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HiSoN Summer School 2017

Sunday 16 July 2017 - Sunday 23 July 2017
Metochi Study Centre
Lesbos (Greece)

About HiSoN Summer School 2017

The eleventh summer school organised by the Historical Sociolinguistics Network (HiSoN) will offer classes by leading experts on modern and historical sociolinguists. The summer school will take place at the Metochi Study Centre on the island of Lesbos. 

The Summer School lasts for one week with arrival on Sunday 16 July, classes from Monday to Saturday, and departure on Sunday 23 July in the morning. You will have the opportunity to present your own research at a special session. There is space for only 40 graduate students and young (at heart!) researchers so you are advised to book early. More information will follow soon.

Instructors and courses

Nancy Niedzielski (Rice – Houston) 

Speech perception and language change 

One of the main sources of language variation is language change: as languages change, we see sometimes dramatic differences associated with age. How does the human perceptual system deal with this? Early theories of speech perception assumed an ‘essentialist’ view of phonological categories -- that is, there is some ‘essential’ acoustic component to any given speech sound that perceivers attune to, and this allows them to correctly assign phonological membership to a stimuli. This assumes, however, that all talkers produce at least some identical component, and listeners use this (and, perhaps, only this). Furthermore, these theories suggest that listeners ignore speaker information in the speech signal -- they ignore, in other words, language variation. Current work in speech perception shows that in fact, listeners absolutely use speaker information in the process of speech perception, including information about a speaker’s age. In fact, if we artificially manipulate a speaker’s age (e.g., with pictures of the speaker), we can alter a listener’s phonological categorization. In this course, we will explore this phenomenon. We will look at basic principles of speech perception, and then look specifically at how language change affects these principles -- and, what speech perception itself may have to do with just how languages change.

Pieter Muysken (Nijmegen)  

Amerindian studies meet creole studies: Reconstructing the sociolinguistic history of Ecuadorian Quichua

What does it mean to say that a language is a creole language? What is a creole language? I illustrate this question with an analysis, both historical and linguistic, of developments in the Quechua languages  of the northern Inca Empire, particularly Ecuador, in the period 1400-2000, discussing processes of ethnogenesis, morphological reduction, and  sub- or adstrate influence. My main data come from fieldwork and analysis of historical texts in Ecuador, with which I will illustrate a series of morphological and grammatical phenomena in these languages that show change over the years.

Eli Bjørhusdal (Sogndal) 

Norwegian language policy, past and present 

People in Norway have been speaking and writing a number of different varieties of Norwegian, Sámi, Kven (Finnish), and Danish for centuries. Currently, there are two official written standards of Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk) and three written standards of Sámi (North, South, and Lule Sámi). The course explores the sociological context of and the political rationale behind the codification and official recognition of these varieties during the latter part of the 19th century (Norwegian) and in the 20th century (Sámi). The course also examines the ideology and function of linguistic egalitarianism, as well as how education and public service regulations have affected language use.


  • Hoel, O.L. 2016. Language interest: Norwegian. In Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. by Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, www.romanticnationalism.nethttp://romanticnationalism.net/viewer.p/21/56/object/122-159914)
  • Jahr, E.H. 2014. Part II. The sociopolitical period, 1917-66. Language planning as a sociolinguistic experiment. The case of modern Norwegian, 101-146. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Rasmussen, T. & J.S. Nolan. 2011. Reclaiming Sami languages: indigenous language emancipation from East to West. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 209: 35-55.

Merja Stenroos (Stavanger)  

Administrative writing and the sociolinguistics of late medieval England

Historical sociolinguistic studies often seek to apply methods and research questions developed within present-day sociolinguistics to historical materials. This is not always straightforward, as historical texts provide a very different kind of evidence from present-day speakers. Medieval texts, for many of which the precise context is unknown, form a particular challenge. This course presents an approach to medieval sociolinguistics that takes the available material itself as the starting point. Administrative documents provide a vast body of contextualized material; yet they have been little studied. We will study specific examples of documents and work out lines of research based on the information that they provide; finally, we will consider the theoretical implications of such a material-driven approach.


  • Bergs, Alexander. 2005. ‘Chapter 2: Historical sociolinguistics’ in Social networks and historical sociolinguistics. Studies in morphosyntactic variation in the Paston letters (1421-1503). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 8-21.
  • Stenroos, Merja. 2016. ‘Regional language and culture: the geography of Middle English linguistic variation’ in T. Machan (ed.), Imagining medieval English: language structures and theories, 500 – 1500. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 100-125.
  • Stenroos, Merja and Martti Mäkinen. 2011. ‘A defiant gentleman or “the strengest thiefe of Wales”: reinterpreting the politics in a medieval correspondence’ in A. Jucker and P. Pahta (eds), Communicating early English manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 83-101.
  • Thengs, Kjetil V. 2015. ‘Compactness of expression in Late Middle English legal documents’. Filologia Germanica - Germanic Philology 7. 163-181.
  • Wright, Laura. 2000. ‘Bills, accounts, inventories: everyday trilingual activities in the business world of later medieval England’ in D. Trotter (ed.), Multilingualism in later medieval Britain. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. 149-156.

