Forskerskolen i språkvitenskap og filologi


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Language Change in Modern Sociolinguistics

Research course in modern sociolinguistic theory and methodology, 20-23 September.


Dates: 20-23 September (09.00–16.00)

Venue: Christies gate 18, room 3.43.

The course will give participants a good understanding of modern sociolinguistic theory and methodology. Sociolinguistic surveys and research results will be presented and discussed. The course has four main themes related to this overarching theoretical, methodological and empirical framework.

The course is organised by the Research school in Linguistics and Philology in cooperation with Gunnstein Akselberg, Agnete Nesse and Helge Sandøy.

Methods for exploring the relationship between spoken language in the media and speech changes in society

Invited lecturer: Jane Stuart-Smith, University of Glasgow

The role of the media in processes of language change in the past few generations has been controversial. While the folk linguistic belief has been that media language is very influential, linguists have been more skeptical, at least as to whether media language has any direct impact. To get better knowledge of these issues we need approaches which include both media studies and sociolinguistics. It is important to have a method that makes it possible to study the language behind the microphone in relation to the language of the listeners and viewers. Stuart-Smith is both a sociolinguist and a phonetician, and she uses methods that combine media research and sociolinguistics.

Comparisons of linguistic change and types of society

Invited lecturer: Paul Kerswill, University of Lancaster 

An aim within sociolinguistics is to synthesize or gain general insights from the many studies of linguistic change. In order to achieve this we need a theory of societal conditions for various types of changes, and of the rate and extent of changes. Moreover, there is a methodological requirement both to categorize societies and to measure changes if we want to compare results from various studies in order to examine whether they support each other or are incompatible with each other. Kerswill is one of the few working on this topic. He has studied processes of change in England, in particular processes of koineizations, e.g. in the new town of Milton Keynes to the north of London.

Sociolinguistic method

Invited lecturer: Paul Kerswill, University of Lancaster

How we select informants and choose linguistic variables is an important issue in sociolinguistics. Should we use the same method in all types of societies, for instance in rural districts, in cities and in industrial towns? Over the last few decades we have gained experience in doing research in traditional rural and urban societies, but few studies have been carried out in new industrial towns. What challenges and opportunities do they represent? An important characteristic of the language in industrial towns is that it is a result of a social, cultural and linguistic melting pot.

Language Attitudes

Invited lecturer: Tore Kristiansen, University of Copenhagen

Attitudes towards language use often vary greatly according to the degree of consciousness with which they are expressed. Kristiansen has developed a variant of matched (or verbal) guise tests that reveal how evaluations of language are totally different when respondents do not realize that they are reacting to language and when they are focusing on language when expressing their attitudes. Such results are relevant for the theory of what socio-psychological function attitudes have. Attitudes can also be studied as potential explanations of language change.

Project presentations: 

Participants are invited to submit a presentation of the project they are working on, so that the invited lecturers can comment and make suggestions. The presentations should be 3–5 pages.

Credits: 3 ECTS.

Course registration: No later than 31 August.

Deadline for submission of presentations: 9 September. 

For registration and further information contact coordinator Martin Paulsen.

UPDATE: Note that the reading lists and most of the articles have now been uploaded to this page an can be accessed for preparations to the course. The missing articles and chapters will be added as soon as they become available from the library.

NEW UPDATE: Note that the programme for the course has been slightly changed, Paul Kerswill will be talking about methods on Tuesday and comparisons of linguistic change and types of societies on Friday.