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Communicative situations as a basis for linguistic systems

Colloquium
Heike Wiese
Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Communicative situations as a basis for linguistic systems

I discuss two research strands in linguistics that rarely talk to each other: (1) sociolinguistic approaches to linguistic variability and multi-competence that dispute the existence of bound ‘languages’ and grammatical systems, and (2) theoretical linguistics focusing on grammatical analysis within distinct varieties. I argue that both approaches capture important aspects of language, and show that we can reconcile insights from these two strands. I present a linguistic architecture that takes communicative situations (‘comm-sits’) as the core of linguistic systematicity, and integrates comm-sits into lexical representations. I illustrate this with examples from “free-range language”: language in settings that are less confined by normative ideologies of monolingualism and linguistic purity. Drawing on insights from such settings, I show that comm-sits can form the basis for linguistic coherence and grammatical systems, while languages can emerge as optional sociolinguistic indices.