International Mother Language Day, observed on February 21st, is a global initiative established by UNESCO to advocate for linguistic and cultural diversity. It encourages the use of mother languages to protect and celebrate cultural heritage, stressing the significance of multilingualism in fostering inclusivity, tolerance, and dialogue. Each year, the day focuses on a specific theme related to linguistic diversity and language preservation. The theme for this year emphasizes the pivotal role of implementing multilingual education policies and practices, aligning with the goals of the International Decade on Indigenous Languages (2022 – 2032).

The support for multiple languages, particularly those facing endangerment, is essential for maintaining linguistic diversity. In some multilingual societies, certain languages may hold more prestige or dominance, often leading to linguistic inequality and impacting access to education, employment, and societal participation. The International Mother Language Day raises awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, promoting the use of mother languages in passing down pass down traditions across generations. By highlighting the importance of multilingualism, especially with a focus on indigenous languages, we not only contribute to linguistic understanding but also to the preservation of cultural heritage and the empowerment of indigenous communities.

In commemoration of Mother Language Day this year, the Linguistics Department highlights some spotlight some research and events within the Linguistics Department centered on these themes.

Professor Cherry Meyer – Researcher of Ojibwe (Algonquian) morphology

Professor Teresa Satterfield – Founder and Director of En Nuestra Lengua Literacy and Culture Project; Researcher of Spanish/English bilingualism

Graduate Student Daniel Morales – Researcher of Nahuatl syntax 

Graduate Student Cecilia Solis-Barroso – Researcher of Spanish/English bilingualism and Nahuatl morphosyntax

Graduate Student Anna Whitney – Researcher of Ojibwe (Algonquian) morphology

Language Matters Lightning Talks Workshop – Event highlighting the work of indigenous scholars across campus