The language will be spicy and honeyed and perhaps even salty at The International Linguistics Association‘s 61st annual conference this weekend at Hofstra University. The ILA’s theme this year is Culinary Linguistics and academics from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and all over the Americas—as well as from Edible Long Island (full disclosure: one of those presenters will be me)—will be talking about how we talk about food.
The three-day conference (March 11-13) will include sessions on food and gender; the language of menus and recipes; religion, ritual and food; food and metaphor; and food and literature. On Sunday at 10:45 am, ELI editor Eileen M. Duffy and I will be discussing the language of wine and how to impress your friends by conducting your own linguistically correct wine tasting at home in a session called Leather? Slate? Cat Pee? Deconstructing and Using the Oddly-Flavored Language of Wine-Tasting.
Conference co-chair Josef Fioretta, a professor of linguistics at Hofstra University, says the theme emerged from a number of confluences. Not only is he a linguist, but he comes from a family that ran Italian restaurants in New York City and Long Island, so he grew up steeped in food culture and craft.
“I had wanted to do this before, but it hadn’t worked out,” he says. “But now the time seemed right. People might ask ‘How is it linguistics?’ but our organization sees linguistics in many avenues. There are the Japanese restaurants and their terms for sushi, for example. There is restaurant lingo. There is the language of menus. There are the different terms for potatoes in South America where they originate. Today even 10 year olds know a lot about food and can talk about it. The timing was good.”
The scholars are serious academics from the field of linguistics—the ILA is a serious academic organization that began in 1943 with a group of linguists at colleges and universities in the New York area, including many members of the École Libre des Hautes Études in exile, came together to form the Linguistic Circle of New York—but their research and findings are on culinary matters.
“It is important that we have presenters who are linguists, first and foremost,” says Fioretta. “But the presenters have also been working and publishing on the linguistics of food for a long time.”
For more information on attending the conference, visit the ILA website.
Registration for all three days of the conference for ILA members is $250/nonmembers $310/students and retirees $160/undergraduate students $10/Hofstra undergrads free. One-day registration is $100/students and retirees $75/Hofstra undergrads free.
Food and wine writer Eileen M. Duffy has been on the beat on Long Island’s East End since 2003. She is now the editor of Edible East End and Edible Long Island magazines as well as the editor of their websites: edibleeastend.com and ediblelongisland.com. In 2009, Eileen achieved the Level 4 Diploma from the London-based Wine Spirit Education Trust. Her book on Long Island wine, Behind the Bottle: The Rise of Wine on Long Island, was published by Cider Mill Press in 2015.
Frequent Edible Long Island contributor and educator Natalia de Cuba Romero is the author of Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico: A culinary dictionary (Forsa Editores 2012) and a longtime food, wine and travel writer and editor whose work has been published in Food + Wine, National Geographic Traveler, Latina, Islands and other well-known publications. She is a full-time lecturer in ESL and Latin American Studies at Nassau Community College and presents frequently on pedagogical and educational topics at professional conferences in the United States and overseas.