Ana Deumert

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Multilingual Ethics, Revolutions and the Possibilities of Other Worlds

Friday, March 13th 2:00 – 3:00


In Respect Aretha Franklin (1967) formulates what we might call a ‘minimal ethics’ of conviviality: ‘All I’m askin’ is for a little respect’. Taking a minimal ethics of respect as the foundation for my thinking, I suggest that we can approach multilingual practices as a form of everyday – lived and experienced – ethics; a pluriversal ethics that also opens our minds to the very possibility of lasting and fundamental socio-political change, even revolution, and the existence of other ways of being, other epistemologies and ontologies (on pluriversality see, especially, Santos 2018). In developing my argument I draw on the antecolonial, anticolonial as well as decolonial archive, and ground my thinking firmly in the past and present realities of South Africa, a former settler colony that remains haunted by the ghosts of the past while, at the same time, living and realizing a variety of decolonial futures. I suggest that language – and linguistic practice – is a site where we can formulate philosophical and political arguments, and where we can see the possibilities of a different future; a future that might well be a revolution (when seen from the vantage point of Euro-American thought, and its dominance in the current world-system).


Ana Deumertis Professor of Linguistics at the University of Cape Town. Her research program is located within the broad field of African sociolinguistics and has a strong transdisciplinary focus. She has worked on the history of Afrikaans (The Dynamics of Cape Dutch, 2004), co-authored Introducing Sociolinguistics (2009, with Rajend Mesthrie, Joan Swann and William Leap), the Dictionary of Sociolinguistics (2004, with Joan Swann, Rajend Mesthrie and Theresa Lillis), and published on mobile communication from a global perspective (Sociolinguistics and Mobile Communication, 2014). In addition, she is the editor of three collections: Germanic Standardizations – Past and Present (with Wim Vandenbussche, 2004), Structure and Variation in Language Contact (with Stephanie Durrleman-Tame, 2006), and The Sociolinguistics of Everyday Creativity (with Joan Swann, 2018, special issue of Language Sciences). Her current work explores the use of language in global political movements as well as the contributions decolonial thought can make to sociolinguistic theory. She is was co-editor of IMPACT – Studies in Language and Society (2002 to 2018) and is current co-editor of Edinburgh Sociolinguistics (with Paul Kerswill), and Cambridge Approaches to Language Contact (with Salikoko Mufwene). She is a recipient of the Neville Alexander Award for the Promotion of Multilingualism (2014) and the Humboldt Research Award (2016). In addition she is a regular columnist for diggit magazine