First Call for Papers

Sociolinguistics Symposium 23

Unsettling Language

University of Hong Kong

16–19 June 2020

As a premier gathering of international sociolinguists, this biennial event has emerged as a unique and innovative forum to develop and exchange new ideas, broaden the scope of the discipline, and create new academic networks. From its beginnings as a small meeting of UK-based academics in 1976, Sociolinguistic Symposium has grown into the largest sociolinguistic conference in the world.


Its Hong Kong edition will mark the conference’s first appearance in Asia. The theme of the conference is Unsettling Language. The contemporary world is an unsettled place due to numerous conflict zones, forced migration, economic imbalances and uncertainties, as well as ideological extremism resulting in (or caused by) unsettling language emanating from powerful people, political organizations, and the media. As a form of social action, this sort of language requires serious, critical consideration, assessment and counter-action.


Furthermore, the notion of ‘language’ itself is undergoing a critical reassessment in how it is being theorized. Language is increasingly understood as more than ‘just’ a set of linguistic resources. Its embodied nature, the materiality of its modalities (speech and writing), interaction with other modalities (sound, music, images, etc.), and with time and space, requires integration of broader contexts of analysis, multimodal data sets, and multidisciplinary approaches. We invite abstracts addressing the conference theme as well as other contributions focusing on current and innovative themes and theoretical challenges.

Plenary speakers

H. SAMY ALIM, University of California, Los Angeles


JUDITH IRVINE, University of Michigan

LISA LIM, University of Sydney/HKU

DEVYANI SHARMA, Queen Mary, University of London

CRISPIN THURLOW, University of Bern


Abstract submission

We invite abstract submissions for the following types of contributions:


INDIVIDUAL PAPERS: 25 minutes including 5 minutes for a brief Q&A session.


THEMATIC PANELS: Panels will normally consist of 5–8 presenter slots inclusive of an optional discussion/discussant slot. The maximum length of a panel is four hours. Proposals for panels should include: (i) one abstract outlining the theme and rationale of the panel, and (ii) individual abstracts for all papers to be presented in the panel. Panel convenors are welcome to post a call for abstracts on the conference website by sending the title and a brief description of the panel to the organizers at .



Abstracts for papers in parallel sessions, papers in thematic panels, and panel proposals should all be no longer than 300 words, including references (if any). Please list up to 5 keywords (outside of the 300 word limit).

Evaluation of proposals

Paper abstracts and proposals for thematic panels will be evaluated by the Conference Scientific Committee and the Organizing Committee. Key criteria include thematic relevance and innovation, and theoretical framing and significance.


Conference presentation policy

Due to space and time-tabling restrictions, each individual may submit only one abstract as the sole/first author of a paper. In addition, each individual may also convene a thematic panel and act as a discussant on another panel. You can be a co-author on another paper, or papers, only with your co-presenter as the first-named author.


All first authors of papers in parallel or panel sessions, panel convenors, and attending participants must register for the conference.

Key dates

Start of abstract submission period: 5 August 2019

End of abstract submission period: 14 October 2019

Confirmation of acceptance of abstracts: January 2020

Conference dates: 16-19 June 2020


Sociolinguistics Symposium 23

School of English

The University of Hong Kong

Pokfulam Road

Hong Kong



tel: +852 3917-2749

fax: +852 2559-7139