Plenary Speakers

We are proud to announce that the following speakers have accepted our invitation to deliver plenary lectures at the conference:

Plenary abstracts

New 21st century (dia)lects? Taking stock of multiethnolects

Jenny Cheshire (Queen Mary University of London)

Multiethnolects have been intensively studied during the late 20th and early 21st century, especially in northern Europe, to the extent that we can now consider not only what has been learned about them but also how this knowledge may affect the study of dialects in the future.

Multiethnolects are a distinct typological variety of language, with characteristics of both contact varieties and social and regional dialects. Like other dialects, they are also stylised, performed varieties. The talk will discuss what research on multiethnolects has contributed to our understanding of how and why a multiethnolect emerges and develops, as well as to foundational issues within each of these fields of research. For contact linguistics, this includes the distinction between shift-induced interference and generalised language contact; for dialectology, it includes the elusive question of how and why a change begins, and whether female speakers are the leaders of change. Brief case studies will be used to illustrate, drawn mainly from my own research on Multicultural London English.

Based on what has been learned from the study of multiethnolects, and in keeping with the original focus of this conference series, the talk will speculate on how the methods used to study dialects may change in the future.

Exploring 21st century methods for analysing nonhuman embodied, interactional grammar

Leonie Cornips & Marjo van Koppen (Amsterdam, Maastricht & Utrecht)

This talk purports to describe a pathway for making (socio)linguistics transcend the assumptions of human exceptionalism and species hierarchy in order to try to understand interactions patterns of nonhuman animals (Patel-Grosz et al. 2020) while making use of the linguistic knowledge, tools and methods we have developed for human language (Cornips & van Koppen subm.).

We will address the question as to whether it is possible to gain a deeper understanding into the communication patterns of cows by applying linguistic insights to them (Cornips 2022). Our study, based on multi-species fieldwork (Kirksey & Heimreich 2010) in industrial barns, answers this question affirmatively. The first important result is that in conducting fieldwork the method of (participant) observation is considered an important tool (Seymour & Wolch 2009) for collecting empirical data. We will show that doing multi-species fieldwork among and with dairy cows reveals, however, that dairy cows take our seeing/looking/staring as gaze, i.e., as a signal to start an interaction (Auer 2018). This outcome should force (socio)linguists to reflect carefully on the concept of (participant) observation and query whether‘observation among and with humans is also interacting. Second, we will discuss how we apply insights from (socio)linguistics to our fieldwork data, i.e. numerous audio and video recordings of how cows interact with us, human linguists and the farmer(s). By applying (socio)linguistic tools to the interaction between humans and cows it will become possible for the first time to describe and analyse in detail how an interaction between a dairy cow and a human comes into being and proceeds; and what might be relevant in understanding the language of cows in more detail. We emphasize that language does not distinguish humans from other animals (Meijer 2019): the difference is one of degree, not of kind. In order to focus on commonalities, linguists should look beyond ‘sound and sign’ for a theory of world languages that also includes nonhuman animals (Suzuki & Zuberbühler 2019). Our exploration due to field work reveals that in addition to vocalizations, gaze, gestures, bodily movement and bodily position (Mondada 2016) are crucial as well.

What we will put forward in this talk is that nonhuman animals might have linguistic capacities like human animals, both characterized by bodies or objects in the conversational space via smelling/touching/tasting/movement etc. and eye-gazing. From the development of a theory of animal languages, repercussions for human language may emerge i.e. (i) new avenues to explore human language as involving multimodal (embodied) interaction, and (ii) new avenues to explore methods how to examine human-human interaction.

Abstract including references

Language, Migration and Identity on the Island of Ireland Through Time and Space

Karen P. Corrigan (Newcastle University)

A major debate that has evolved in research addressing Englishes which potentially arose through contact with Indigenous languages is the extent to which they should be considered ‘Colonial’, ‘Settler Colonial’ or indeed ‘Postcolonial’ varieties (Denis & D’Arcy 2018, 2019, 2022; Deterding 2008:233). This granular view runs counter to Schneider’s (2003, 2007) ‘Dynamic Model’ which assumes an identical evolutionary pathway for the colonial Englishes of New Zealand and Kenya despite their rather diverse socio-political histories and language ecologies articulated in Hay et al. (2008) and Buregeya (2019), respectively. Denis & D’Arcy’s (2018: 3) “alternative epistemological standpoint” is embedded within anthropological and sociological models in which Colonialism and Settler Colonialism are viewed as polar opposites. The former involves the domination of an Indigenous population which is exploited by the coloniser whereas the latter refers to settlements in which terra nullius already obtains or which can be made thus by the “elimination” (in the terms of Wolfe 2006) of local ethnolinguistic groups (cf. Manning 2018; Osterhammel 1997; Taylor 2021; Veracini 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; Wolfe 1999, 2001 inter alia).