Miriam Meyerhoff (Wellington)  

The emergence of coherence: Comparative sociolinguistics and new speech communities  

The movement of peoples across language boundaries creates challenges and opportunities for speakers. Over the last few decades, I have worked in various contexts of language contact, where speakers new varieties are emerging and consolidating. These include creole speech communities in the Pacific (Vanuatu) and the Caribbean (Bequia), as well as the speech of young urban migrants to the UK. Using the tools of variationist sociolinguistics to compare not only what forms people use, but also how they use those forms in spontaneous speech, we can explore how new distinct, group identities emerge from the variation available to speakers.


  • Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2009. Replication, transfer and calquing: Using variation as a tool in the study of language contact. Language Variation and Change 21. 297-317.
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam, Agata Daleszynska-Slater & James A. Walker. 2017. Order in the creole speech community: Marking past temporal reference in Bequia (St Vincent and the Grenadines). Language Variation and Change.
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam & Steffen Klaere. 2017. A case for clustering speakers and linguistic variables: Big issues with smaller samples in language variation. To appear in Isabelle Buchstaller & Beat Siebenhaar (eds.) Language Variation - European Perspectives VI:Selected papers from the Eight International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 8) . Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam & Erik Schleef. 2014. Hitting an Edinburgh target: Immigrant adolescents’ acquisition of variation in Edinburgh English. In Robert Lawson (ed.), Sociolinguistics in Scotland. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 103-128.

Jeroen Darquennes (Namur) 

Language conflict management in European language minority settings

The course starts with an overview of the state of the art of research on language conflict. Following a systematic discussion of societal rather than purely linguistic and interactional aspects of language conflict, the course will shed light on a number of language policy and planning strategies that are frequently used in language minority settings to manage different sorts of language strife. The theoretical approach to language conflict will be balanced by an interactive discussion of specific cases. Participants are expected to actively reflect on appropriate methods that could help to spark off a systematic study of historical cases of language conflict. Participants are invited to read all or at least some of the texts listed below.


  • Dua, Hans Raj. 1996. The Politics of Language Conflict. Language Problems & Language Planning 20(1), 1–17.
  • Klug, Constanze. 2000. Was Hänschen nicht lernt … Der Streit um die Sprache in der Schule als Manifestation des kastilisch-katalanischen Sprachkonflikts. Linguistik online 7, 3/00. http://www.linguistik-online.de
  • Kremnitz, Georg. 1990. Wirkungsweisen repressiver Sprachpolitik dargestellt am Beispiel des Katalanischen in der Franco-Zeit. Zeitschrift für Katalanistik 3, 90–102.
  • McRae, Kenneth D. 1983. Conflict and Compromise in Multilingual So cieties. Vol. 1: Switzerland. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Press. [General introduction: The multilingual state; pp. 5-33]
  • Nelde, Peter H. 1997. Language Conflict. In Florian Coulmas (ed.), The Handbook of Sociolinguistics, 285–300. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Rindler Schjerve, Rosita & Eva Vetter. 2003. Historical sociolinguistics and multilingualism: Theoretical and methodological issues in the development of a multifunctional framework. In Rosita Rindler Schjerve (ed.), Diglossia and Power, 35–68. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • Urla, Jacqueline. 2013. Reclaiming Basque. Language, Nation and Cultural Activism. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press. [Chapter: The will to count. Mapping and measuring Basque ; pp. 110-138]
  • Williams, Colin H. 2003. Language policy and planning issues in multicultural societies. In Pierre Larrivée (ed.), Linguistic Conflict and Language Laws. Understanding the Quebec Question, 1-56. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Alexander Bergs (Osnabrück)  

Social networks and communities of practice in historical linguistics

This course introduces students to two heuristic techniques in historical sociolinguistics: social network analysis and communities of practice. Both of these focus on individual speakers and their social as well as linguistic behavior. After a first, hands-on introduction to both approaches, we will then concentrate on language history. On the basis of case studies from the history of English, German, and some other languages, we will discuss some of the problems and perspectives that social network analysis and communities of practice can offer for studying language history in context.


  • Bergs, Alexander. 2012. The Uniformitarian Principle and the Risk of Anachronism. In Juan Manuel Hernández-Campoy & Juan Camilo Conde-Silvestre (eds.), Handbook of Historical Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 80-98.
  • Bergs, Alexander. 2006. Language Change and the Role of the Individual in Historical Social Network Analysis. Logos and Language. Journal of General Linguistics and Language Theory. VI.2. 30-54.
  • Eckert, Penelope. 2006. Communities of Practice. Draft ms from Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics.
  • Fitzmaurice, Susan. 2007. The World of the Periodical Essay: Social networkls and discourse communities in eighteenth-century London. Historical Sociolinguistics / Sociohistorical Linguistics 7. See http://www.hum2.leidenuniv.nl/hsl_shl/periodical%20essay.htm   
  • Jucker, Andreas & Joanna Kopaczyk. 2013. Communities of practice as a locus of language change. In Andreas Jucker & Joanna Kopaczyk (eds.), Communities of practice in the history of English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 1-16.
  • Nevalainen, Terttu. 2012. Historical Sociolinguistics. In Alexander Bergs & Laurel Brinton (eds.), Handbook of English Historical Linguistics. Vol 2. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton. 1438-1457.


Registration includes housing, meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), tuition, the excursion, and the transfers from the airport to Metochi and back. The fee for participation is €600. Register before 1 June 2017.

Since there is only room for 40 participants, applications will be treated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. To register for participation in the HiSoN Summer School 2017, follow the link to the Paylogic services. Paylogic accepts payments through iDeal, VISA and Mastercard.

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