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SNESL 2008 : Workshop on Social Networks and English Sociohistorical Linguistics


When Apr 24, 2008 - Apr 25, 2008
Where Almagro, Spain
Abstract Registration Due Jan 7, 2008
Submission Deadline Jan 31, 2008
Notification Due Feb 15, 2008
Categories    english   sociolinguistics   diachrony   social networks

Call For Papers

Aim and scope

This workshop focuses on applications of Social Network Analysis (SNA) to the sociohistorical analysis of the English language. SNA was first introduced to sociolinguistics by a study of the Belfast vernacular carried out by Lesley and James Milroy in 1975 (Milroy 1987). Subsequently, the article "Linguistic Change, Social Network and Speaker Innovation" (Milroy and Milroy 1985) and James Milroy's Linguistic Variation and Change (Milroy 1992) introduced an historical focus by examining the implications of social network analysis for theories of language change.

Social Network Analysis and English Sociohistorical Linguistics

According to Milroy (1987: 178), "since all speakers everywhere contract informal social relationships, the network concept is in principle capable of universal application." It seems thus likely that social networks existed in the past as well as in the present. It should therefore be possible to identify social networks in any historical period and investigate how these networks can be related to processes of language innovation and the diffusion.

Given the increasing interest in describing the history of English from the perspective of social network analysis, this workshop attempts to illustrate some of the potentials of this new approach. The list of questions that can be addressed here includes (Tieken 2000):

- To what extent can Milroy's network strength scale be applied as a tool for measuring network strength in the past?

- How do we define the notion of the vernacular with respect to older stages of English?

- How far back in time can we go and still apply social network analysis as a useful research tool?

- Once potential linguistic innovators and early adopters have been identified, how can we study the spread of linguistic change (a) from one network to another and (b) within a network?

- How can the integrated research model incorporating social stratification and social network analysis as advocated by the Milroys be made to apply to the study of older forms of English?

- How can the conflict model discussed by Milroy (1987) be employed in studying and describing linguistic change.

Structure of the Session

The workshop will consist of:

(1) presentations of the workshop,
(2) presentation of the selected short plenary lectures (30 minutes plus discussion),
(3) two long plenary lectures (50 minutes plus discussion) by invited speakers, and
(4) general discussion.

Call for abstracts

We invite abstracts of max. 500 words for 20-minute presentations in the three areas described below. Your abstract should contain:

- The title of the presentation
- Your name(s), affiliation(s) and e-mail address(es)
- The research question(s) that you address
- A discussion of the methodology
- A description of the data
- A summary of the obtained results

Abstracts should be sent to the general conference address ( before January 31, 2008.

The organization will cover the inscription and lodging expenses for those participants whose papers are accepted for the workshop.


James Milroy, Linguistic Variation and Change (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).

James Milroy and Lesley Milroy, "Linguistic Change, Social Network and Speaker Innovation", Journal of Linguistics 21 (1985), 339-384.

Lesley Milroy, Language and Social Networks, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987 [1st ed. 1980]).

Lesley Milroy, "Interpreting the Role of Extralinguistic Variables in Linguistic Variation and Change", in Nonstandard Varieties of Language, eds. Gunnel Melchers and Nils-Lennart Johannesson (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1994), 131-145.

Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, "Social Network Analysis and the History of English", European Journal of English Studies 4.3 (2000), 211-216.

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