We are delighted to announce our plenary speakers for the conference:
Corpus Phonology: Exploring Standard Scottish English
This talk introduces one of the latest approaches within corpus linguistics: corpus phonology, i.e. the use of phonological corpora for the study of phonetic and phonological properties of languages and accents (e.g. Durand, Gut & Kristoffersen 2014). In the first part, both a brief overview of this new line of research and a description of the components of a phonological corpus (raw data, annotations) will be given. In the second part, corpus phonology will be illustrated with the example of three corpus-based studies investigating Standard Scottish English phonology. Using the phonemically annotated ICE Scotland (Schützler, Gut & Fuchs 2017), rhotics and rhoticity, the realisation of the NURSE vowel as well as the /w/-/ʍ/ contrast in Scottish Standard English will be explored. Results show that this variety of English is variably rhotic, that some rhotics are realised as a tap or trill, and that only few speakers show a full NURSE merger, while few of them maintain the /w/-/ʍ/ contrast. In addition, it was found that the realisation of these phonological features is determined more by language-internal than by social factors and that high variability across speakers exists.
What can we know about a word from the company it keeps? A critical appraisal of corpus-based semantics
At least since Firth (1957), corpus data have become a key source of knowledge about word meaning. The idea that we can know a word by analyzing its co-occurrence patterns in language usage has become the central tenet of distributional semantics (Lenci 2018). Much has changed from the early days of corpus-based semantics and highly sophisticated models and methods are now available to acquire information about word meaning, alongside other linguistic knowledge. Actually, corpora have become the only source of semantic information used by Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence systems. In this talk, I will make a general critical appraisal of the achievements and limits of corpus-based semantic methods. What can we extract about word meanings from corpora? Is the new generation of methods, like the most recent neural language models, the real breakthrough that is often heralded? Why do certain aspects of meaning seem to be constantly elusive? Is it a problem of the models or of the data we use? Or does it depend on the way we treat corpus data as a source of meaning? What challenges are in front of us in this research area?
Computational modelling of short-term lexical semantic change in contemporary English
Lexical semantic change, i.e. the phenomenon in which the semantics of lexical items changes over time, has been the object of qualitative research for over a century. Anthropological studies in linguistics (Boas 1911; Sapir 1912; 1928) and in conceptual history (Williams 1976; Richter 1995) have recognised the importance of this research to reach a better understanding of the dynamics of cultural, social and political systems. Philological methods (e.g., Kenny 1995, Wierzbicka 1997) and theoretical linguistics research (Geeraerts 2010; Koch 2016; Grondelaers et al. 2007) have also engaged with the analysis of language-internal aspects of this phenomenon.
Today, access to very large born-digital collections from the web allows us to study short-term changes in contemporary language data, with the potential to shed new light into our understanding of cultural and societal changes. For example, the verb “follow” acquired the sense of staying informed about someone’s postings in 2007, after the launch of the social media platform Twitter. In recent years computational research aimed at detecting lexical semantic change phenomena from large corpora spanning long time intervals has achieved encouraging results (cf. e.g., Schlechtweg et al. 2020), but so far little work has been done on detecting short-term lexical semantic shifts.
In this talk I will present my research on developing computational models for semantic change drawing on state-of-the-art methods and will share my experience of working in a range of interdisciplinary projects dealing with social media and contemporary digital sources, including web archives, Twitter and emoji. This will offer us an opportunity to reflect on the types of lexical semantic changes that can be detected using these methods, and on how they reflect temporary or more lasting changes in contemporary English.
‘Calm down Dear!’ Women’s linguistic participation in UK Political Institutions
The underrepresentation of women in politics is a persistent and seemingly intractable problem for British politics. In this paper I discuss some of the findings from my 2020 book, Women, Language and Politics in which I attempt to use theoretical and methodological sociolinguistic approaches to discover some of the obstacles and barriers that women in politics face. Researchers of political institutions are greatly helped by the wealth of data available to them in the analysis of political discourse from video recordings and written records to in-situ observation and large searchable datasets. Here I discuss some of the advantages of combining approaches to identify patterns of participation across different institutions. In doing so, I discuss analyses of parliamentary data from The Scottish Parliament; the Northern Ireland Assembly; the Welsh Assembly and the House of Commons. I also consider some of the pitfalls with conducting gender and language research, including oversimplifying the notion of a ‘women’s’ or ‘men’s style of speech, and failing to recognise the ideological underpinnings of beliefs about gendered behaviour.
There will be two workshops on Wednesday 27th:
1) Comparing cross-linguistic complexity (online and face-to-face)
2) Hands-on session on Corpus Linguistics with R (face-to-face only)
On Thursday afternoon, we will have a brief boat trip on the river Cam followed by a Pimms & pizza gathering at OtherSyde, overlooking the river.
On Friday evening, our conference dinner will be held at Jesus College. There will be a bar and a disco after dinner.
Both social events are included in the registration costs.
Abstracts booklet now available here (large PDF)!
FULL PROGRAM AVAILABLE HERE (PDF).
Please note this is subject to change - last updated 25/7/2022
Here is a broad outline of the four days of the conference.
Wednesday 27 July
5pm Opening ceremony and welcome reception
Thursday 28 July
Industry panel: researchers from small and large companies on what linguists can bring to AI and
Boat trip to Cambridge Museum of Technology (drinks and nibbles)
Friday 29 July
Conference dinner & disco
Saturday 30 July
Assembly and closing ceremony