Working Group 8:

Language variation

In this working group, we are looking at the impact of new communication technologies on language variation, language contact, pragmatics and interaction. Variationist sociolinguistics has only recently formed substantive insights on technologies like mass media and social media. Speaking to and through technology is almost unexplored. But such new phenomena challenge fundamental areas of theory, like speech communities, speech accommodation, and innovation diffusion. The basic fabric of face-to-face conversation may change as wearable Augmented Reality (AR) gives access to simultaneous additional online information, through ear-/eyewear. In the human-machine era, theories created for an offline world need a reboot, through dedicated collaboration with technology specialists.

Methodological implications are also striking. What is a ‘sociolinguistic interview’ in Augmented and Virtual Reality? If AR mediates a conversation, how many interlocutors are there? Case in point: recently developed hearing aids can track individual voice patterns and discern which voices the wearer is paying attention to, by associating specific brainwaves with each different voice they hear (Han et al. 2019). Sociolinguistic methodologies are adrift here, needing major recalibration.

Further questions abound. How are sociolinguistic variation, gesture and paralinguistic features encoded in machines as standards, or otherwise interpreted by AI? Could AI in theory speak any language variety? Might there also be new pressures against varieties as we speak with machines, or rather new freedoms? We are here to explore all these and more aspects of the human-machine era.

Keywords:

WG chairs:

Robert Fuchs

robert.fuchs [ a t ] uni-hamburg.de

Verginica Barbu Mititelu

vergi [ a t ] racai.ro

Miriam Lind

miriamlind [ a t ] uni-mainz.de

Interested?

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