Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Magical Moments of Bridget Drinka

She asks more questions per minute than the average presenter. She makes maps. She transforms herself into a data artist. In short, whenever you're in a room with Bridget Drinka, then some magical moment is only seconds away.

At one point on Monday, June 19, Drinka offered a subtle act of wonder. Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, she noted in passing that she had recently been watching "German rap performed by Namibians." As we shared notes on her presentation later, the AALCI Fellows and I enjoyed thinking through the questions that emerged from Drinka's comment. Who notices Namibians performing German rap? What other knowledge is possessed by someone who comprehends Namibian German rap? What languages does she speak? What other national and cultural distinctions does she make?

For years now, I've invited Drinka to meet with the Fellows in the Institute. It's a gift to them -- exposure to such a wonderful socio-historical linguist. At the same time, it's a recurring opportunity for me: I can study this remarkably talented professor in action.

The real magic was occurring this time -- and probably as it always has -- when I began to take note of Drinka's many vocalizations. She's a linguist who delightfully absorbs and then shares the wisdom of her field. At every turn, she's citing scholars and various exciting studies and talking about the nature and movement of language practices ("shift happens!" she declares).

And she's adjusting her voice throughout the presentation.

Whatever part of the world she's describing, she gives listeners a small sampling of how people over there and right here and up and down there and way out here speak. Her voice sounds one way when she references that scholar, another way when she invokes citizens that nation, and then various other ways when she's discussing a variety of other people.

She's this one person re-presenting so much information and so many different sounds about the histories of language and language contact. It's really something. Witnessing her present at AALCI is like watching someone pull a rabbit and then another and then another out of her hat. And then a few different books. And then a bird and a fish. And then, just in passing, an image of Namibians performing German rap.

Put another way, Bridge Drinka presents a series of magical moments.    

AALCI 2017
How many questions does Bridget Drinka ask per minute? (2015)
The Multi-data artist currently known as Bridget Drinka (2013)
Map Maker Visits the Institute (2011)

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