Abstracts Lesvos 2011

Abstracts 5th HiSoN Summer School


Peter Trudgill (Agder Universitetet)
Societies of intimates and mature linguistic phenomena

Linguistic complexity developed in societies of intimates. It was in such societies that complexity-producing social factors such as small community size, dense social networks, large amounts of shared information, high social stability, and low external contacts were maximally operative. According to Dixon (2010), "the most complex grammatical systems are typically found in languages spoken by small tribal groups". It is possible, therefore, that with the gradual disappearance of societies of intimates, we will also see the disappearance of complexifying linguistic changes. Complexity may be reduced too because there may well also be a trend in the modern world towards a predominance of simplifying changes - as Wray and Grace put it: "a language that is customarily learned and used by adult non-native speakers will come under pressure to become more learnable by the adult mind, as contrasted with the child mind" (2007: 557). Can it be, then, that in the long run there will be a significant reduction in overall world-wide linguistic complexity?


Anita Auer (Utrecht) and Tony Fairman (Independent)
The lower orders in their own ´rite´ (England, c. 1750-1835)

In this course we look at letters of lower-order writers, their background and their schooling. These writers made up the majority of all literate people in England during the Late Modern English period (1700-1900).  Most of those we look at were in distress and applied for poor relief from their parish. When examining these little-known sources of data, most of which still exist only in handwritten form, historical sociolinguists are faced with a variety of challenges in both theory and practice.


Jack Chambers (Toronto)
Language and Global Warming

Social forces have transformed our milieu cataclysmically in the last two centuries. How, if at all, do geographic, social and occupational mobility, urbanization, increased life expectancy, immigration, mass media, mass literacy, global communication and other forces affect linguistic interaction? How, if at all, do they affect language change? We will explore the sociolinguistics of all these factors. For as many of them as time allows, we will consider 
research strategies that shed light on the issues, and look at some provocative results.


Sonja Janssens (VU Brussels)
Quantitative methods in sociolinguistics: understanding statistics

Socio-linguistic research is making increased and more sophisticated use of statistical techniques. This seminar addresses methodological issues, principles and practices underlying quantitative analysis in socio-linguistic research. It requires no preliminary statistical or methodological knowledge and covers the following aspects: the quantitative paradigm, research design, descriptive statistics, parametric and non-parametric hypothesis testing. Course activities include close reading and critical examination of statistical methods as described in various articles relevant to socio-linguistic studies. This seminar aims to explain the basic premises that statistical programmes operate under, rather than provide hands-on training in using particular software packages.


Leigh Oakes (Queen Mary, University of London)
Language planning as identity planning: the case of Quebec

While language policy and planning may be a relatively new academic discipline, there is a long history of state intervention in language matters as part of nation-building projects. Indeed, of all the motivations behind official language planning initiatives, the most fundamental is undoubtedly national identity. This course examines how language planning – in its status, acquisition and corpus forms – has been used throughout history to foster a distinct national identity in the
Canadian province of Quebec, playing in particular a significant role in the transition from an ethnocultural French Canadian identity to a modern, civically defined Quebec identity centred on the Quebec state.


Elin Fredsted, University of Flensburg
How does longitudinal language contact lead to language change? German-Danish language contact – examples of trans-regional influence and regional contact

The effects of language contact might have geographical as well as temporal aspects. Contact-induced change is likely to be implemented more consistently in the part of the target language that is closest to the source language (Dahl 2009: 44) and/or has a history of non-interrupted language contact. Processes of change give rise to a complex situation in an intermediate zone between two linguistic areas with consistent linguistic patterns. An example of such a ‘buffer zone’ (Stilo 2004) is the Duchy of Schleswig where West- and North- Germanic varieties have been in close contact for several hundred years.

The focus of this work shop will be on Germanic contact phenomena in Danish language varieties:

  1. trans-regional influence of German as a high variety during the 16th to the 18th century, an influence which came to an end for ideological and political reasons;
  2. regional influence of German varieties on Danish classic dialects and the language of the Danish minority in Schleswig, an ongoing and diachronic process of language contact. Extra-linguistic as well as linguistic criteria will be part of the discussion.

Miriam Meyerhoff (University of Auckland)
Creole speech communities as sociolinguistic constructs

In this course, we will examine data from some historical sources on the origins of creoles and also some data on variation today in creole speech communities – one in the Pacific and one in the Caribbean. The Pacific data is strongly suggestive of the mechanisms by which variation acts as a medium for the transfer of features; the Caribbean data is suggestive of the centrality of variation to speakers' grammar.