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In the Spotlight: Summer School in Languages and Linguistics

After having been cancelled in 2020, this year the Summer School in Languages and Linguistics is going online. From 12 – 23 July, language and linguistics enthusiasts from all over the world can once again learn about a variety of rare languages and linguistics topics. Director Sasha Lubotsky tells us more.

The Leiden University Summer School in Languages and Linguistics was first organised in 2006 and has steadily grown into a highly respected summer school. During the intensive 2-week programme, participants can take specialised courses in descriptive linguistics, in Chinese, Germanic, Indo-European, Indic, Iranian, Semitic, Uralic languages, as well as a few introductory linguistic courses.

‘We cater to those with a fascination and thirst for specialised knowledge on languages and linguistics,’ explains Lubotsky. He goes on to say: ‘The range of courses we offer is truly unique, especially when it comes to the languages and areas we are able to address.’

Unique and social

This summer school offers many courses that aren’t offered elsewhere. ‘As an individual university, you can’t really maintain teaching a full-time course for only a handful of students, it’s just not possible,' says Lubotsky. 'But what if you bring together lecturers and students from different universities by means of an intensive 2-week summer school? Teaching a programme on Languages of Siberia has just become feasible again.’ 

Over the years the summer school programme has steadily grown both in size and scope. It now also offers a few more generalised courses such as one on language documentation and some introductory courses on syntax or phonology. ‘We started out with a few lecturers, but over the years, this group has also grown immensely’. Lubotsky goes on, ‘you see that many of our courses attract a group of highly motivated students who typically will also progress within the field.’


There is no way Lubotsky can pick which specific courses he’s most excited about; he says it’s like having to say which of your children you love best. ‘I’m really excited about all of the courses, just look at how varied the programme is,’ he laughs. ‘One of the new courses is Uyghur as part of the Chinese programme. The language documentation programme includes a course on conducting fieldwork. And within the Indo-European II programme, I’m really excited about the course provided by David Anthony, an archaeologist who has conducted interesting research with geneticists. The Languages of Siberia programme has courses on Nenets and Ket, arguably the most complicated language in the world!’ 

But having regulars on board is something Lubotsky clearly cherishes as well. He reminisces: ‘Agustinus Gianto from the Semitic programme but also Werner Knobl, Velizar Sadovski, and Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst; they’ve all been part of this summer school from the very beginning. And I’m sure I’m forgetting others... everybody was somewhat at a loss when it was cancelled last year, as the summer school has been etched onto our academic agendas for so long.’


Although Lubotsky is clearly over the moon that he can organise the summer school this year, he understands that it is an extra challenge to have it online. ‘What I love about the ‘normal’ summer schools is that you get to see how friendships emerge within the 2 weeks. At the end of the 2 weeks, the links between students are not along university or country lines but are forged by mutual enthusiasm for a specific language or linguistic theme. We are definitely aiming for similar experiences in this online version,’ says Lubotsky.

For more information and registration, visit the website. Registration is open until 1 June.

Summer School in Languages and Linguistics
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