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LAEL Departmental Lecture Series: Graeme Trousdale, University of Edinburgh

Date: 28 January 2009 Time: 4.30-6.00 pm

This series of public lectures is promoted by the Department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Lancaster, and aims to present current language and linguistics research that links language to both mind and to society, offering a range of different perspectives.

Speaker: Graeme Trousdale, University of Edinburgh

Venue: Bowland North SR2

Title: Sociolinguistics and the emergence of constructions in English

Abstract: Some recent research in formal linguistics (e.g. Adger 2006) has attempted to account for patterns of variation in a speech community by treating morphosyntactic variants as different bundles of interpretable and uninterpretable features, thus preserving a strict distinction between competence and performance. Conversely, usage-based construction grammars (Langacker 1987, Croft 2001, Goldberg 2006) have challenged the competence-performance distinction, but have had less to say about modelling quantitative approaches to morphosyntactic variation in the speech community. A similar situation holds for the modelling of sociophonetic variation: as Guy (2007:18) observes, formal phonological theory focusses largely on invariance; conversely, much of the sociolinguistic work on phonetic and phonological variation has not been allied with a particular theoretical model. Furthermore, formalist and functionalist approaches to morphosyntactic change, particularly grammaticalization (compare Lightfoot 1999 and Roberts 2007 with Croft 2000), have made significantly different claims about what it is that changes (grammar vs. use) and when such changes occur during an individualʼs lifetime.

In this talk, I argue for a cognitive (particularly constructional) approach to language variation and change. I show how instances of use constructs) and abstractions from such instances (constructions) are applicable to both phonetic/phonological and morphosyntactic variation, and to patterns of change in grammaticalization. Having established some of the principles of the constructional network, I explore how patterns in the network correlate with social parameters for synchronic variation, in effect arguing that an individualʼs social knowledge is constructed along much the same lines. For the diachronic data, I show how taxonomic changes in the constructional network may be associated with grammaticalization. The data I use to illustrate this are drawn from contemporary and historical corpora of English and Scots.

References

Adger, David. 2006. Combinatorial variability. Journal of Linguistics 42: 503-530.

Croft, William. 2000. Explaining language change: an evolutionary approach. London: Longman.

Croft, William. 2001. Radical Construction Grammar: syntactic theory in typological perspective. Oxford: O.U.P.

Goldberg, Adele E. 2006. Constructions at work: the nature of generalization in language. Oxford: O.U.P.

Guy, Gregory. 2007. Variation and phonological theory. In Robert Bayley and Ceil Lucas (eds.) Sociolinguistic variation: theories, methods, and applications. Cambridge: C.U.P., 5-23.

Langacker, Ronald W. 1987. Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, volume 1: theoretical prerequisites. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Lightfoot, David. 1999. The development of language: acquisition, change and evolution. Oxford: Blackwell.

Roberts, Ian. 2007. Diachronic syntax. Oxford: O.U.P.

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Who can attend: Anyone

 

Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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