Thematic Group 2 – Dialects and Registers

Leader: Andrew Weir

Members: Andrew Weir, Tor A. Åfarli, Kristin Melum Eide, Øystein Vangsnes, Björn Lundquist, Bror-Magnus Strand, Kristine Bentzen, Tanja Kupisch, Kristin Klubbo Brodahl, Martin Krämer, Tina Louise Ringstad

Description: This groupseeks to address the question: how are language varieties which are very closely related (varieties which might be pretheoretically considered ‘dialects’ or ‘registers’ of ‘the same language’) mentally represented in the language faculties of individuals who master more than one of these? Many language users are bi- (or multi-) dialectal, and can shift between their dialects depending on context. Do such speakers ‘mentally segregate’ the grammars of these dialects, and if so, how? Register variation poses a similar question: almost all language users can alter their register depending on context, both in the ‘normal’ sense of register (e.g. formal/informal), but also depending on medium and genre — e.g. recipes/instructional register show object drop in English, while this is not generally possible in spoken register. Cases like this last one show that register variation has or can have certain purely formal aspects in addition to sociolinguistic ones. Is register variation in the individual a limiting case of dialect variation – are essentially all language users ‘multilingual’, in the sense of Thomas Roeper’s ‘universal bilingualism’? If so, what implications does this have for the architecture of grammar? Questions of this kind are intended to be the focus of the group, but there can potentially also be scope for inclusion of ‘traditional’ microvariationist work, in formal perspective, on closely related dialects and registers.