Research Fellow Siragusa Laura and working group (NORMAL (In the NORth Language MAtters))

176600 €

A tangible heritage: Vepsian language and non-human agencies to co-construct a northern environment

Kolmivuotinen | Hankkeen teemat liittyvät Suomen muuttuvat naapuruudet -ohjelmaan

Marking a strict separation between ways of speaking and communicating, and the environment does not match indigenous ontologies in the circumpolar region, where the boundaries between the two usually blur. NORMAL allows us to explore the complex relations between ways of speaking in the heritage language, non-verbal communication, non-human agencies, and links to a northern environment, which in this case is the boreal forest. We do not reproduce a separation between language and the environment, supported by the Cartesian separation between mind and body, competence and performance, langue and parole, and the more recent tangible and intangible heritage by UNESCO. Rather, we embrace an approach on co-creation, shared space, and dwelling, with the aim to reconcile the separation between humans and the environment. We add language to the equation. We study how verbal art and non-verbal communication can result from the union of human and non-human agencies and have very tangible and material consequences on the environment and other beings. The case study for NORMAL is Vepsian, an indigenous minority language, as it is used in forested areas in Northwest Russia. Vepsian villagers have developed ways of speaking in relation to the environment and both human and non-human beings living there. Preliminary work has shown that Vepsian villagers use folkloric genres, such as the spells, to prompt changes in the environment, and to relate to human and non-human beings.