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Meeting Description: Variation in Language Acquisition


Variation in Language Acquisition (ViLA) is a conference series aiming to uncover when and how children and other learners produce, perceive and evaluate socially meaningful language variation. Tackling these questions, ViLA is dedicated to push both sociolinguistics and language acquisition research forward. Traditionally, the field of sociolinguistic research has predominantly focused on variation in adult speech communities, thereby backgrounding the question how these variation patterns are acquired. By contrast, in their focus on the way language learners acquire standard variants, language acquisition research has understudied language variation in acquisition. 

Combining the psycholinguistic focus on acquisition and the sociolinguistic emphasis on variation, the ViLA conference series aims to tackle questions such as:

  • From what age do children start acquiring the social meaning of language variation?

  • What role do input (of primary caregivers, peers, media …) and socialization play in the acquisition of the social meaning of language variation?

  • Are social and denotational meanings of language acquired simultaneously?

  • Does the production of socially meaningful language variation precede its perception and evaluation? Or is it the other way around?

  • What mental processes govern the acquisition of social meaning of language variation?

  • How can a better grasp of the acquisition of socially meaningful language variation help us understand and deal with processes of inclusion/exclusion and social biases?

  • Which theoretical models from which disciplines offer the most adequate solutions for describing the processes involved in acquiring socially meaningful variation and its relation to our more general understanding of language variation and change?

  • Which (combination of) methods are most suited to answer the questions outlined above, taking into account the complexities of working with young language learners?


These questions are addressed for various acquisition contexts in which variation takes central stage: 

  1.      Child acquisition of dialectal varieties of the first language;

  2.      Child multilingual and multidialectal acquisition within multilingual/multidialectal communities;

  3.      Acquisition of language-internal variation as well as language mixing in the case of second language       learning in contact with native speakers (e.g. study abroad, migration), and learning about                           sociolinguistic variation in the foreign language classroom;

  4.      Lifelong second dialect acquisition.

Call for papers - ViLA5: Brussels, 1 and 2 June 2023

The fifth edition of ViLA will be held in Brussels on 1 and 2 June 2023. The theme of this edition of the conference is ‘language, world and mind in acquisition’. With this theme we want to emphasize the interaction of the societal and cognitive aspects of the acquisition process: how does external input and mental processing and storing interact in the acquisition of language variation?

Contributions on this specific theme are welcomed alongside any papers that focus on one or more of the classic ViLA themes as introduced above: empirical analyses of production, perception and/or evaluation of variation in acquisition; theoretical accounts contrasting or combining models on the acquisition of variation and on the relationship between language, world and mind; interdisciplinary and innovative methodologies to study variation in language acquisition, drawing from e.g. sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, social cognition, anthropology, social neurosciences, literary studies, applied linguistics.




  • Sophie Holmes-Elliott, Queen Mary University London, UK

  • Katherine Kinzler, University of Chicago, US

  • Irmtraud Kaiser, University of Salzburg, Austria

  • Gert Storms & Steven Verheyen, KU Leuven, Belgium & Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands

  • Jack McMartin & Jan Van Coillie, KU Leuven, Belgium

Submission guidelines:

We invite abstracts for either 20 minute oral presentations or for posters. Anonymous abstracts of max. 500 words containing a clear research question, methodology, (provisional) results and significance for the field can be submitted via: EasyChair.


Important dates:

  •           Abstract submission opens: 1 May 2022

  •           Deadline for submission: 14 September 2022

  •           Notification of acceptance: end of October 2022

  •           Conference: 1-2 June 2023

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