Foundation Scholar Christopher Ahern


The Chicago Chapter of the Circumnavigators Club and Northwestern University are sponsoring Christopher Ahern to make a circumnavigation in 2007 while conducting research on his chosen topic.

Chis is studying the details of the evolution of the global Portuguese language to gain insight on the possible evolution of English. Specifically he is studying the evolution of Portugese in distant parts of the world to see how the local languages impact the evolution of Portugese. See below for a more technical explanation.


Background on Chris

Chris was born in Frankfurt, Germany and spent the first six years of his life traveling through Europe with his parents and brothers. Eventually those travels brought them all to the far-northern suburb of Chicago called Grayslake.

At Northwestern University Chris is currently studying Linguistics, and Animate Arts. Beyond the pressing concerns of academics he is also a counselor for the freshman orientation camping/hiking program, Project Wildcat, as well as a member of the Northwestern Mime Company, ask him to pretend like he's trapped in a glass box, he loves it. He has also acted in several plays and student films throughout his time at Northwestern.

With his research project, Chris hopes to add to the understanding of the evolution of global languages, and their impact on identity.

Itinerary of Circumnavigation

Christopher's itinerary includes research in Macau (Hong Kong), Goa (India), Mozambique, Portugal, Cape Verde Islands and Brazil. To see the details of his 3 month journey, click here.

Dispatches from Circumnavigation

You can follow Chris' adventures by reading his dispatches on the web pages that Northwestern University set-up for him. Click here to read his dispatches, and click here to see photos of his circumnavigation.

Christopher's Research Topic

When speakers of a global language are separated by thousands of miles, and local languages are the most prominent influences, how will the language change? Will speakers adhere to a prescriptive norm of what the language "ought" to be, or will the language evolve and be adapted to suit the needs of the speakers.

This question will be analyzed in the context of the former Portuguese colonies. Examining specifically the use of language in education, whether it be Portuguese a lexically-based Portuguese Creole, or neither of the two.

Chris plans to investigate the status of Creoles in former Portuguese colonies, focusing on the use of language in education, and how this translates into the use of language in literary expression. This information will be crucial in determining where on the spectrum between a dialect and a language Creoles fall. Both secondary schools and universities will be ideal for interviewing administrators, professors, and authors in regards to language in educational policy. Chris will conduct interviews with students to gauge their perception of any hierarchy between Portuguese spoken within their own country and that of Portugal, and how they feel about movements to make Creole the national language. With these interviews, Chris will gain a broader perspective across age levels in terms of both concrete realizations of dialect-to-language shifting and changes in opinion.