Social Meaning Berlin 2019

Dates: 20-21 March, 2019
Location: ZAS, Schützenstraße 18, 3rd floor, Trajekte-Raum (308)
Organizers: Stefanie Jannedy, Stephanie Solt & Manfred Krifka


The social meaning of a linguistic form is the set of speaker properties, identities, ideologies, attitudes and stances that it communicates or indexes. One of the current central goals of sociolinguistics is the exploration of how social structures are reflected, constructed, and transmitted through language use and how interpretations and social meanings come about through ideological dispositions of language users. The perceptual salience of a variant surfaces in those cases where it is linked to ideological schemes and therefore noticeable and interpretable. Eckert (1989, 2008, 2012; Eckert & Labov 2017) has laid the ground work on individual stylistic variation and social meaning within the third wave of variation. Levon explores the role of stereotypes on perceptual processing and how variation comes to be associated with social meaning (Levon & Fox 2014), and the impact on language change, giving us insights into the mechanisms of social cognition. With her work in sociophonetics and articulatory work on social accents and language change, Stuart-Smith (McCarthy & Stuart-Smith 2013) adds yet another perspective on the issue.

Recently, it has been increasingly recognized by scholars in semantics, pragmatics and the philosophy of language that social meaning is not separate from the sorts of meaning traditionally studied in those disciplines, but rather overlaps with and interacts with such content. Potts & Kawahara (2004) and McCready (2014) approach honorifics and politeness markers as a variety of expressive language, demonstrating that their semantic contribution can be analyzed compositionally via the same sort of formal frameworks applied to other sorts of expressive content. Burnett (2017, in press) shows that the social meaning carried by the choice of a variant of a variable (e.g. -in vs -ing) can be productively modelled using the tools of game-theoretic pragmatics.  Other relevant topics that have been fruitfully studied from the perspective of semantics/pragmatics/philosophy of language include the social meaning of determiners (Acton & Potts 2014), intensification (Beltrama 2016) and especially slurs (e.g. Anderson & Lepore 2013; Jeshion 2013; Popa-Wyatt 2016).

The objective of the workshop Social Meaning Berlin 2019 is to bring together researchers from these very diverse disciplines to discuss our common interests around the topic of social meaning.  What can we learn from one another? What questions do we have in common? And where do our interests, assumptions and goals diverge?

Invited Speakers:

  • Heather Burnett (CNRS, Université Paris 7-Denis Diderot)
  • Penny Eckert (Stanford University)
  • Erez Levon (Queen Mary University London)
  • Elin McCready (Aoyama Gakuin University)
  • Mihaela Popa-Wyatt (University of Birmingham)
  • Jane Stuart-Smith (University of Glasgow)


We invite abstract submissions for talks and poster presentations on topics relating to social meaning from any theoretical perspective and methodological approach, including (but not limited to) formal, experimental, phonetic, sociolinguistic, semantic and/or pragmatic. Abstracts should be a maximum of one (1) A4 page in length (12-point type, 1-inch margins), with examples, data, figures and/or references on a second page, and must be anonymous. Early-stage work and research in progress is welcome. 

Abstracts may be submitted via EasyChair at the following link:

Key dates:

Abstract submissions due:             February 3, 2019

Notification of acceptance:             February 18, 2019