The University of the South Pacific’s School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education recently held the Postgraduate Linguistics Research Conference that brought together academics and postgraduate researchers in the Pacific and internationally, who were able to share their passion and their research in the field of linguistics.
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Dr Fiona Willans, highlighted that there has been a significant increase in the number of postgraduate research students in linguistics and applied linguistics.
“From 2000 to 2020, there were a total of 16 postgraduate research students who completed a degree. Since 2020, we’ve already had seven graduations, plus another five students have submitted during 2023 who will graduate in the next ceremony, and another eight students are due to submit at the end of this semester,” she added.
Dr Fiona stressed that this is a testament to the students and supervisors.
She says this is the first linguistics research conference with a total of 15 presenters representing four countries, and they hope for this to become an annual event.
“The presenters covered a very wide range of topics, and it was also an opportunity for students to share their work with others and for prospective students to learn more about what research involves,” Dr Fiona shared.
She said several presenters shared the realities of fieldwork, data and analysis, which will be valuable for others. A total of 50 attendees were part of the research conference.
Meanwhile, a Master’s in Linguistics student, Sandhya Kumari, highlighted that the linguistics research conference is a great opportunity for researchers to convey information about their various work interests, mainly linguistics.
“The misconception is that linguistics is usually associated with the English language; however, it is more than that. Researchers engage and explore various languages of the world that exist, or are evolving, endangered or at the brink of extinction,” Kumari shared.
She added that through this conference, “I’m able to represent the dialect of my people, the Banaban, which is quite controversial and stigmatised to some extent based on their historical past and diaspora. This conference allows me to convey my narrative to an audience through the Indigenous Banabans’ perspective.”
Ms Kumari, who is from Savusavu, has Indian and Banaban Gilbertese links. The 31-year-old is currently pursuing her Master’s in Linguistics (Thesis-Lexical Variation in the Kiribati and Banaban dialects)
“My interest in Linguistics emerged from my twin Banaban grandmothers’ curiosity of their “Lost Banaban Language.” I believe such conferences create awareness of the importance of languages and how it impacts one’s identity,” she added,
Ms Kumari hopes to learn and explore ideas and information from other researchers and listen to their interesting topics and research areas surrounding linguistics.