The Department of English hosts 59th Forum on Language and Literature on the subject of biolinguistics

Andrea Hammack

Staff Writer

Troy University’s English Department’s forum on biolinguistics was held on Monday, Oct. 21. 

Ben Robertson, a professor of English, talked about the recent forum and what it was like organizing it. 

“As usual, we invite department members who have published recently or have done some sort of special project recently,” Robertson said. “Alternatively, sometimes the faculty come to us and suggest a forum.”

Robertson said they have had some highly successful forums in the past and he hoped that this one “might inspire some students to pursue literary studies.”

He also said that he wanted students to learn something about linguistics while considering taking courses in the subject, which the department offers. 

Katona Weddle, a lecturer of English, has not only presented at three forums but has also helped Robertson coordinate the forums since the beginning. 

She spoke on the past forums and how they try to accommodate those who attend. 

“At times, there has been standing room only,” Weddle said. “We always encourage early arrival so as to get a seat in the classroom.

“Presentations are also usually well received and we try to accommodate anyone who wants to present.”

Most faculty are encouraged to schedule their presentations based on their recent works or on what they are interested in discussing. 

“The presenter chooses a date and submits a title for publication,” Weddle said. “A flier is created, emailed, and posted. 

“Personally, I am very familiar with my subject, so I pretty much know what I am going to say before I schedule my presentation.”

Weddle also said that the hardest part when presenting is finding the time to schedule a presentation and the easiest is the presentation itself. 

For the 59th forum, Tatyana Slobodchikoff, a lecturer of English, was the presenter and she discussed the book she published, “The Evolution of the Slavic Dual,” which was released earlier this month. 

Within her lecture, she discussed some of the topics that can be read in her book such as: cognition and expression of the concept of number in natural languages, biolinguistics as a new frontier for the study of natural languages, language change from a biolinguistic perspective (the factors that constrain it and mechanisms of transmission) and the role of economy in language change and in the evolution of grammatical category of dual number. 

Slobodochikoff went in-depth to explain how “number” is seen in “natural languages” and how the “dual number” has disappeared, or rather been replaced, in Slavic language over time. 

Katelyn Atchison, a sophomore biomedical science major from Prattville, attended the English Department’s forums for the first time this year. 

“I attended due to being a leadership scholar and genuinely having an interest in the evolution of language itself,” Atchison said. “I expected the presentation to be very factual and non-conversational – however, it was more interesting and led to further questions inspiring an interest beyond what was discussed.”

Atchison also said that it was “intriguing to hear that language is treated like any phenomenon in nature, like an organic biological occurrence.”

Robertson encourages more students and faculty to attend future forums. 

“The best part of the forums is that you never know what topics will arise or what you might learn,” Robertson said. “It’s a good opportunity to learn but also to meet faculty members who are engaged in exciting new projects.”

“I would most definitely encourage students to attend this forum and others similar to it because it definitely broadened my understanding of something that I thought was so simplistic in nature,” Atchison said. 

Slobodchikoff’s book can be purchased at  

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