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International Chair 2023 - Jane Stuart-Smith (Glasgow University)

We will welcome Professor Jane Stuart-Smith from the University of Glasgow for a series of four seminars on the theme "Empirical insights for experimental grammar from sociophonology".

The seminars will take place at the Université Paris Cité, Bât. Olympe de Gouges, 8, rue Albert Einstein 75013 Paris - Room 533.

1. June 6 from 11am to 1pm

2. June 13th from 11am to 1pm

3. June 20 from 11am-1pm

4. June 23 from 11am-1pm

General Summary:

A core aim of Axis 2 of the Labex EFL (Experimental Grammar in a Cross-Linguistic Perspective) is to harness and refine quantitative and experimental methods in such a way that linguistic theories can themselves be informed and enriched by the diverse instantiations of language in the world. But moving beyond the typically small base of language varieties considered and marrying empirical approaches to meet the apparent messiness of real-world linguistic variation, presents a set of recognized and interconnected challenges. Whilst these might seem more acute for formal linguistics (e.g. morphology, syntax), they also exist for theoretical linguistic research which appears at first glance to be more comfortable with applying quantitative methods to naturally-occurring language data to establish the grammatical structures underpinning linguistic variability, such as sociophonology. In this series of lectures, Jane Stuart-Smith (UGlasgow), whose work interrogates the interfaces ranging between phonetics, phonology and sociolinguistics, will problematize and discuss four areas of challenge already identified by Strand 2. Her seminars will be illustrated with evidence from her long-term research program on non-standard urban dialects (e.g. Glasgow Media Project; Sounds of the City), as well as collaborative cross-dialectal research (e.g. SPeech Across Dialects of English), noting that consideration of within-language variation is a crucial complementary component to any cross-linguistic perspective.

Seminar 1: Ecologies of language data. This seminar will focus on dimensions of linguistic data collection, specifically, ‘the lab’, ‘the field’ and the grey/green areas between these constructs and bundles of situational and ideological contexts. It will consider questions such as: what is ecologically-valid language data? Is data collected in a lab not ecologically valid? Can we separate ‘the field’ from ‘the lab’? Are some kinds of data more ‘authentic’ than others? Evidence will include the impact of style, context, and elicitation task, notions of ‘naturalness’ for linguistic behaviours, the Observer’s Paradox, and recording/collection modality (e.g. face-to-face vs online) on data collection and hence on linguistic theory.

Seminar 2: Expanding the language base. This seminar will consider biases introduced into linguistic theory from two related perspectives: 1) on the one hand, the impact of the range and nature of linguistic varieties used to test linguistic theoretical constructs; 2) and on the other, the role of context and culture in which linguists work, on linguistic theories per se. It will show how working beyond the usual remit of standard language varieties, and/or more than one dialect/sociolect, and/or language, can refine and extend theoretical assumptions about linguistic structures. But it will also show how linguistic theoretical frameworks are themselves tightly connected to cultural assumptions, and in turn, how this can constrain their informativity and explanatory power.

Seminar 3: Language variation and theory. This seminar will discuss and exemplify some of the tensions inherent answering the following main question: Is linguistic variation a curse or a blessing for linguistic theories? This entails considering evidence which suggests that various kinds of linguistic variation are integral, as opposed to secondary, for structured, conventionalised linguistic behaviour. But it also considers the roles of linguistic categories and boundaries in observing and explaining linguistic variation. Evidence will include segmental phonological phenomena, but also voice quality and so-called paralinguistic phenomena, such as clicks for conversational management.

Seminar 4: Scaling up the language enterprise. The final seminar will focus on some issues entailed by working with large-scale spoken language datasets as the basis for testing and exploring commonly-held theoretical linguistic assumptions. For example, we tend to assume that a language like English is monolithic, but is this true? Is there one or more than one English/es? Is variability across English dialects greater than across English and other languages? The evidence for this rests on the use of Machine Learning techniques (e.g. regression, classification, data reduction) as applied to differing kinds of language corpora.


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