Accounting for this dichotomy allows Denis & D’Arcy (2018) to make what they consider to be more robust predictions regarding the linguistic differences typifying ‘Settler Colonial’ versus ‘Colonial’ or ‘Postcolonial’ Englishes. Colonists of the settler type who are oriented primarily to the appropriation of new territories have little truck with the “mutual negotiation” (Schneider 2007:45) required to develop a shared variety. In these circumstances, Indigenous languages (often legislated against) play only a minor role. They are rarely, if ever, the source of grammatical innovations or explicit contact-transfer effects. By contrast, Indigenous languages are not side-stepped when it comes to Colonial English varieties which do consistently reflect the L1s of the colonised populations.

Although Denis & D’Arcy’s position paper is restricted to interrogating the relatively recent settlement histories of Australia, Canada, India and Singapore, they argue that it is applicable “to colonial contact situations in the more distant past as well” (2018:23). In this talk, I test this proposal by exploring the impacts of migratory movements into and out of England’s first colony, the island of Ireland, as they relate to matters of language and identity across both temporal and geographical space (see Nic Dhaibhéid et al. 2021; Rahman et al. 2017). I review the historical and linguistic records for different phases of the region’s colonisation to assess whether it is indeed possible to determine if the resultant Irish-Englishes were of the Colonial or Settler Colonial type. The talk also examines the potential contribution which the Irish diaspora subsequently made to the development of Settler and Colonial Englishes across the rest of the British Empire (Corrigan 2020a). The paper concludes by showcasing the potential impact on contemporary Irish-English of new twenty-first century contexts for language contact across the island which has become home to unprecedented numbers of global immigrant and refugee populations, offering opportunities for the formation of new dialects – particularly in “superdiverse” (Vertovec 2014) urban spaces (Corrigan 2020b; Corrigan & Diskin 2020).

Abstract including references

Valuing dialectology in the 21st century: Insights from the Ontario Dialects Project

Sali A. Tagliamonte (University of Toronto)

In the context of global communication networks, declining traditional varieties and English hegemony, does dialectology have value in the 21st century? In this presentation, I synthesize insights from a large scale research program in operation since 2003, the Ontario Dialects Project (Tagliamonte 2014; Tagliamonte 2018). The data comprises vernacular speech from fieldwork in Ontario, Canada amounting to over 11 million words from 1000+ individuals born from the late 1800’s to the early 21st century. The data come from different locales, including a range of urban-non-urban locations, dense vs. loose social networks, varying population sizes, ethnic compositions, founding populations, etc. covering many of the community types described in Trudgill (2011). The project is part of a larger research program which aims to advance the knowledge base of language variation and change in time and space as well as to provide front-facing secular publicity on the importance of language to history, culture and identity.

The sheer size of the Ontario Dialects Project holdings permits study of a broad range of  linguistic phenomena at different levels of language, from words and expressions to grammatical systems; from frequent features to rare constructions, many of which are moribund in mainstream varieties. Using a selection of case studies from recent research, I demonstrate how the findings arising from studying vernacular language in regional context provide insight into key contemporary questions in linguistics, including diachronic processes, linguistic innovation, language contact, place and identity. Taken together, the discoveries emerging from the Ontario Dialect Project offer a comprehensive perspective on synchronic patterns of language that can be used to inform future research as global dialects continue to emerge— geographically situated and not — offering a vital documentation of the evolution of human language in its ever-changing networks of social interaction.

Selected References:

Trudgill, P. J. (2011). Sociolinguistic typology: Social determinants of linguistic complexity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tagliamonte, S. A. (2014). System and society in the evolution of change: The view from Canada. In Green, E. & Meyer, C. (Eds.), Variability in Current World Englishes. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 199-238.

Tagliamonte, S. A. (2018-2024). Language change and social change in the early 21st century: Canadian English 2002 to 2020. #435-2019-0053.  Toronto, Canada: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.