About the Laboratory
The Linguistic Convergence Laboratory opened in 2017 at the School of Linguistics of the Faculty of Humanities.
The aim of the laboratory is to study the mechanisms of convergence in language history, i.e. situations where contact leads to the spread of common features. We also develop tools to identify the results of such processes by analyzing digital corpora of spoken language.
Whereas evolution in the natural world can be largely explained in terms of adaptation to living conditions, the reasons for language change remain unclear. Language change has been an important topic in the study of language history. Traditional comparative historical linguistics was mostly based on data from written sources and tended to focus on the processes of language divergence. The last century has witnessed an introduction of methods for modelling language change through the analysis of synchronic data of language variation, as well as various methods to analyze language convergence. Modern technologies for recording speech and creating digital corpora make it possible to work with what may be considered as linguistic ‘big data’.
The laboratory focuses on the role of language contact in the history of the languages of Russia. We carry out fieldwork in languages of Daghestan, Adyghe, Mari, Even, as well as north Russian dialects and varieties of Russian that emerge in situations of language contact.
One of the objectives of the laboratory is creating new corpora of spoken language aligned with audiodata. We also create open online databases of variational and contact phenomena in the languages and dialects of Russia.
The academic supervisor of the laboratory is Johanna Nichols, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, a well-known typologist and expert in Caucasian and Slavic languages. The deputy director is Nina Dobrushina, Professor of the School of Linguistics of NRU HSE.
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