Hmong Language and Culture: Memory and Identity in Folktales, Textiles, and Talking Instruments

Presenters: Marlys Macken and Cheng Vang
Featured Language: Hmong
Department/Program: Department of Linguistics
Location:  MU – Inn Wisconsin (2nd Floor East Wing)
Time: 11:40am-12:20pm
Session Status: OPEN

Session Description: The Hmong people live in Southern China, Southeast Asia and in postwar diaspora in the U.S., France and Australia. The culture is an oral one in which the history, knowledge, cultural practices and beliefs have been handed down across the generations over thousands of years primarily through folktales and stories, textiles and the musical performances of the "talking instruments," particularly the qeej. In this session we will talk about the extraordinarily rich oral culture of the Hmong, the remarkable qeej, what a "tone" language is, and the scientific puzzle of conveying words through music.

Presenter Biography 1: Presenter Biography 1: Marlys Macken is a Professor in the Department of Linguistics and at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UW-Madison. Her main research is on phonology and Southeast Asian tone languages, especially Hmong, Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese. Her fieldwork in Laos and Thailand also included research on the dialects of Lao, Thai and Hmong.  She directs the Hmong Research Project and several studies on the Hmong language, culture, music and history.

Presenter Biography 2: Cheng Vang is a UW-Madison undergraduate student, born in Laos, who came to this country as a young child. He is a master qeej player, and a shaman.

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World Languages Day 2013 was funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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World Languages Day is a program of the UW-Madison Language Institute
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