Workshop: Probabilistic variation across dialects and varieties


Important information

Location: Leuven, Belgium. MSI, Erasmusplein 2, Room 02.18

Dates: 4-5 April 2016

Contact Person: Jason Grafmiller

Meeting Email:


Workshop program (pdf)


This two-day workshop to be held at the KU Leuven seeks to bring together quantitative variation analysts who share an interest in exploring, evaluating, and comparing variation patterns in a comparative perspective.

The meeting is organized in the context of a five-year project based at the KU Leuven entitled "Exploring probabilistic grammar(s) in varieties of English around the world" (see project website). Situated at the crossroads of research on English as a World Language, usage-based theoretical linguistics, variationist linguistics, and cognitive sociolinguistics, the project marries the spirit of the Probabilistic Grammar framework (which posits that grammatical knowledge is experience-based and partially probabilistic) to research along the lines of the English world-wide paradigm (which is concerned with the dialectology and sociolinguistics of post-colonial English-speaking communities around the world). Questions of interest include the following:

  • What is the extent to which varieties of English share a probabilistic grammar that predicts variation patterns across different varieties?
  • Which of the individual probabilistic constraints are universal, and which are culturally malleable?
  • Are some variation phenomena/alternations (e.g. the English dative alternation, the genitive alternation, particle placement...) more stable across varieties/speech communities than others?
  • How do we evaluate overall probabilistic similarity between varieties?
  • Are cross-varietal differences in syntactic variation better explained in terms of rule-based or memory (exemplar) based models/theories?
The workshop is intended as a rather informal, round table-style meeting to inspire cross-fertilization among researchers with broadly similar research agendas.


Local Information


We've reserved rooms at the Hotel Binnenhof for all our invited speakers. The Hotel Binnenhof is also available for other attendees, though we cannot guarantee rooms will be available.

Other options include:

Things to see

Leuven is not a very big city, but it has a rich history and there are plenty of curiousities worth exploring — the city's official tourism page has lots of suggestions. And the great thing is that almost everything is no more than a 15-20 minute walk from the center of town.


For international travelers arriving by plane, the simplest way to get to Leuven from Brussels National airport in Zaventem (Brussel-Nat-Luchthaven) is via the national railway (NMBS). There are direct trains to Leuven every half hour or so, and the trip takes roughly 25 minutes.

For international travelers arriving by train from the east, you can take a direct train from Liege-Guillemins station to Leuven. Trains leave every half hour, and the trip takes approximately 40 minutes. Those arriving from the west into Brussels South (Midi/Zuid) can catch one of the many trains from Brussels to Leuven. Just make sure to take an IC (intercity) rather than an L (local) train.

From Leuven station, it's just a quick 5 minute walk to the hotel. The linguistics department is located on the 2nd floor of the Faculteit Letteren, just down the street from the hotel, at Blijde-Inkomststraat 21.