[WS114] Language variation at the interface of psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics


Authors : Constanze Vorwerg

Title: Language Variation at the Interface of Psycholinguitics and Sociolinguistics


 "If structure is at the heart of language, then variation defines its soul" (Wolfram (2006: 333). Variability is one of the most fundamental and pervasive facets of language, and its study is today a very prolific area of linguistic research. Variation in language use has traditionally been the subject of both sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. Within psycholinguistics, the factors and individual cognitive mechanisms involved in speakers' choices are addressed, and to a smaller degree also those involved in listeners' coping with variation in their linguistic input. Within sociolinguistics, socially meaningful variation is focused in the variationist approach, relating systematic variability to factors such as social stratum, regional provenance, ethnicity, gender or social network.

Despite the wealth of data explaining linguistic variation in terms of either social and geographic factors or individual cognitive processing, there is gap between these two traditionally distinct lines of research related to linguistic variation – so far without sufficient cross‐fertilization between the sociolinguistic approach, grounded in social sciences, and the psycholinguistic approach, rooted in cognitive sciences. The purpose of the workshop is to bring together experts from psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics to discuss questions at the interface of psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic approaches to language variation. A joint perspective combining insights from both research fields provides a basis for addressing research issues such as the cognitive implications of sociolinguistic variation theory and other psycholinguistic aspects of language variation, and the individual development, processing and representation of linguistic varieties, including non‐standard ones.

Pertinent topics include the following:

  • motives for and control over linguistic choices
  • awareness of linguistic features and options
  • functionality of variation
  • social modulation of cognitive processing in linguistic interaction
  • individual mediation of societal influences on language use
  • cross‐varietal speech perception and word recognition
  • interactive adaptation in dialogue and language contact, and implicit learning
  • automatic interactive priming and social accommodation
  • social cognition and language processing
  • norm‐referenced language assessment and dialect speakers
  • acquisition of regional varieties
  • measuring varietal language development

Organization of the workshop

The format of the workshop is as follows

  • Introduction (10 minutes)
  • Presentations of 20‐30 minutes each (plus 10 minutes discussion)
  • Concluding discussion session (40 minutes)



Auer, P., Barden, B. & Großkopf, B. (1998). Subjective and objective parameters determining ‘salience’ in long‐term dialect accommodation. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 2, 163–187.

Coulmas, F. (2005). Sociolinguistics. The study of speakers’ choices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cutler, A., Eisner, F., McQueen, J. M. & Norris, D. (2010). How abstract phonemic categories are necessary for coping with speaker‐related variation. In C. Fougeron, B. Kühnert, M. D'Imperio & N. Vallée (Eds.), Laboratory phonology 10 (pp. 91‐111). Berlin: de Gruyter.

Dąbrowska, E. (2012). Different speakers, different grammars: Individual differences in native language attainment. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism (to appear).

Häcki Buhofer, A. (2000). Psycholinguistische Aspekte der sprachlichen Variation. In A. Häcki Buhofer (Ed.), Vom Umgang mit sprachlicher Variation: Soziolinguistik, Dialektologie, Methoden und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Festschrift für Heinrich Löffler zum 60. Geburtstag. Tübingen: Francke.

Milroy, J. (2003). On the role of the speaker in language change. In R. Hickey (Ed.), Motives for language change (pp. 143‐157). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wieling, M., Nerbonne, J. & Baayen, R. H. (2011). Quantitative social dialectology: Explaining linguistic variation geographically and socially. PLoS ONE, 6(9), e23613.

Wolfram, W. (2006). Variation and language: overview. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of languages and linguistics II (pp. 333‐40). Oxford: Elsevier.


25.07.2013   14:00-16:00

Chair: Anne Cutler

14:00 - 14:30 Constanze VORWERG
Language assessment in Swiss-German-speaking children
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14:30 - 15:00 Aurélie NARDY et al.
Language acquisition and dialectal variation: when sociolinguistics meets psycholinguistics
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15:00 - 15:30 Ioli AYIOMAMITOU
Profiling language awareness in dialect-speaking children: evidence from Cyprus
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15:30 - 16:00 Marta FAIRCLOUGH
Assessing Spanish language abilities of Hispanic heritage students entering U.S. universities
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25.07.2013   16:30-18:30

Chair: Constanze Vorwerg

16:30 - 17:00 Anne CUTLER
Native language advantage in dealing with variation
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17:00 - 17:30 Shiri LEV-ARI et al.
An experimental study of the role of social factors in loanword adaptation
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17:30 - 18:00 Olga IVANOVA
Social variation across the non-native speakers’ attitudes in L2 discourse construction
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18:00 - 18:30 Constanze VORWERG et al.
Final discussion