Prof. dr. László Károly Marácz (1960, Utrecht) was born and raised in a Hungarian family in the Netherlands. He studied general linguistics and Hungarian language and literature at the University of Groningen. In 1989, he defended his PhD dissertation at the same university. The topic of his thesis was a generative analysis of asymmetric and symmetric configurations in Hungarian syntax.
Between 1990-1991 he was a visiting scientist at MIT in Boston funded by the Dutch scientific foundation ‘Niels Stensen Stichting’. From 1992 he is affiliated to the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam. Today he is Senior Lecturer in the European Studies Department. On March 27, 2015, he was awarded the title of "honorary professor of the Gumilyov Eurasian National University".
His basic interest is in the field of humanities but he is keen to team up in the intersection of different disciplines, including science (see Academia.edu). Marácz is one of the two initiators of the MIME-consortium that has won the 2012 FP7 Call on Multilingualism (see MIME).
Order a free PDF copy of the MIME Vademecum 'Mobility and Inclusion in Multilingual Europe', a collection of 72 questions on multilingualism on www.mime-project.org/vademecum.
I consider scientific research as one of the most important venues in order to gain deeper insight into knowledge. A fruitful strategy is to investigate how earlier scholars, especially polymaths have approached this issue in relation to language, languages and linguistics. The study of languages and their structures is the diamond of humanities. It has been argued that a deep study of language patterns and structures provides introspection into the mind where knowledge is “made” and stored.
There are a number of research projects I am working on that fit into this paradigm, including the linguistic works of Georgius Kalmár (17267-1781) who designed a priori perfect philosophical languages; the Hungarian root dictionary of Gergely Czuczor (1800-1866) and János Fogarasi (1801-1878) who laid bare the root, recursive, and organic patterns and structures in the Hungarian vocabulary; and the projects of the Transylvanian giants, father and son Farkas (1775-1856) and János Bolyai (1802-1860) who were real polymaths and reached the highest possible articulation of analysis and synthesis in science but built bridges to the humanities as well. The latter has been neglected for no reasons at all.
It is precisely the switching between science and humanities that is fascinating in the projects of the Bolyais. If we want to understand more about the universal character of knowledge we must go deep into the study of these back-and-forth conversions and transformations.
I am myself a bilingual native speaker of Dutch and Hungarian. I consider bi- and multilingual linguistic studies in the first place an introspection into my own mind (or if you want into my own head). I am fascinated by the ongoing automatic switch (but not code-switching or -mixing not even languaging that I have been (self-)trained to avoid) between different languages - and I really think Dutch and Hungarian are “different” that is what my intensive generative studies of these languages learned me - in one-and-the same mind. What is the “machine and spiritual code” that makes this switching between languages possible in my head?
But not less relevant than the neuropsychological perspective is of course the perspective onto the social and cognitive world of multilingual speakers. This has a number of political, social, educational and communicative aspects relevant to study. It turns out that multilingualism is the key to understand a number of political and social aspects of today’s world and moreover it touches upon all the missed opportunities to improve the quality of life. The discipline to make this quantum leap true is language policy, i.e. making people aware of the enormous advantages of multilingualism and multilingual communication and to stimulate people to become bi- tri-, etc. lingual.
One of the most important scientific results of nineteenth century are the reconstruction of language families and the idea that the convergences between the languages in such families can be represented in a binary branching tree-diagram. Note that there is a clear connection with the Darwinian program. You only need to substitute languages for species. These results of 19th centuries humanities have been challenged from the beginning of the twentieth century. Although there are strong arguments to be critical about the “German” achievements of the 19th century mainstream linguists and especially public discourse (popular textbooks, and so on) take these outcomes for granted.
In my historical studies of the Hungarian language it is clear that Hungarian has relatively little to do with Finnish and that it has relatively more to do with Turkic but these language are not the same. The Uralic/Finno-Ugric classification of Hungarian misses a number of generalizations. So, digging into the driving forces of these classifications, i.e. the history of historical language classification is actually an interface between politics and taxonomic manipulation of languages. The patterns come together in the concept of Eurocentrism that leads us into the world of images and stereotypes.
Processes of globalization have a large impact on the course of the world and simultaneously on everyday life. They affect political, social and economic realities. Every project spelled out in this profile, i.e. knowledge, stereotypes, geopolitics, multilingualism, and so on can and must studied against the backdrop of globalization. Highly relevant for political globalization – and it has my attention - is the issue of security that is clearly connected to geopolitical questions. Geopolitical analysis and globalization go hand-in-hand. We may refer to it as “hybrid” geopolitics.
As researchers in humanities we cannot avoid to study culture and language against the backdrop of globalization processes that has intensified in the modern times but were present before. The most important research questions for me are: can we distinguish patterns in languages and cultures affected by globalization? How did globalization affect the languages and cultures in historical entities, like the Habsburg Empire?
International relations (between states) and politics is about the struggle for influences and the realization of self-interests. If it is related to space - especially János Bolyai would have liked this - we talk about geopolitics. Geopolitics has not changed by globalization: it has become hybrid. In modern times a layer of norms and values guarded by supranational and international organizations is on the top of the world system of states. Geopolitics is now about the relation between the political forces on the ‘global’ marco-level and the ‘local’ meso- and micro-levels, like ethnicity or majority/minority relations. An insightful geopolitical analysis places power structures in the middle of this spatial tension between ‘macro’ on the one hand and ‘meso’ and ‘micro’ on the other hand.