Abstracts Brugge 2010

ABSTRACTS (we're adding more as we get them)

Ana Deumert Terttu Nevalainen
Martin Durrell Wim Vandenbussche
Susan Fitzmaurice Hans Van de Velde
Anthony Lodge




Susan Fitzmaurice (University of Sheffield)
The uses of Social Networks Analysis for social description in Historical Sociolinguistics

This module will explore the relative utility of coalitions and other types of social networks compared with the notions of discourse communities and communities of practice for the description of historically distant speech communities. The critical consideration of complex social descriptive categories is particularly salient in the investigation of how both individual actors and groups of actors contribute in the processes of speaker innovation and linguistic change. The exploitation of instruments for the scrutiny of social actors and their interactions allows the researcher to form hypotheses about actuation, transmission, embedding and social evaluation of changes in the context of rich historical social description. We will consider the relationships among the categories of social networks, communities of practice and discourse communities in describing different historical groups on the one hand. We will evaluate the evidence that provides critical information for determining the nature of the individuals and their relationship with one another and their society. Key topics include questions of historicising identity and social roles, individual and social influence upon speakers’ performance, and the performance of community membership in language. We will focus on particular case studies will be drawn from early eighteenth-century London in order to expose the strengths and weaknesses of these instruments for historicizing social description.

Some references:

Fitzmaurice, Susan (2010) ‘Coalitions, networks, and discourse communities in Augustan England: The Spectator and the early eighteenth-century essay.’ In Raymond Hickey (ed.) Eighteenth-Century English: Ideology and Change. Cambridge University Press.

 Fitzmaurice, Susan (2010) ‘Mr. Spectator, identity and social roles in an early eighteenth-century community of practice and the periodical discourse community.’ In P. Pahta, M. Palander-Collin, M. Nevala & A. Nurmi (eds.) Social Roles and Language Practices in Late Modern English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Ana Deumert (University of Cape Town)
Historical Sociolinguistics in A Colonial World, African Perspectives.

In this course we will discuss the challenges and opportunities of doing historical sociolinguists in post-colonial contexts. The data will come from South Africa and Namibia, and three language histories will be at the centre of the discussion: Afrikaans/Dutch, German and isiXhosa. We will consider the usefulness of the archival record (official and private, written and visual) as well as oral history interviewing as data sources, and discuss various methods of data analysis (Labovian variation studies, network analysis, ethnographic ‘thick description’, critical discourse analysis). Throughout the course we will critically engage with the relations of power that exist between the colonial/post-colonial condition and the European’s engagement and interest in studying ‘the other’.

Recommended readings:

Deumert, A. 2004. Language Standardization and Language Change. The Dynamics of Cape Dutch. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Deumert, A. 2007. 2007 “Zo schrijve ek lievers my sort Afrikaans” – Speaker Agency and Resistance in the History of Afrikaans. In: Germanic Language Histories ‘from Below’. Eds. S. Elspaß, N. Langer and W. Vandenbussche. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 221-242.

Deumert, A. 2009. Namibian Kiche Duits – The Making (and Decline) of a Neo-African Language. Journal of Germanic Linguistics 21, 349-417.

Errington, J. 2008. Linguistics in a Colonial World: A Story of Language Meaning, and Power. Oxford: Blackwell.

Gilmour, R. 2004. Colonization and Linguistic Representation: British Methodist Grammarians Approaches to Xhosa (1834-1850. In: Missionary Linguistics, selected papers from the First International Conference on Missionary Linguistics, Oslo, 13-16 March, 2003, ed. by O. Zwartjes & E. Hovdhaugen, vol.1, pp. 114 – 140. Amsterdam/New York: John Benjamins.

Irvine, J. 2008. Subjected Words: African Linguistics and the Colonial Encounter. Language and Communication 28, 323-343.

Hans Van de Velde (Universiteit Utrecht)
When apparent becomes real. The interplay of synchronic and diachronic phonological variation.

