Language, Culture & Identity

The Foundation’s 2021-2024 Scientific Theme


The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is proud to announce Language, Culture & Identity as the Scientific Theme that will frame the leadership journey of its next cohort of Scholars to be selected in the spring of 2021. Through the guidance of Fellows and Mentors, 2021 Scholars will explore issues and debates around language(s) across disciplines, including issues at the intersection of language, culture, and identity.


Given the complex nature of language, which has both biological and cultural dimensions, it is associated with a broad range of questions and issues that have long confronted thinkers in a plurality of disciplines, from philosophy to anthropology, linguistics, psychology, sociology and neuroscience, to name but a few. Today, contemporary trends such as the critical situation of many Indigenous languages worldwide, technological progress in artificial intelligence (AI), and a backlash against globalization bring new urgency and relevance to a number of language-related questions.


These include: how can minority languages in Canada and in other multilingual societies be protected? What are the implications of AI technologies and digital platforms for language learning and use, and for the configuration of languages globally? Are these technologies opening new horizons to understanding how language learning affects cognitive predispositions or to empowering people with language impairments?


With respect to Canada specifically, the Foundation will focus on the challenges which remain around the implementation of institutional bilingualism, the protection of francophone minorities, the revitalization and preservation of Indigenous languages, as well as the implications of increasing linguistic diversity stemming from international migration.


The 2021-2024 scientific cycle will also be an occasion to examine linguistic issues and debates in South Africa, a nation notable for its linguistic diversity and where a multilingual state policy has been in place for the past 25 years. By providing an international perspective and a point of comparison, the South African case will help broaden our Scholars’ reflection on the intersection of language, culture and identity, and prompt reflections on what Canada and South Africa could learn from each other’s experience with languages.


As leading academics with expertise on the Scientific Theme, Fellows (and Mentors who have such expertise as well) will teach on subjects related to Language, Culture & Identity in the context of our Institutes of Engaged Leadership, helping Scholars gain a greater understanding of key issues involved and how leadership can help address them. In the second and third years of the program, Scholars will organize a public conference and develop a creative project on the Scientific Theme, which will help develop their leadership skills and foster their engagement with issues and ideas that are not necessarily part of their academic training.


Our framework document on Language, Culture & Identity provides more information on the varied questions and issues that the Foundation intends to address as part of the programming for its 2021 cohort.