Sounds of Language, Languages of Sound: Histories of the Humanities and Sciences

This abstract has open access
Abstract Summary
The broad domain of acoustics that emerged in research settings throughout the modern era is usually categorized as part of the natural sciences. Yet the study of sound is rarely interested in the formal, “hard” description of sound alone; “soft” practices of observation, experiential knowledge, and description generally play their part as well. Our panel addresses this entanglement by investigating the multifold relationships between sound and language—from the modern disciplinary formation of acoustics and the institutionalization of the social sciences and humanities in the late nineteenth century, to the scattering of sound research across specialized sub-fields and industrial arenas, such as computerized speech processing, in the postwar period. During this process, disciplines including electric engineering, musicology, phonetics, linguistics, sociology, and computing all aspired to pin down sound, and in particular the spoken word. They forged different epistemic and representational strategies to that end. The panel will examine these strategies, as well as tracing the dual use of language as a theme and a tool of knowledge production. We are interested in how, as a research theme, the analysis, regulation, and interpretation of language often breaks through frontiers that have formed between the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences, as well as between academic and non-academic forms of knowledge production. At the same time, we look at the new languages and modes of speaking that were developed as tools to examine, represent, and functionalize sonic phenomena—in auditory cognition, the standardization of music, broadcasting, or speech recognition.
Abstract ID :
HSS617
Submission Type
Chronological Classification :
20th century, early
Self-Designated Keywords :
History of humanities, historical epistemology, technology, sound, politics

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