Anthony Lodge (University of St Andrews)
Aspects of the sociolinguistic history of Paris

Given the defective nature of its data-base, historical sociolinguistics will always be an insecure discipline, and the evidence which has come down to us on the variability of Parisian speech in the past is predictably inadequate. However, for a variety of reasons, the data-situation in Paris is not quite as hopeless as in most other European cities. This module examines such evidence as has survived, in the light of recent theories of urbanisation and urban dialectology, and tries to discern a coherent pattern of macro-level sociolinguistic developments in the speech of the city from medieval times to the mid-twentieth century. We will see parallels between processes in urban dialect development and long-term phases of industrialisation. Paris mushroomed in the thirteenth century to become the largest city in the western world, largely through in-migration from rural areas. It looks as though the resulting dialect-mixture led to the gradual formation of new, specifically urban modes of speech. Renaissance cities were characterised by a sharpening of social stratification, and this looks to have been mirrored in 'proto-industrial' Paris by a distancing of elite forms of speech (the nascent standard language) from those of the masses. Nineteenth-century industrialisation transformed the situation yet again, with the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from far-flung corners of France. The sociolinguistic repercussions seem to have involved the levelling of dialect differences in Paris vernacular speech and the exposure of ever larger sections of the population to standardising influences. At the same time, new working-class identities appear to have led to a new, class-based vernacular, differentiated from the upper-class standard not only in grammar and pronunciation, but most markedly in vocabulary.

Martin Durrell (University of Manchester)
Linguistic standardisation and the nation in Europe

The aim of this course will be to explore the relationship of standard languages and the European nation-state in a historical context. We shall begin by critically examining, with examples, Haugen’s classic model of language standardisation proceeding from selection to codification, elaboration of function and acceptance and John Joseph’s accounts of the criteria which were used to justify the forms which were taken as standard. We shall then consider how these standard languages were exploited in the creation of nations, starting from Herder’s ideas about the identification of peoples with languages and considering Benedict Andersen’s notion of nations as ‘imagined communities’, looking also at how groups whose language did not correspond to the norms of the standard could be stigmatised and systematically excluded from power on this basis. We can finally see how histories of language were established in terms of an ideology of uniformity to legitimise political aspirations, territorial claims and notions of nationhood. Participants are very much encouraged to consider examples from their own language or country and use them as a contribution to discussion.

Suggested preliminary reading:

Anderson, Benedict (1991), Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London, New York: Verso.

Crowley, Tony (2003), Standard English and the Politics of Language. Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Haugen, Einar (1966), 'Language, Dialect, Nation'. American Anthropologist 68, 922-935.

Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1992), Nations and Nationalism since 1780. Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Joseph, John Earl (1987), Eloquence and Power. The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Languages. London: Frances Pinter.

Milroy, James, and Milroy, Lesley (1999), Authority in Language. Investigating Language Prescription and Standardisation. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Terttu Nevalainen (University of Helsinki)
Historical sociolinguistics as corpus linguistics

Historical sociolinguists have to live with the fact that their data are preserved randomly, and are often only indirectly associated with spoken interaction. These material shortcomings are famously described by William Labov as the language historian’s “bad-data problem”. He goes on to suggest that historical linguistics can be thought of “as the art of making the best use of bad data” (Labov 1994: 11). My lectures will discuss how we can do that by using electronic corpora. General-purpose corpora typically consist of texts that represent a variety of genres. The Helsinki Corpus of English Texts is a case in point: it includes a selection of ten to twenty genres from the 8th to the 18th century. It also enables the analysis of some individual variation by recording, e.g., the writer’s gender and regional background. What may be called historical sociolinguistic corpora proper sample persons rather than genres. They provide authentic data from people of different regional and social origins and time periods. Corpora compiled for even more specific purposes may consist of texts produced by a group of people representing, for example, a particular social network or a community of practice.

After surveying various historical sociolinguistic corpora of English – or the lack thereof from the early periods – I will discuss and illustrate some of them in more detail. They include the Corpus of Early English Correspondence and the Corpus of English Dialogues. I will also compare them with such online resources as the Proceedings of the Old Bailey (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/).


Labov, William (1994). Principles of Linguistic Change. Internal Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.

Some background

Beal, Joan C., Karen P. Corrigan & Hermann L. Moisl (eds.) (2007). Creating and Digitizing Language Corpora. Volume 2: Diachronic Databases. Houndsmills: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Corpus Resource Database (CoRD). http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/CoRD/index.html.

Nevalainen, Terttu (1999). Making the best use of ‘bad’ data: evidence for sociolinguistic variation in Early Modern English, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 100:4, 499–533.

Wim Vandenbussche (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
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