WiP: Thomas Wier on Obscenities in Caucasian Languages

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 10th talk of the 2020 Spring Series of the Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series, now celebrating its 10th year! This is one of several “10th Year Anniversary Talks” in which we are inviting return presentations by those who took part in the first season back in Spring 2010.

Given the continuing COVID19 situation, we will once again hold the Works-in-Progress session virtually through Google Meet.

“How to Give a F*ck: Defining Obscenities in the Languages of the Caucasus”

By Thomas Wier, Free University of Tbilisi

Date: May 27, 2020, at 18:30
Venue: Meeting URL will be provided to registered participants only

What really distinguishes normal from obscene language? And do Caucasian languages do anything different from obscenities in more familiar Western languages? In this talk, we will deconstruct the idea of obscenity and discuss them from the perspective of linguistic taboos. Obscenities are part of a much larger world of emotive language triggered by cultural taboos, and because taboos themselves vary from culture to culture, so do the forms of obscene language used to encode them. The languages of the Caucasus present a rich yet understudied array of resources to study this phenomenon.

*WARNING: Though the topic will be approached using scientific linguistic methodology, the subject matter inevitably concerns words and concepts that might be considered obscene or offensive (in multiple languages). Discretion is advised.*

Thomas Wier is assistant professor of linguistics at the Free University of Tbilisi. He is the author of several works on the languages of the Caucasus and native American languages, including Georgian dialectology and a recent book on the Tonkawa language of Texas.

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Although this presentation will be broadcast on Google Hangouts, in observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule to which the series generally adheres, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well.

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WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.