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A rich and varied week of variation


Date: 23 June 2015

Last week Miriam Meyerhoff – Professor of linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington and a Partner Investigator with CoEDL – hosted a variation-themed week at the Australian National University. Following on from her successful masterclass at the University of Melbourne in March of this year, Miriam led a series of morning sessions on such topics as variable rule analysis, variation in non-native-speakers and speaker attitudes and dispositions. These were followed each afternoon with practical sessions and presentations under the auspices of the Wellsprings Project.

Within the afternoon sessions Eri Kashima spoke on “How to be a Remora in Southern New Guinea: Proposed collection of sociolinguistic data for field session 2015" and Ruth Singer addressed “Young people's language use, language naming and authority at Warruwi”, among other discussions.

After the event, Jill Vaughan (University of Melbourne) reflected that the sessions were a lively and pragmatic introduction to balancing apsirations and realities in doing variationist sociolinguistics. 

"For me the most valuable lessons were better understanding the dangers of ignoring linguistic factors when you’re primarily interested in the social, and that accounting for 30–40% of variation is actually doing pretty well! Also that variationists and typologists should talk more. As a sociolinguist working in a highly linguistically diverse region (Arnhem Land), it was enriching to hear about the Wellsprings project and its research at the forefront of work on linguistic diversity and variation."

On Wednesday evening Hedvig Skirgård hosted a linguistics trivia night with participants trying to guess the languages of pop videos, and other challenges. It turns out that it's devilishly hard to pinpoint tone languages when sung. If you want to play along at home, have a look the wrap-up on Humans Who Read Grammar.

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