ortega is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at Georgetown University.

She has long-standing interests in second language writing and foreign language education and has published widely about systematic research synthesis and epistemological and ethical dimensions of second language acquisition research. In the last few years she has become interested in applying insights from bilingualism, usage-based linguistics, and social justice to the investigation of second language development.

Ortega received her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii (2000) and has been a doctoral Mellon fellow (1999), a postdoctoral Spencer/National Academy of Education fellow (2003), a senior research fellow at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (2010), and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, CUNY Graduate Center (2018). Her publications include the books Understanding Second Language Acquisition (Hodder, 2009; published in Mandarin in 2016) and The Cambridge Handbook of Bilingualism (with Annick De Houwer; 2019). She is General Editor of Language Learning and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Applied Linguistics. At Georgetown University she is also founding member and faculty director of the Initiative for Multilingual Studies.


The many roads to becoming multilingual: Lessons from small-scale speech communities

This year's Einar Haugen Lecture will be held by Nicholas Evans, who has made significant contributions to the study of endangered indigenous languages, especially focusing on the indigenous languages of Australia and New Guinea.

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2019 2:15 PM–4:00 PM, Helga Engs hus, auditorium 3

Multilingualism is not new. Our world has always been multilingual, but across the globe, indigenous languages are disappearing at an alarming rate. What does the world lose when these languages disappear? 2019 is the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages. To mark the occasion, MultiLing has invited Nicholas Evans whose influential work on endangered indigenous languages focuses both on documenting these languages and investigating the consequences of their loss.

Nicholas Evans

Nicholas Evans has done extensive fieldwork documenting indigenous languages in Australia and New Guinea. Photo: CoEDL

Nicholas Evans is renowned for his work on endangered indigenous languages, especially for his 2010 book Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us, which sets out a broad program for the field’s engagement with the planet’s dwindling linguistic diversity. Evans is Distinguished Professor at the Department of Linguistics, School of Culture, History & Language at Australian National University and the Director of the

Australian Research Council funded Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL), with participation from The University of Queensland, Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, and Western Sydney University.

Lecture abstract

There is a tendency for research on language teaching and learning to reproduce the same distorting emphasis on large-scale languages that has dogged theorization about the nature of language itself. But just as crucial evidence from little-known languages has in recent decades made the field reevaluate a host of claims about what is universal in language structure, so does evidence from small-scale speech communities hold great potential for illuminating how humans go about acquiring multiple languages in informal settings. Since most of our evolutionary history as human beings has been spent in such small-scale speech communities, and since strikingly high levels of achieved multilingualism characterize so many of them, it is reasonable to suppose that the ability to learn languages later in life has characterized most or all of our evolutionary trajectory as speaking hominids. The field of language education thus stands to benefit greatly from research on how second language learning occurs in such small-scale communities.

After giving some general evidence for the above claims, the main part of this talk will be devoted to illustrating the extent of traditional multilingualism in indigenous communities in Northern Australia and Southern Papua New Guinea. I will report on case studies in which community members do not merely interview one another about their language competence in a range of languages, eliciting a wide range of sensitive judgments about competence levels, but also conduct substantive interviews in a range of different languages allowing us to evaluate how far people’s claimed competence in multiple languages is accurate. Finally, I will consider some crucial aspects of language socialisation, language ideology and conversational practice which produce high levels of achieved multilingualism in these settings.


“Art is not an intellectual way of thinking” – Poetics and the ecology of language

This year's Einar Haugen Lecture will be held by Ana Deumert (University of Cape Town, South Africa), who has made significant contributions to the field of sociolinguistics, especially through her emphasis on southern and decolonial perspectives on multilingualism. Open lecture.

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2018 2:30 PM–4:30 PM, Helga Engs hus, auditorium 2


Einar Haugen was a pioneer in research on multilingualism, and his publications on the Norwegian language in America are amongst the classics in the field. Though known for his work on linguistic aspects of multilingualism, Haugen did not see language as a decontextualized and static entity, but rather as deeply embedded in human life and activity. He called this the ecology of language, defined as “the study of interactions between any given language and its environment”. This is evident in Haugen’s publications on art, particularly in his extensive work on Ibsen.

