Toasting One Year of LaVaLi!


This year, we are celebrating the first anniversary of our LaVaLi project. The DFG-funded project Tracing Language Variation and Change across the Lifespan is run by principal investigator Prof. Dr. Isabelle Buchstaller and her team consisting of postdocs Dr. Mirjam Eiswirth and Dr. James Grama, as well as PhD student Johanna Mechler.

What we look at

We’re interested in how speakers change in their language behaviour when changes in their lives occur, e.g., when they leave school and enter adulthood, or when they retire from professional life. This helps us answer big theoretical questions in linguistics about how language change works and about how language attitudes, perception and production relate to each other.

Our data

The data we work with consists of two different sets: the panel data, which traces individuals over the course of their lives from the 1970s to today, and the trend data which records similar people at similar stages in their lives; 32 speakers were recorded in 1990 and another 32 in 2010. To give an example from the panel dataset: one speaker, Anne (pseudonym), was first interviewed in the 1970s. At that point, she and her husband had just started considering a move to New Zealand. By the time we met Anne again more than 30 years later, the couple had indeed moved to New Zealand and raised their family there. They returned to the Tyneside area after a decade. While in New Zealand, Anne worked as a seamstress and her husband taught at college. In her interviews, Anne reports that her co-workers adopted some of her Geordie words.

Based on this kind of panel data we can investigate how language varies and changes within an individual speaker over time. The trend data allows us to see how language varies and changes at the community level. Taken together, we can compare how the individual behaves with respect to the community – are they the first to adopt new words like “zoom”, or do they resist such changes and prefer to talk about “videoconferencing”, for example?

Stay tuned

If you want to find out more about these questions, keep an eye on our blog: here, we will present work conducted by junior researchers within the project. They are looking at how the sounds, sentence structure and words in Geordie have changed over time.

We are excited to share this journey with you!
Mirjam & Lea

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