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Methodological approaches to synchronic and diachronic heritage language data


16-17 February 2018

Responsable de l'activité

Anita Auer


Prof. Anita Auer, Unil

Dr Jennifer Thorburn (UNIL)

Dr Adina Staicov (Unizh)


Prof. Naomi Nagy (University of Toronto, Canada)

Dr. Adrian Leemann (Lancaster University, UK)

Dr. Markus Schiegg (University of Erlangen, Germany)


Migration often leads to speakers of a specific mother tongue finding themselves in a situation, i.e. in a different country, where another language is dominant. As a result of this situation, the mother tongue, referred to as 'heritage language' (see Aalberse & Muysken 2013 for a discussion of the 'heritage language' definition; Polinsky & Kagan 2007), is likely to be affected one way or another. Factors that play a role here can be multiple and interrelated, e.g. what generation of heritage speaker are we dealing with, what were the reasons for leaving the home country and in what environment does the heritage speaker find themselves in the new country, what motivations are there for language learning and/or language maintenance, what role does the family and larger community play (cf. for instance to Valdés 2000; Carreira 2004; Polinsky & Kagan 2007; Potowski 2013). Since the so-called 'Age of Mass Migration' (c. 1850-1940) and ensuing globalization, many people have left their home countries in search of betterment and/or adventure, but have preserved their original identity in the form of their language, i.e. the heritage language. These languages can be traced in letters, diaries, newspapers, and early recordings for the past and in speech recordings today.
This workshop will be concerned with different methodological approaches that will allow for the study of empirical heritage language data, both in the past and in the present. A particular focus will be on heritage languages in the North American context, i.e. where English or French are the dominant languages. In order to get a broad overview of approaches, leading scholars who work in different linguistic fields and therefore take a different perspective on heritage language data will be invited to present, apply, and critically discuss their respective approaches. The focus will be on
(a) the linguistic questionnaire and linguistic analyses: Prof. Naomi Nagy (University of Toronto, Canada),
(b) sociophonetic analyses of speech: Dr. Adrian Leemann (Lancaster University, England), and
(c) written historical data, e.g. letters, diaries: Prof. Stephan Elspass (University of Salzburg, Austria).
This workshop is primarily aimed at postgraduate students working in the field of sociolinguistics, language variation and change (past and present) of any language. The workshop will be of interest to more junior (MA level) and senior scholars alike.


Université de Lausanne



Deadline for registration 13.02.2018
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