Previous Symposia

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.

Organized by Euan Reid at the Walsall West Midlands College, the Sociolinguistics Symposia began in 1976 to counterbalance the absence of sociolinguistic concerns in the meetings of the Linguistic Association of Great Britain. A group of British and non-British-based sociolinguists (Bob Le Page, Euan Reid, Peter Trudgill, Suzanne Romaine, Jim Milroy, Lesley Milroy, Jenny Cheshire, or Jack Chambers) initially saw the need for a fairly informal forum to meet and discuss research findings and to debate theoretical and methodological issues concerning language in society, intensively and in depth.

"Jim and Euan Reid were instrumental in setting up the first meeting, which took place at Walsall Teacher Training College in 1976. Euan was a lecturer there and had recently completed an MPhil at Edinburgh. Jim and I lived in Belfast. At that time, the only well known work was Peter Trudgill's Norwich study,  published in 1974, which followed fairly closely Labov's New York City study. However, Jim and I had completed some pilot work in Belfast and we're just embarking on our first project. We found we could not easily replicate Labov's methods and devised some rather different ones.  Euan and Suzanne Romaine were working in Edinburgh. The first meeting was very successful, and Jim and Euan decided to ask Peter to edit the proceedings, as he was the only one of us with any influence. This book appeared in 1978. There were 2 more meetings in 1979 and 1980. At this point it was agreed to establish biennial meetings. The conference was still very small but it grew massively during the 1980s and meetings were held at different universities. The goal in the early days was to encourage distinctively British research, which in fact did not always follow the methods worked out by Labov as closely as American work did. This was because of different social and cultural factors affecting language variation, which were particularly obvious in Scotland and Ireland. The early SS meetings were important, as they allowed researchers to implement the groundbreaking methods and insights of Labov. They also allowed a distinctively British approach to language variation to emerge" (Lesley and Jim Milroy)

Since these early beginnings, the Sociolinguistics Symposium has become the premier sociolinguistics conference internationally. In 2002, the symposium was first held in continental Europe and 2018 saw it held for the first time outside of Europe and in the Southern Hemisphere.

Below you can find links to websites of previous editions of the Sociolinguistics Symposium:
Sociolinguistics Symposium 22 — Auckland (New Zealand): Crossing borders: South, North, East, West

Sociolinguistics Symposium 21 — Murcia 2016 (Spain): Attitudes and Prestige

Sociolinguistics Symposium 20 — Jyväskylä 2014 (Finland): Language, Time, Space

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19 — Berlin 2012 (Germany): Language and the City

Sociolinguistics Symposium 18 — Southampton 2010 (UK): Negotiating Transnational Space and Multilingual Encounters

Sociolinguistics Symposium 17 — Amsterdam 2008 (Holland): Micro and Macro Connections

Sociolinguistics Symposium 16 — Limerick 2006 (Ireland): New Perspectives on Sociolinguistic Change, Conflict and Accommodation

Sociolinguistics Symposium 15 — Newcastle 2004 (UK): Culture, Contact, Change

Sociolinguistics Symposium 14 — Ghent (Belgium) 2002

Sociolinguistics Symposium 13 — Bristol University of the West of England (UK) 2000

Sociolinguistics Symposium 12 — London (UK) 1998

Sociolinguistics Symposium 11 — Cardiff (UK) 1996

Sociolinguistics Symposium 10 — Lancaster (UK) 1994

Sociolinguistics Symposium 9 — Reading (UK) 1992

Sociolinguistics Symposium 8 — London Roehampton Institute (UK) 1990

Sociolinguistics Symposium 7 — York (UK) 1988

Sociolinguistics Symposium 6 — Newcastle (UK) 1986

Sociolinguistics Symposium 5 — Liverpool (UK) 1984

Sociolinguistics Symposium 4 — Sheffield (UK) 1982

Sociolinguistics Symposium 3 — Walsall West Midlands College (UK) 1980

Sociolinguistics Symposium 2 — Walsall West Midlands College (UK) 1978

Sociolinguistics Symposium 1 — Walsall West Midlands College (UK) 1976