William Labov and Gillian Sankoff Come to Ohio State

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The Linguistics Department is very excited to have William Labov and Gillian Sankoff of University of Pennsylvania come to Ohio State later this week. Sponsored by the Student Linguistic Association, the event spans Thursday, February 28, and Friday, March 1. See below for a detailed itinerary.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

  • 12:30–1:30pm Undergraduate Lunch with William Labov and Gillian Sankoff

          Location: 12th Avenue Bread Company, 251 W. 12th Avenue

Undergraduate students are welcome to spend an informal lunch with Dr. Labov and Dr. Sankoff to talk about their work, their studies, academia, graduate school, etc. Pizza will be provided. Contact Julie McGory at mcgory.1@osu.edu if you are interested in attending.

  • 5:00–6:30pm Lecture by William Labov: The Language of Life and Death

          Location: 1180 Postle Hall. 305 W. 12th Avenue

William Labov extends his widely used framework for narrative analysis to matters of greatest human concern: the danger of death, violence, premonitions, and large-scale community conflicts. While remaining true to the facts, narrators use linguistic devices to present themselves in the best possible light and change the listener’s perception of who is to blame for what has occurred. This lecture will present cognitive and social principles that govern the construction of oral narratives of personal experience, illustrated in accounts of the escalation of violence, confrontation with death, and communication with the dead.

  • 6:30–8:00pm Reception

          Location: 12th Avenue Bread Company, 251 W. 12th Avenue

Friday, March 1, 2013

  • 9:10–10:05am William Labov visits Brian Joseph’s Linguistics 5901 class

          Location: 277 Caldwell Labs

Dr. Labov speaks in Brian Joseph’s Introduction to Historical Linguistics class, speaking on “’How regular is regular sound change?’ Answer: ‘very.’”

  • 1:30–2:30pm Gillian Sankoff leads a Brownbag Luncheon:Professionalizing Ourselves as Linguists

          Location: Ohio Union Round Room

  • 3:55–5:00pm Lecture by William Labov :What is it to be Learned?

          Location: 21 Lazenby

This presentation is an effort to define the target of the language learner, asking: what are the data that the child attends to in the process of becoming a native speaker? This question necessarily engages the definition of language in the largest sense. It is argued that the human language‐learning capacity is directed to the acquisition of the general pattern used in the speech community. Supporting this view is overwhelming evidence that children do not acquire the non‐native features of their parents’ speech, whether these are dialect differences or foreign accents. The end result is a high degree of uniformity in both the categorical and variable aspects of language production, where individual variation is reduced below the level of linguistic significance. Studies of changes now in progress typically show uniform patterns across metropolitan areas and even larger regions involving 30 to 40 million speakers. The sharp dialect boundaries that separate such regions confront us with the obverse problem of accounting for what children do not learn from closely neighboring speech communities.

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