Google Group: here.
Workshop slides: here.
Variation off the beaten track: Expanding our understanding of social structures
In recent years, there has been an increased interest in the intersection of documentary linguistics and sociolinguistics. This means that more and more sociolinguistic work is being done with non-Western communities, and more documentary linguists are incorporating variation and sociolinguistic patterning into their grammar writing and documentation. In this workshop, we share our experiences of analyzing linguistic variation in under-documented languages, while trying to understand the effects of social structures both familiar and unfamiliar in Western communities as they play out in surprising ways. We present case studies from Papua New Guinea, China, and Vanuatu. How can we understand an under-studied social variable such as clan and how it interacts with community contact, alliances, social networks, and obligations? How might we reconceptualize age as a variable, which may have differing meaningful divisions from culture to culture, and may vary in the role it plays in innovation and diffusion? We discuss some specific problems we have faced, which are not necessarily exclusive to those working in “exotic” locations, such as: difficulties in interpreting variation due to lack of anthropological and ethnographic background, data sparsity, the transcription bottleneck, unbalanced sampling, and challenges in reconciling variation and abstraction in describing linguistic structures. This workshop is aimed at both documentary linguists who are interested in looking at sociolinguistic variation in the languages they are working with, and at sociolinguists who have encountered similar issues in their own research. We present some of our solutions and will have a portion of the workshop dedicated to discussion with workshop participants for sharing their ideas and experience.