Welcome

The Sociolinguistics Lab at Berkeley (SLaB) was established in fall 2019 to advance the empirical study of language in society. Our members include UCB faculty and students who are engaged in research on social, linguistic, and cognitive contributors to patterns of language variation and change, as well as other broad topics in sociolinguistics. We employ a diversity of quantitative and qualitative research methods, including traditional sociolinguistic interviews, laboratory experiments targeting both production and perception, and statistical modeling of written and spoken corpus data.

UC Berkeley photo

We assert that variation and change are linguistic universals. At the same time, we recognize that many of the theories posited in the sociolinguistics literature have not yet been adequately tested in diverse speech communities, especially outside majority English-speaking populations. Much of our research tests and refines such theories. As members of a Department of Linguistics with a strong emphasis on language documentation, we especially advocate sociolinguistic research in minority and endangered language communities that have not received much coverage in our field.

We are located at the University of California, Berkeley, which at one point or another has been the institutional home of sociolinguists including Dell Hymes, John J. Gumperz, and Robin Lakoff. We carry forward this tradition of sociolinguistic research in the East Bay, exchanging ideas with colleagues at other universities in California and farther afield.

*Note: The “Sociolinguistics Lab at Berkeley” is formally abbreviated “SLaB.” In keeping with our respect for linguistic variation, we recognize spoken variants including “slab” and “the s-lab.”

Activities

The Sociolinguistics Lab at Berkeley meets twice a month throughout the academic year. Our meetings are a venue for:

  • practicing conference and job talks in sociolinguistics
  • workshopping abstracts, article manuscripts, and grant proposals
  • discussing best practices in sociolinguistics and SLaB members’ specific research challenges
  • inviting speakers to share their work
  • discussing important published research papers
  • presenting hands-on tutorials (e.g., ELAN, statistical modeling, digital maps)
  • engaging in collaborative projects, such as creating new corpora and submitting workshop/panel proposals to professional conferences

Meetings are held in a seminar room in the Department of Linguistics. We are currently developing a smaller physical space, located on the C level of Dwinelle Hall, room 55, which will likely house computers with specialized software and corpora, equipment for sociolinguistic research, and a locker for securely storing potentially sensitive research artifacts. The room is located next door to the Sociophonetic Area for Recording Conversational Language (SPARCL), which is an ideal space for conducting sociolinguistic interviews.

Get involved

Interested in presenting your work at one of our meetings? Please send us a message!