In her lecture, Deumert will look at Haugen’s ‘ecological questions’ from the perspective of art and poetics. Deumert’s lecture will bring Haugen into our times, and speak with him and through him from a southern and decolonial perspective.


“Art is not an intellectual way of thinking” was the title of an exhibition of American Beat Art at the Kunsthall in Kristiansand, Norway, in 2014. The exhibition showed the collection of the Norwegian physician Reidar Wennesland, who lived and worked in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and who had established close connections and friendships with many of the Beat artists in San Fransisco. It is a story of American-Norwegian intellectual connections.

The sociolinguist Einar Haugen began his career as a linguist around the same time, in a different part of the United States: first Wisconsin and then, from 1964, at the East Coast. Haugen published The Norwegian Language in America – A Study in Bilingual Behaviour in 1953, Bilingualism in the Americas in 1956, and Language Conflict and Language Planning in 1966. This was followed in 1972 by the highly influential book The Ecology of Language. This too is a story of American-Norwegian connections.

Art and sociolinguistics are the topics of this lecture in which I will reflect, especially, on Haugen’s idea of language as an ecology, that is, as a structure of relations. I will put this work into conversation not only with the artistic movements of the time, but also with on-going work on multilingual aesthetics, as well as Haugen’s own publications on art. Of particular relevance is his work on Ibsen (Ibsen’s Drama - Author to Audience, 1979) and – co-authored with his daughter Camilla Cai – the biography of the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull (Ole Bull: Norway's Romantic Musician and Cosmopolitan Patriot 1993). Looking at Haugen’s ten ‘ecological questions’ from the perspective of art and poesis, allows us to reconceptualize work on the politics of language, and to expand on Haugen’s passing comments about ‘the psychological situation’ of language as part of its ecology.

About Ana Deumert

Ana Deumert is Professor at the University of Cape Town and head of the linguistics section at the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the same university. Her research interests are within the broad field of African sociolinguistics and has a strong transdisciplinary focus, and she has previously published within areas such as historical sociolinguistics, language contact, language and migration, language and economy, as well as sociolinguistic theory. Deumert's substantial contributions to research are partly due to her interdisciplinary perspective, with a particular attention to economics, anthropology, and sociology. Her current research explores the use of language in global political movements as well as the contributions decolonial thought can make to sociolinguistic theory.


Language in the school: Multilingualism and translanguaging

How can we provide opportunities for and support bilinguals in education, and how does our view on language impact the education of all students? Professor of Bilingual Education, Ofelia García, will give the 2017 Einar Haugen Lecture on this topic, and introduces the notion of translingual pedagogy.

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2017 3:15 PM–5:00 PM, Helga Engs hus, Auditorium 1

This lecture proposes that the ways in which we think about language has consequences for the education of all students, and especially in the minoritization of some.

Taking the standpoint that language is the widely distributed human capacity to relate to others and ideas, and not simply a named language like Norwegian or English, we examine how this perspectival shift opens up spaces for pedagogical practices that expand the multilingual capacities of all language users.

Besides clarifying the concept of translanguaging that underlies this framework, we give examples of how classroom teachers have taken up translanguaging to expand educational opportunities and multilingualism for all.  

About the speaker

Ofelia García is Professor in the Ph.D. programs of Urban Education and of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (external link). She has been Professor of Bilingual Education at Columbia University´s Teachers College, Dean of the School of Education at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University, and Professor of Education at The City College of New York.

Professor García has published extensively on bilingualism and the education of bilinguals. Among her best-known books are Bilingual Education in the 21st century: A global perspective and Translanguaging; Language, Bilingualism and Education (with Li Wei). She is the General Editor of the International Journal of the Sociology of Language and the co-editor of Language Policy (with H. Kelly-Holmes).


