Heather Sparling

Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions

Tier 2 - 2018-07-01
Cape Breton University
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Research summary

There are about 6,000 languages in the world today. Sadly, scholars expect that half of them will disappear within 100 years. To help ensure all languages remain viable and sustainable, scholars must understand what attracts people to learn and use them. We know that music attracts many people to learn a language, and in many cultures, it even serves as an informal oral dictionary, documenting vocabulary and grammar.

As an ethnomusicologist, Dr. Heather Sparling, Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions, is studying music as the primary means by which people encounter and learn languages. She and her research team are also examining Atlantic Canadian disaster songs to learn how they function as intangible memorials. In both projects, Sparling and her team are focusing on music’s role in preventing and responding to loss.