Production, Perception, Attitude


PPA workshop

An interdisciplinary workshop on understanding and explaining linguistic variation

Hosted by the University of Leuven, April 2-3, 2009

Organized by the Universities of Leuven, Nijmegen, and Groningen for the VNC-research programme 'The interaction between intelligibility, attitude, and linguistic distance'.

PPA workshop

This two day symposium focuses on (and confronts) work in variationist linguistics, perceptual dialectology, and language attitude research. Contributions tackle the following topics:

  • Innovative methods and techniques for measuring language variation and change, language perceptions, or language attitudes;
  • Innovative methods and techniques for collecting reliable data in these disciplines;
  • Data-based analysis which highlights the causal relations between production, perception, and attitudes.
Although the focus in the research programme which frames this workshop is on Dutch, contributions are not restricted to linguistic variation in the Low Countries.



Although linguistic variation in the Dutch language area (The Netherlands and Flanders) has enjoyed an enormous amount of descriptive and theoretical attention, few reliable data are available on the origin of this variation and on how it can be accounted for. In order to explain language variation, the sociolinguistic correlates of phonetic, lexical, and morpho-syntactic variables ?have to be traced back to a complex set of underlying criteria? (Knops & Van Hout 1988: 2). The identification of at least some of these criteria is the ambitious aim to which the present workshop is devoted.

Up to now, linguistic variation in The Netherlands has been investigated predominantly from the perspective of language production, i. e. in terms of the description of the linguistic distance observed between regional and stylistic varieties of Dutch (cf. Geeraerts, Grondelaers & Speelman 1999; Van Hout & Van de Velde 2001; Heeringa & Nerbonne 2001). In order, however, to move from merely describing linguistic variation to explaining variation, three extensions are needed.

First, the production perspective on linguistic variation has to be refined theoretically and methodologically to chart hitherto unknown patterns and (more importantly) triggers of variation. Second, it is well-known that some language variation and change patterns are sustained by attitudinal factors (whereby ?attitudes? are provisionally defined as the culturally and experientially acquired inclination to perceive and evaluate a variety as systematically negative or positive). Although the causal link between perception and production has recurrently been demonstrated (cf. Van Bezooijen 2001), both define different disciplines in (socio)linguistics and social psychology which rarely interact. Attitude research is moreover hindered by a lack of reliable quantitative data (Grondelaers, Van Hout & Steegs: in press).

In addition to these two perspectives, the workshop also focuses on the (often missing) link between the production and the evaluative perception of language variation. Before language variation can be subjectively evaluated, it must first be recognized by the layman. Perceptual dialectology (Long & Preston 1999) therefore investigates to what extent linguistic laymen recognize and understand other varieties, and where they situate the boundaries between their own and other varieties. Although this paradigm represents one of the oldest disciplines in sociolinguistics (pioneered in Weijnen 1946), its findings have rarely been systematically confronted with production and attitudinal perception data. Another crucial perspective which has largely been ignored in this respect is the mutual intelligibility between language varieties, a factor which is co-determined by attitudes and by linguistic distance (Gooskens 2007).

The present meeting is devoted to enhancing the convergence between the cited research disciplines in order to develop (the preliminaries to) an explanatory model of language variation and change. The workshop is interdisciplinary in focus and features three plenary speakers and presentations by the universities participating in the research programme. In addition, we invite contributions from (socio)linguists and (social) psychologists working in the three aforementioned areas for plenary oral presentations as well as an extended poster programme (poster presenters will be allowed plenary presentation time to advertize their posters).


  • Geeraerts, D., S. Grondelaers & D. Speelman (1999). Convergentie en Divergentie in de Nederlandse Woordenschat: een Onderzoek naar kleding- en voetbalnamen. Amsterdam: Meertensinstituut.
  • Grondelaers, S., R. van Hout & M. Steegs. Non-circular scales and ecological stimuli. Measuring accent attitudes in the Dutch language area. To appear in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.
  • Gooskens, Charlotte (2007): The contribution of linguistic factors to the intelligibility of closely related languages. Journal of Multilingual and multicultural development 28 (6), 445-467.
  • Heeringa, W. & J. Nerbonne (2002). Dialect areas and dialect continua. In David Sankoff, William Labov and Anthony Kroch (eds.), Language Variation and Change, 375-400. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Long, D., D. R. Preston (Eds.). (1999). Handbook of Perceptual Dialectology. Volume 1. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins.
  • Van Bezooijen, R. (2001). Poldernederlands. Hoe kijken vrouwen ertegenaan? Nederlandse Taalkunde 6, 257-271.
  • Van de Velde, H. & R. van Hout. R-atics. Sociolinguistic, Phonetic and Phonological Characteristics of /r/. Etudes & Travaux 4. Brussel: Editions Université Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Van Hout, R. & U. Knops (1988). Language Attitudes in the Dutch Language Area. Dordrecht: Foris

Plenary speakers

  • Dennis Preston (Oklahoma State University)
  • Janet Pierrehumbert (Northwestern University)
  • Roeland van Hout (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Programme & local committee

  • Dirk Speelman (University of Leuven)
  • Stefan Grondelaers (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • Dirk Geeraerts (University of Leuven)
  • Roeland van Hout (Radboud University Nijmegen)
  • John Nerbonne (University of Groningen)
  • Charlotte Gooskens (University of Groningen)
  • Sebastian Kürschner (University of Groningen)
  • Leen Impe (University of Leuven)
  • Mieke Steegs (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Important dates

  • December 15, 2008: Abstracts due
  • January 15, 2009: Notification of acceptance
  • March 1st, 2009: Final abstracts due for inclusion in workshop programme
  • April 2-3, 2009: Workshop

Conference website


From the invited and submitted contributions, 15 papers will be selected for inclusion in an edited volume. The workshop organizers are currently negotiating a volume in the series Studies in Language Variation with Benjamins.