Understanding the bilingual individual: Extending Einar Haugen's work

The 2016 Einar Haugen Lecture will be given by a renowned researcher in the field of bilingualism, François Grosjean. Among his many pioneering contributions is his view that bilinguals are not two monolinguals in one person but rather human communicators in their own right. In this lecture, he will discuss the bilingualism of adults and children, the importance of understanding biculturalism, and family strategies and support in the upbringing of bilingual children.

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2016 2:15 PM–4:00 PM, Helga Engs hus, Auditorium 1


In 1980, reflecting on the beginning of his career as a foremost researcher on bilingualism, Einar Haugen wrote, "The subject .... was grossly neglected.... and without realizing it, I stood at the beginning of what has since become a flood of writings....".

In this lecture, the speaker describes how his own research on the bilingual individual ­­– adult and child – was influenced by the scholarly work of this inspiring researcher he discovered for the first time in the 1960s in Paris, and by the regular meetings he had with him when he moved to the United States.

Einar Haugen's impact has touched on many topics studied by the speaker such as how one defines and describes bilingualism; how bilinguals acquire and use their languages for different purposes, in different domains, with different people; the linguistic and psycholinguistic differences between interferences, borrowings and code-switches; the effects of bilingualism and the importance of biculturalism; and, finally, family strategies and support in the upbringing of bilingual children.

The speaker's own holistic view of bilingualism which he first developed in the 1980s, and which he talked about with Einar Haugen, was in part influenced by the latter's research on Norwegian-American bilinguals in the United States.

The lecture will end with reminiscences of Einar Haugen as a mentor and a friend who took real interest in the speaker's experimental work­ – so different from his own academic approach to the study of language contact – and with whom he corresponded for several years when they were once again living in separate countries.

François Grosjean

François Grosjean is Emeritus Professor of Psycholinguistics, Neuchâtel University, Switzerland. His domains of interest are the perception, comprehension and production of language, be it speech or sign language, in monolinguals and bilinguals. He also has interests in biculturalism, applied linguistics, aphasia, sign language, and natural language processing.

He is better known for his work on bilingualism in which he has investigated the holistic view of bilingualism, language mode, the complementarity principle, the processing of code-switching and borrowing, as well as the bilingualism of the Deaf.

He is the author of numerous articles and of eleven books, among them Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism (Harvard University Press, 1982), Studying Bilinguals (Oxford University Press, 2008), Bilingual: Life and Reality (Harvard University Press, 2010) and The Psycholinguistics of Bilingualism (with Ping Li; Wiley Blackwell, 2012).

He is a cofounder of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition (Cambridge University Press) and he also has a successful blog with Aneta Pavlenko, Life as a bilingual, hosted by Psychology Today.


In two hemispheres, about two languages, of two minds

Though American born, Einar Haugen was as well one of the most European of linguists; where others saw trans-Atlantic conceptual conflict, he professed comparability. While he rose to eminence within a structuralist episteme, his most imaginative contributions can now be appreciated through the lens of sociolinguistic process.

The 2015 Einar Haugen Lecture will be given by Michael Silverstein, and is open to everyone.

Time and place: Sep. 24, 2015 10:15 AM–12:00 PM, Georg Sverdrup Building, Auditorium 2


Here we celebrate the scholarly and scientific career of Einar Haugen by re-viewing some of his foundational work in the light of subsequent semiotic approaches to language, its conditions of use, and the processes involved in a politics of cultural value.

For example, though American born, Haugen was in many respects one of the most European of linguists. Where his coeval American colleagues, the Bloomfieldians, saw trans-Atlantic conceptual conflict, he recognized the comparability of local developments of structuralism in Europe and America, even though they were elaborated in distinct conceptual vocabularies.  And, while furthering such rapprochement, Haugen offered a cogent critique of the central theses of structuralism – assumptions we recognize even today in the doctrine of the ‘autonomy of syntax’ as both an ontological and epistemological commitment. Haugen called for the kind of linguistics grounded in substantively anchored categories of sound and meaning, as well as in formal, distributional universals.  This has turned out to be a linguistics that finds its elaboration in modern understanding of categorization and of the structure/usage dichotomy.

