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K-State Today

April 4, 2013



Spanish professor to give lecture 4 p.m. Friday on the study of language variation

By Derek Hillard

Earl Brown, assistant professor of Spanish, will give the modern languages department spring Signatures Lecture at 4 p.m. Friday, April 5, in the Hemisphere Room of Hale Library. His lecture is "Finding systematicity in apparent chaos: The study of language variation with quantitative methods."

Variation in language can often appear to be random in nature; that is, at first it may not be apparent why one sound or word is produced in one sentence but a different sound or word with the same meaning is used in the next sentence.

In order to make sense of the seemingly chaotic nature of language variation quantitative methods are employed. This presentation will explain the basic assumptions of corpus linguistics and variationist methodology as they relate to the study of language variation and then presents several case studies in modern-day Spanish.

One study investigates a non-standard usage of the psychological verb "gustar" to "to like/to please" as seen in messages sent on the social networking site Twitter in the capital cities of the Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America and in Spain. Another study compares what is presented to intermediate Spanish students in popular textbooks about the two forms of the imperfect subjunctive with what is seen in two large corpora, or collections, of Spanish. Throughout the presentation the usefulness and the importance of employing empirical data in the study of language variation is highlighted.