29th European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information
University of Toulouse (France), 17-28 July, 2017

Social Meaning, Sociolinguistic Variation and Game-Theoretic Pragmatics

Heather Burnett, E. Allyn Smith

Language and Logic (Introductory)

First week, from 11:00 to 12:30


This course gives an introduction to the study and modelling of social meaning and sociolinguistic variation for researchers working in formal semantics, pragmatics and the philosophy of language. More specifically, we explore how models commonly used in game-theoretic/probabilistic pragmatics (Benz et al. 2005, Franke & Jäger 2016) can be usefully applied to phenomena studied in variationist sociolinguistics (Labov 1963, 1966 et seq.). We argue that, by virtue of its interactive and probabilistic nature, this framework has the potential to yield explicit formalized theories of the cognitive and social processes underlying the construction of linguistic meaning and personal identity (Eckert 2012). We show how game theoretic models have been used to analyze pragmatic phenomena of interest to sociolinguists (politeness, slurs, discourse particles), and explore how current theories in this branch of formal pragmatics can be extended to model quantitative patterns of socially conditioned variation and change.