Himself natively bilingual in Norwegian and English, Haugen spent a lifetime investigating the dynamic forces both within and beyond their respective language communities. His investigation of The Norwegian Language in America documented changes in linguistic form over the century during which increasing, ultimately replacive bilingualism immersed this language community in the framing political and economic institutional landscape of the United States.  To understand this work, we introduce the conceptual distinction of the ‘language (or linguistic) community’ and the ‘speech community’ – a distinction this author formulated in one of Haugen’s seminars – and see how the projective interaction of the modern nation-state form and the language community, more or less unquestioned by Haugen, illuminates the historical phenomena in which he was interested.

Finally, we turn to the – as Haugen termed it – ‘schizoglossia’ of Norway’s politics of language, which resembles but does not quite fit into the condition of ‘diglossia’ that Haugen’s close colleague Charles Ferguson described as problematic and unstable in the modern nation-state.  Haugen’s Language Conflict and Language Planning – which this author first encountered in Haugen’s reading aloud of the galley proofs – can be re-conceptualized in terms of the semiotic processes through which ideological projects of “planning” focus on cultural forms like language.  We thus introduce the analytic concept of ‘indexical inoculation’, familiar to us from the linguistic reforms to English and other European languages emerged from Second Wave Feminism, and interpret what seems to have been at stake in the misfires of language advocacy in Norway in terms more conducive to a political sociology of identities.

Haugen’s most imaginative contributions can now be appreciated through the lens of a more frankly semiotic perspective on linguistic structure and sociolinguistic process.    

Michael Silverstein

Michael Silverstein is the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, of Linguistics, and of Psychology and in the Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities at the University of Chicago.


When your language becomes your only passport

Using language analysis to determine the origins of asylum seekers proves problematic, argues Professor Monika S. Schmid. Open lecture.

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2014 10:15 AM–12:00 PM, Georg Sverdrups hus, auditorium 1

In this talk, Schmid will introduce the practice of Language Analysis for the Determination of Origin (LADO) as it is used across Europe.

She will show some of the problems and pitfalls associated with this practice and outline proposals to implement better quality assurance measures.

Language analysis to determine origin

It is commonly assumed that native speakers of a particular language or dialect are able to identify, when listening to others, whether these are also native speakers or whether they have learned the language or variety later in life.

Since the 1990s a similar assessment has been used by many countries, among them Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, in order to determine, in the absence of other documentation, whether political refugees and asylum seekers have given a true account of their origins.

In such situations, the immigration authorities resort to a tool called ‘language analysis’.

Expert native speaker

Asylum seekers are thus interviewed by a government official with the help of an interpreter, and a recording of this interview is subsequently assessed by an ‘expert native speaker’, in some countries under the supervision of a trained linguist.

A report is then produced, which usually contains 3-5 examples of pronunciation, word choice and other linguistic features, and comes to a conclusion on the veracity of the asylum seeker’s claims.

The LADO approach: Problems and pitfalls

Here is a large body of work, which criticises this practice from a variety of linguistic as well as legal perspectives (e.g. Muysken et al. 2010).

For example, many of the countries from which asylum seekers typically originate are extremely multilingual and multi-dialectal, making the task of the ‘native expert’ extremely complex, and the speech situation in which the data are elicited is not conducive to the use of the typically non-prestige varieties which are being looked for.

Furthermore, the native status of migrants can be confounded or compromised by any linguistic experience that they may have had post migration through contact with speakers of other varieties (e.g. in asylum seeker centres) or language attrition.


Muysken P, Verrips M & Zwaan K (eds) (2010) Language and Origin. The role of language in European asylum procedures: A linguistic and legal survey. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.

