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UWI Linguistics Professor rewrites Inaugural Lecture to focus on Haiti

For Release Upon Receipt - January 22, 2010

St. Augustine

A Lecturer in Linguistics at The University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine has undertaken to refocus her upcoming Professorial Inaugural Lecture to focus on the situation in Haiti, following the tragic deaths of staff and students at the Centre de Linguistique Appliquée in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the aftermath of the devastating 7.0 earthquake that rocked the nation earlier this month.

“I find it necessary, even incumbent upon me, to change the topic of my Inaugural Lecture. The Centre de Linguistique Appliquée worked tirelessly to effect meaningful language education in Haiti against a million odds,” Professor Valerie Youssef said.

Professor Youssef’s lecture, which will take place at the UWI Centre for Language Learning on Thursday 28th January at 5.30pm, is now being publicised with its new title, “Language, Education and Representation: Towards Sustainable Development for Haiti.” The new lecture will examine the history and development of Haiti in relation to its language and language education situation. It will also consider the ways in which media and government represent the Haitian people and how this further undermines them. Finally it will propose a possible means of bringing sustainable change for good to the situation.

In the abstract of her upcoming lecture Professor Youssef stated, “As Haiti labours under the extreme stress of possibly its greatest natural disaster to date and as vast sums of money seek to enter its vacuous system and to bring relief, it behoves us to consider the many aspects of the Haitian situation which have kept it in abject poverty down to the present and to seek means of redressing, not just the immediate crisis, but its long-term internal socio-political dilemma. We all recognize the power of education in enabling a people to rise up, to become empowered, to take control of its own destiny, and yet Haiti remains with an education system which effectively excludes 75% of its people, despite ‘on paper’ efforts to address the problem.” 

Valerie Youssef works in the Linguistics Section of the Department of Liberal Arts, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Originally from the UK, she has lived and worked in Trinidad for more than thirty years. She specialises in sociolinguistics, language acquisition, and discourse analysis, with a keen interest also in descriptive linguistics. Her most particular concern is to produce socially relevant linguistics, which analyse discourse in the support of those who may be disempowered by the socio-political system. In Writing Rage, co-authored with Dr. Paula Morgan, for example, she critically examines discourses of the judiciary and media to unmask their attitudes towards women in violent relationships.

For more information, please contact Professor Valerie Youssef at or (868) 662 2002 Ext 3763.

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Over the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, with main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Centres in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines. UWI recently launched its Open Campus, a virtual campus with over 50 physical site locations across the region, serving over 20 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 60 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences.