On the edge of reason

Here’s my first real blog post then. I’m Heli Paulasto, one of the two researchers involved in TuMaTa at the moment. I guess I’ll be writing in English, as it’s my main subject of interest and the central lingua franca of Able Art Group II (not to mention the world…). The study of English as a lingua franca, or ELF as it’s familiarly known as, is not quite my bread and butter, but having worked in a few research consortia focusing on English as a global and changing language I have a fair idea of what I’m dealing with. My main interest really is in language contacts pertaining English in different parts of the world, and how the varying regional languages, language ecologies and sociolinguistic realities influence the way it’s spoken. My main interest up until now, that is! Doing research in TuMaTa marks a definite departure from the corpus-based, quantitative study of morphosyntactic variation that I’ve cuddled up with thus far. I’m not discarding it, either, but adding something new to my methodological toolkit and repertoire of interest.

The interaction in AAG II most certainly involves linguistic phenomena that I’m familiar with, like contact influence or simplification and replacement strategies, but as an object of research it is sooooo much more than that. The participants come from different language backgrounds and so the objective of the production itself is to draw attention to multilinguality in our present-day society, also in Finland. To recognize how enriching it is to have different kinds of linguistic resources and means of expressing ourselves at our disposal. To shed light on the power imbalances caused by asymmetrical language proficiencies. To understand what a massively important impact our language has on who we are as people, where we come from, and how we share our personal histories and experiences with each other. So what I want to do is follow the development of multilingual and ELF interaction over the course of the project and see how our individual and common goals are negotiated from one week to the next and how they are realized in the final performance. Multilingual and ELF practices have been studied in Finland, too, in numerous institutional settings, but I doubt that the rehearsal process of an integrated dance and art performance is something that has been covered exhaustively; particularly as the themes of the performance partly coincide with the objects of study. The cross-fertilization of art and science is a fascinating territory, as we saw when attending the Muuntamo symposium, dedicated to this subject area, in Kuopio in January.

For my part, this is not an academic blog. Rather than specifying the exact theoretical frameworks at hand, citing sources and trying to convince you of my expertise, I’d like to focus on describing the experiences of doing research that’s new and totally, like, ”out there” as regards my work history so far. Participant observation is a bit bewildering at times, especially when you’re crawling on the floor or designing impromptu choreography with a bunch of people who come from quite different backgrounds and whom you’ve only met a few weeks ago. Everybody looks pretty happy throughout the rehearsals though. It’s a funny thing. We’re all getting something out of out working together that’s exhilarating, challenging (in different ways to different people) and that we hope will lead to something noteworthy.

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