Laura Álvarez
Laura Álvarez is coordinator for the international project "Afro-Latin Linguistics: language contact in intercultural setting".

"We received funding back in 2009 to initially establish a network between the universities and since 2010 we've been collaborating on a project funded by STINT," explains Álvarez.

The project, "Afro-Latin Linguistics: language contact in intercultural setting", aims to increase the current knowledge of intercultural encounters and their impact on the dynamics of language and culture by studying language change in socio-cultural contexts where speakers of Portuguese, Spanish and African languages have lived side by side.

"One of the most innovative aspects of the project is the integration of the study of varieties of Iberian languages in the Americas and in Africa," says Álvarez.

The project’s fourteen participants, drawn from the partnering universities, are collating and sharing a diverse set of data from different regions and periods of time. Together they will have access to a broad and original corpus, including data from L2 varieties of Portuguese in Africa.

"There are very few earlier studies in this field," says Álvarez. "We'll also be searching for new sources and new methods of analysis so we can take theoretical discussions forward."

Álvarez, who completed her PhD at Stockholm University and is currently a post-doc, is coordinating the project from Stockholm.

"Magdalena Coll from Uruguay was recently here on a study trip to the department. We managed to finish two articles that will be published in the Stockholm Review of Latin American Studies. There is also a publication forthcoming that is drawn from a symposium that the project group hosted at the department."

Coordinating an international project between Sweden and South America is exciting – but also involves considerable work for Álvarez.

"It's hard work as everything goes through me," she says, smiling. "I've been responsible for hosting visiting guests from our partner universities, handling everything from purchasing plane tickets to taking them around tourist attractions in the city. It's worth all the hard work though."

Clearly for Álvarez, this is an important project.

"We are the only department in Sweden that has a Portuguese section. This collaboration allows us to work alongside Portuguese-speaking researchers in Brazil, as well as Spanish speakers in Uruguay. It's very good for us to develop our competence in research in this area as well as make a contribution to our understanding of how Portuguese and Spanish have been affected by coming into contact with African languages."

Álvarez is grateful to STINT for funding the project, which is set to go on until 2013. "STINT's support has allowed us as a Swedish University to be facilitators for an intercultural research exchange," explains Álvarez. "This is a win-win situation for all the partners involved."

With work still to be done and seminars and symposia to be held, Álvarez is confident that the project will be a success.

"We expect that this will result in long-term exchange programmes for researchers, teachers and students between Stockholm University, Universidad de la República and Universidade Estadual de Campinas. There will be joint publications, joint international on-line courses, a website with resources for researchers in this field of studies and others who might be interested. We also hope to get funding to build and online database with lexical Africanisms."

Related links:

Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies:

Interrview and text: Jon Buscall