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LINGUIST List 24.4115

Sat Oct 19 2013

Calls: Sociolinguistics, General Linguistics/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Bryn Hauk <brynlinguistlist.org>

Date: 18-Oct-2013
From: Frans Hinskens <frans.hinskensmeertens.knaw.nl>
Subject: Are Language Varieties Coherent? International Workshop on Dialect Coherence
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Full Title: Are Language Varieties Coherent? International Workshop on Dialect Coherence

Date: 16-Jan-2014 - 17-Jan-2014
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact Person: Frans Hinskens
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Sociolinguistics

Call Deadline: 10-Nov-2013

Meeting Description:

International workshop on Dialect Coherence
Are language varieties coherent?
Meertens Instituut (KNAW), Amsterdam - 16-17 January 2013

Registration fee (75 Euros) includes registration, coffee/tea, lunch (2x) and one dinner.

Plenary talks will be presented by:

Peter Auer (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg i.Br.)
Frans Gregersen (Københavns Universitet)
Gregory Guy (New York University)
Roeland van Hout (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen)

Call for Papers:

Researchers are invited to submit, in English, abstracts for 45 minute presentations (including 15 minutes discussion) of recent work on issues concerning the coherence of language varieties. See sketch of workshop theme and relevant issues below.

Submissions should include:

- Author(s) names, affiliation and contact details
- Presentation title
- An abstract of 500 words maximum, outlining their presentation

Please send abstracts no later than Sunday, 10 November 2013, to dcworkshopmeertens.knaw.nl.

Important Dates:

10 November 2013: Deadline for submission of abstracts
30 November 2013: Notification of acceptance
16 and 17 January 2014: International workshop on Dialect Coherence

Meertens Workshop, Jan 2014: Are language varieties coherent?

Are the varieties of language that both linguists and laymen give names to – languages, dialects, speech styles, standard and nonstandard varieties, ethnolects, etc. – coherent objects, or diffuse abstractions? They are typically characterized in terms of clusters of linguistic elements: entire grammars and lexicons in the case of languages and dialects, or sets of linguistic variables in the case of sociolects, ethnolects and speech styles. Thus the social classes and speech styles identified in studies like Labov 1966 are associated with multiple stratified variables (e.g., (aeh), (oh), (r), (th/dh), etc.). Similarly, descriptions of ethnolects such as African American English (e.g., Baugh 1979, Dayton 1996) and Turkish ethnolectal German (Keim 2007) associate them with multiple linguistic features, both phonological and morphosyntactic. But in such studies, variables are often investigated one-at-a-time, leaving open the question of whether they cluster in usage. In other words, when a speaker is using a variety, performing a particular speech style, or constructing an ethnic, class, or gendered identity, do they necessarily use all of the associated variants simultaneously?

The concept of coherent varieties is problematized by the body of work on language and identity that argues that speakers actively and idiosyncratically select from a palette of variants available in their communities of practice to construct identities, stances, and styles - a process that Eckert (2008) characterizes as 'bricolage'. This often involves incorporation of elements from other varieties, analogous to Bloomfield's 'dialect borrowing'. The implication is that social and stylistic usage is not organized in discrete coherent varieties, but is fluidly recast by individuals adapting to changing circumstances and self-expressions. The same issues arise in connection with language change. Are there socially identifiable leaders of change who tend to use all the innovative variants together, or are different innovations subject to differentiated social interpretations and individuated patterns of usage? And are 'borrowed' innovations which add new variants to existing linguistic features more likely to be used in idiosyncratic ways?

These issues can be empirically illuminated by examining the extent to which clusters of variants co-occur in speech (cf. Guy 2013). If varieties are coherent, the variables associated with them should co-vary in the usage of individuals. A lower-middle class New Yorker in Labov's study should simultaneously use low levels of coda (r), raised variants of (oh), and more stopped or affricated variants of (th/dh), and these variables should be strongly correlated in usage. But if varieties are fluid and speakers are doing relatively unconstrained bricolage, the separate variables, which may have subtly distinctive social indexicalities, may be uncorrelated. The empirical picture is complicated by the existence of other sources of correlation: multiple ethnolectal features may have common origins in substrate or L2 acquisition effects, and certain linguistic changes may correlate because of structural relations between them (e.g., vocalic chain shifts alter several vowels at once, and multiple syntactic changes are sometimes argued to be triggered by a single parametric change). But in general, stronger correlations should indicate greater levels of lectal coherence.

A special test of these issues occurs in those situations that are described as involving lectal continua, where intermediate varieties emerge (e.g. between standard and nonstandard, or regional and supraregional dialects, cf. Cornips 2006). Work by Auer (1997) argues that such settings show implicational relationships between certain types of variables, motivated by structural relations among the variants, but other scholars have suggested that 'bricolage' occurs. More empirical investigation is warranted: Are the relevant variables correlated in such settings (cf. Hinskens 2007)? Are intermediate varieties constructed with arbitrary collections of variants (standard or nonstandard, local, regional or national), or do they show systematic patterns of co-occurrence of variables?

This workshop focuses on the question of coherence as seen through the empirical prism of correlation and co-occurrence. It seeks to bring together researchers on language varieties and language variation and change who approach these questions from any perspective. Among the relevant questions to be addressed are:

- Which features correlate or covary and which do not?
- When correlated usages are encountered, are they better understood as indicators of the social coherence of a variety, or as (perhaps inevitable) consequences of structural factors or historical factors?
- Which linguistic features/domains are involved in variation and which tend to be constant?
- What role does the socially symbolic meaning (or indexicality) of the features play in existence or absence of correlations?
- How are usage factors (e.g. type and token frequency) implicated in correlations and indexical interpretations of variants?
- Are some kinds of language varieties (e.g., local dialects) more coherent than others (e.g. speech styles)? If so, why?


Auer, Peter. 1997. Co-occurrence restrictions between linguistic variables: A case for social dialectology, phonological theory, and variation studies. In: Hinskens, F., R. van Hout & W.L. Wetzels, eds. Variation, change, and phonological theory, 69-99. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Baugh, John. 1979. Linguistic style shifting in Black English. University of Pennsylvania dissertation.
Cornips, Leonie. 2006. Intermediate Syntactic Variants in a Dialect - Standard Speech Repertoire and Relative Acceptability. Gradience in Grammar. Generative Perspectives ed. by Gisbert Fanselow, Caroline Féry, Matthias Schlesewsky & Ralf Vogel, 85-105. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dayton, Elizabeth. 1996. Grammatical categories of the verb in African American Vernacular English. University of Pennsylvania dissertation.
Eckert, Penelope. 2008. Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12. 453-476.
Guy, Gregory R. 2013. The cognitive coherence of sociolects: How do speakers handle multiple sociolinguistic variables? Journal of Pragmatics 52: 63-71.
Hinskens, Frans. 2007. New Types of non-standard Dutch. In: Fandrych, C. & R. Salverda eds. Standard, Variation and Language Change in Germanic Languages. Mannheim & Tübingen : IDS & Narr, Francke, Attempto, pp. 281-300
Keim, Inken. 2007. Formen und Funktionen von Ethnolekten in multilingualen Lebenswelten - am Beispiel von Mannheim. In: R. Franceschini, ed., Im Dickicht der Städte I: Sprache und Semiotik; Special issue of Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik, LiLi, 37, 148, 89-112.
Labov, William. 1966. The social stratification of English in New York City. Washington DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

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