Universidade de Vigo
Universitat de les Illes Balears

ICAME 40 - CFP Pre-conference workshop "Register approaches to language variation and change in English(es)". Conveners: E. Seoane & D. Biber

November 05, 2018

Pre-conference workshop at ICAME 40, Neuchâtel, Switzerland (1-5 June 2019)

Register approaches to language variation and change in English(es)

Conveners: Elena Seoane (University of Vigo, Spain) and Douglas Biber (Northern Arizona University, US)

Registers, defined by Neumann (2013: 16) as “types of instantiated texts reflecting a similar situation”, are shaped by their situational context, communicative purpose, social function and intended audience. As such, they encapsulate what Bybee and Hopper call “the pressure of discourse” (2001: 3), which itself serves to determine the structure of grammar. Whereas the existence of register differences has always been an underlying assumption in work on language variation and change, a number of recent studies have shown how register is an essential predictor of language change (among others, Biber 2012, Biber and Egbert 2016, Biber and Gray 2013, 2016); as a consequence, they have highlighted the importance of controlling for register variation in the analysis of synchronic and diachronic variation, in that it is a potentially distorting factor (Mair 2015: 126; Hilpert and Mair 2015: 181). This has been demonstrated empirically in various studies that identify register-dependent variability as a “confounding factor” (Mair 2015: 141) that needs to be included in any multivariate analysis of variation (e.g. Szmrecsanyi and Hinrichs 2008 on genitive variation in CSAE, FRED the Brown family of corpora, and Mair 2015 on modality in the latter).
Variationist studies such as these, which use register as a predictor variable, differ from – and are complemented by – text-linguistic studies, in which the primary goal is to describe the registers themselves by providing quantitative analyses of their linguistic features, including patterns of register variation (cf. Biber 2012: 12-17; Biber and Gray 2013: 122; Biber et al. 2016). Text-linguistic studies shed light on two crucial questions about grammatical change, especially change in the recent history of English, which is more quantitative in nature: when and where (in what particular register(s)) did it take place?
Against this background, the workshop aims to bring together researchers who use electronic corpora to explore grammatical variation and change across the English-speaking world by adopting a variationist design to examine register-dependent variability, and/or a text-linguistic design, as a means of enhancing our knowledge of registers and their role in language change.
We welcome contributions that:
- Examine the role of register in the diachronic evolution of linguistic phenomena
- Explore synchronic register differences in one or more varieties of English
- Compare register variability across different varieties of English
- Describe the functionally motivated distinctive discourse conventions of particular registers
- Challenge stereotypes about particular registers, both offline traditional registers and “new” online registers (e.g. blogs, tweets, Internet forums)
- Question the spoken vs written dichotomy as a predictor of variation in favor of register-dependent developments
- Address quantitative and qualitative methodological issues regarding the study of register variation across different varieties and across different periods of time
- Discuss optimal corpus design for register studies and review the suitability of current corpora for register research
- Approach language acquisition, learning, teaching and description from a register perspective

Abstracts should be 500 words max. (including references) and submitted via www.icame40.ch/login. Deadline: December 15, 2018.

Please contact us if you have any questions at elena.seoane@uvigo.es, douglas.biber@nau.edu