Wellsprings Forum Dialogue 2017

Beyond the monolingual speech community: new approaches to investigating bilingualism-induced change

Canberra, 13-17 February 2017, Australian National University

Studies of how linguistic variation leads to change have overwhelmingly concentrated on the monolingual speech community as the unit of analysis. But how well do these assumptions transfer to situations where a significant number of speakers are bi- or multilingual – which is, after all, the situation that the majority of people in the world find themselves in. Can the sorts of patterning of variation found by Labovian sociolinguistics for monolingual speech communities also be found if we examine multilingual speech communities? What are the dynamics of social signalling that variant linguistic forms perform in such settings? How far do claims of convergence – or divergence – between languages in contact stand up to close empirical scrutiny? Can we develop a more fine-grained characterisation of types of multilingual community? These and many other questions will inform the second Forum Dialogue of the Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity Project.

The program will run every morning of the week, and is open to anyone interested in attending. If you are interested in attending, please register by Wednesday 1 February for catering purposes. Afternoons will feature a number of linked presentations and workshops within the Wellsprings project, some of which will also be open to the public – dates and topics for these will be notified soon.

Venue information

  • Monday 13 February: Springbank room, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU
  • Tuesday 14 February: Springbank room, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU
  • Wednesday 15 February: Hedley Bull seminar room 2, ANU
  • Thursday 16 February: Springbank room, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU
  • Friday 17 February: Hedley Bull seminar room 2, ANU

Main Speakers

Pattie Epps

Pattie Epps
University of Texas at Austin

Patience Epps is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistic Anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2005, and held a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Her publications include the monograph A Grammar of Hup (Mouton Grammar Library 43), as well as papers in Diachronica, International Journal of American Linguistics, Linguistic Typology, and Studies in Language. Her research interests involve descriptive and documentary work on indigenous Amazonian languages, typology, language contact and language change, and the implications of the latter for studying Amazonian prehistory.

Shana Poplock

Shana Poplack 
University of Ottawa

Shana Poplack, C.M., FRSC, is Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair in Linguistics at the University of Ottawa, and director of the Sociolinguistics Laboratory there. She is a sociolinguist who studies language use in everyday situations, with a particular focus on bilingual and minority-language contexts. Her work applies theoretical and methodological insights gained from the study of linguistic variation and change to a variety of fields of interest to linguists, including constraints on bilingual language mixing, language contact and grammatical convergence, the genesis of African American Vernacular English, language ideology, normative prescription and praxis, and the role of the school in impeding linguistic change. This research is characterized by the collection and scientific analysis of large bodies of natural speech data, many of which are one of a kind. They are housed at one of the most dynamic and productive sociolinguistics laboratories in the world. The lab has trained scores of students and associates at all levels, and its computerized spoken-language resources have served as data for hundreds of publications, presentations, theses and dissertations.

Shana Poplack: http://www.sociolinguistics.uottawa.ca/shanapoplack/index.html

uOttawa Sociolinguistics lab: http://www.sociolinguistics.uottawa.ca/thelab.html


Our dialogue sessions will take place in the morning each day (9am-12:30pm), with a light morning tea served.

Day 1 - Monday 13 Feb

Investigating small-scale multilingual communities: an ethnographic perspective from the Vaupés (Northwest Amazonia)

Pattie Epps

Discussant:  Ruth Singer (UMelb/CoEDL)

Day 2 - Tuesday 14 Feb

1. Big languages in small communities: a variationist sociolinguistic approach to language contact and change

Shana Poplack

Discussant:  Catherine Travis (ANU/CoEDL)

Day 3 - Wednesday 15 Feb

Investigating small-scale multilingual communities: a comparative view

Pattie Epps

Discussant: Bethwyn Evans (ANU / CoEDL)

Day 4 - Thursday 16 Feb

Contact-induced change in the wild: Using linguistic variation to detect, analyze and distinguish it from internal evolution

Shana Poplack

Discussant:  Marie-France Duhamel (ANU/CoEDL)

Day 5 -  Friday 17 Feb


On the final day of the Forum Dialogue, the two speakers, the discussants, and project leader Nick Evans, will come together with the audience in a synthetic discussion of the issues raised through the week. 

For information about the forum contact Bianca.Hennessy@anu.edu.au.

For abstracts, please see our extended program here.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University