About Monika S. Schmid

Schmid received her PhD in English Linguistics from the University of Duesseldorf, Germany, in 2000, for a PhD thesis on first language attrition among German-Jewish refugees in the UK and the US. Her thesis was published with John Benjamins Publishing Co. in 2002 under the title First Language Attrition, Use and Maintenance: The case of German Jews in Anglophone countries. 

She has since held positions at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Since September 2013 she is professor of linguistics at the University of Essex. Her work has focused on various aspects of first language attrition. She has published two monographs and edited several collected volumes and special issues of journals on this topic. She has received funding from various sources, including the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO) and Royal Academy for the Sciences (KNAW), and the British Research Council for the Social Sciences (ESRC) for her work.


Cultural Encounters in transnational multilingual families

In the first Einar Haugen lecture, Professor Li Wei will address cultural and linguistic challenges facing transnational multilingual families. Open to everyone.

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2013 2:15 PM–4:00 PM, Helga Eng Building, Auditorium 3

Language policy in transnational families

  • How does it affect family life when different languages are used in the home and outside of it?
  • What happens to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren when they so not speak the same language?
  • Is it possible to be ashamed of your own mother tongue?

Li Wei is one of the world's most eminent researchers of language culture and language choices in transnational multilingual families. He has followed three of these families through three generations, and looked at how their language choices have affected, amongst other things, their sense of identity and cultural heritage.


For many transnational families, bilingualism and multilingualism mean different things to different generations: For the first generation migrant adults (parents), learning new languages for the new resident country is the most important task, while their local-born children face the challenge of maintaining the home/heritage language. Additive Bilingualism is not universal.  Grandparents often have reduced opportunities to interact with others speaking the same languages, without gaining any new languages. Transnational families have to face these different challenges together: the presence of monolingual grandparents is as much an issue as children not wanting or being able to speak the home language in the everyday family life. Moreover, transnational families also face the challenges of fighting against prejudices and stereotypes and constructing new identities.

This lecture discusses some of these challenges through a sociolinguistic ethnography of three transnational families, all from China, now living in Britain. One is of Korean ethnic background from China and has decided that their children should concentrate on using Korean and English, in effect cutting off their ties with China. One is of 2nd and 3rd generations of Chinese immigrants whose grandparents were Cantonese and Hakka speakers, now feeling the pressure to learn Mandarin, due to social changes in the British Chinese community. And one whose grandparents are highly educated professionals, speaking very good English, but not having sufficient social networks to support their everyday interaction. We examine how the three families cope with issues such as family language policy, children’s language socialization, linguistic ideologies, symbolic competence and changing linguistic hierarchies, and struggles in maintaining contacts with both the former and new “home” countries. Implications for social policy and professional practice, as well as bilingualism and multilingualism research generally, will also be discussed.

About the speaker

Li Wei is Pro-Vice-Master of Birkbeck College, University of London, where he is Professor of Applied Linguistics. His research interests are in the broad and multidisciplinary field of bilingualism and multilingualism. He has published on language development and disorder of bilingual and multilingual children, language maintenance and shift in multilingual families, code-switching, bilingual education, and intercultural communication. He is an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK, Chair of the University Council of General & Applied Linguistics (UCGAL), and Principal Editor of the International Journal of Bilingualism.

About the Einar Haugen Lecture

The renowned scholar Einar Haugen (1906 – 1994) was born into a Norwegian family in the US and grew up bilingually.  His fascination with language led him to doctoral studies in linguistics and a career in language and linguistics that extended across many decades. He served on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and until his retirement as Professor of Scandinavian and Linguistics at Harvard University. Haugen’s many influential works contributed to the then emerging field of sociolinguistics for which he is credited for having had an important impact, particularly in the domain of language policy. His pioneering work "The Norwegian Language in America: A Study in Bilingual Behavior" (1953) is a landmark study in the field of bilingualism.

The annual Einar Haugen lecture will pay tribute to this eminent Norwegian-American scholar and celebrate linguistic diversity.

Published Mar. 21, 2022 1:30 PM - Last modified Mar. 24, 2022 10:43 AM