Plenary at DHBenelux

DH Benelux 2022

Theme: RE-MIX. Creation and alteration in DH (Hybrid)

It’s an honour to have been invited as a keynote speaker to DHBenelux 2022, where I will talk about

Modeling and investigating variation in language use from a communicative perspective: methods, challenges, and types of evidence

For the investigation of variation in language use, besides the extra-linguistic context it is also essential to consider variation given the more local linguistic context. This allows us to contribute towards a better understanding of why there is variation. In particular, we are interested in how variation helps to modulate the information content of linguistic units, achieving optimization effects for efficient communication (Jaeger and Levy, 2007; Piantadosi et al., 2011). I will present how we can detect and analyze variation with data-driven methods across different dimensions of variation (i.e. the extra-linguistic context such as time, demographics, registers). We pursue answers to questions such as:

  • how do scientific language change over time and possibly become more optimal for scientific communication;
  • how gender and social class differences impact language use within formal vs. informal contexts;
  • do literary research articles experience an effect of “scientization” over time, e.g. by becoming more standardized?

Possible effects of selected linguistic choices on language use are traced at the level of local linguistic context. In accordance with communicative accounts, we focus on tracing effects of variation that modulate the information content transmitted. I will also spend some time on discussing how integrating diverse types of evidence (e.g. corpus-based and experimental) helps to work towards a more comprehensive understanding of variation in language use.

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