Thematic Panels

Thematic panel chairs are welcome to send their panel proposal and call for papers with the panel chair's email address included to ss23@hku.hkIf you would like to contribute to any of the thematic panels below, please contact the panel convenor directly.


Current thematic panels:

Decolonising, unsettling and rebuilding sociolinguistics

Jaspal Naveel Singh

There has been some discussion in our field in recent years about the possibilities of decolonising the teaching of sociolinguistics. Lecturers around the world are now changing their curricula to incorporate more examples and scholars from previously colonised places, rather than always only regurgitating ‘canonical’ studies, conducted in North America and Western Europe or by scholars from the global north. Reading lists for seminars, for example, are now expected to incorporate a substantial amount of Black female scholars to be taken seriously by multicultural students. While these interventions are necessary and still have a long way to go, this panel seeks to plot the next steps in the decolonisation of sociolinguistics. Which southern theories can be used to explain contemporary sociolinguistic processes? How do the racial identities of researchers both constrain and open up ethical, methodological and theoretical possibilities? What must be considered when scholars from northern and western countries cross national and cultural borders to study disenfranchised and previously colonised people? Has the time come for, say, African and Asian researchers to come to Europe or North America and conduct ethnographic research among local European natives, using African and Asian theories? What else can be done to further politicise the academy and unsettle the unequal access to knowledge that has been established during 500 years of colonialism and imperialism and that continues on and finds emphatic resurgence in the current neoliberal moment of globalisation?

The panel seeks to create a safe – yet not incontestable – space for collegial exchange. It is hoped that panellists will take stock of current best practices and unsettling possibilities of the political project of decolonising sociolinguistics and plot collaborative plans for future steps to rebuild sociolinguistics in more inclusive and realistic ways.


Keywords:  Sociolinguistics, Decolonisation, Southern Theory, Academic discourse, Subversion  


If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact the panel convenor before 14 October 2019:

Dr Jaspal Naveel Singh

Assistant Professor of Sociolinguistics

School of English

The University of Hong Kong


Tel.: (+852) 3917 7281

Why (Not) Race? Expanding the Conversation about Language, Race and Power

Sibo Kanobana 


This panel wants to engage with the increasing interest in the intersection of language and race that has served multiple sociolinguistic traditions, in particular in the ways language serves the racialization of subjects (cfr. Alim, Rickford & Ball 2016; Rosa 2019). This panel aims to take stock of this body of knowledge and to engage in a conversation about the ways scholars in sociolinguistics use race together or in competition with other concepts, such as ethnicity, class or caste as well as gender and sexuality.

The aim of this panel is to add to this body of work perspectives from different parts of the world in a varied set of contexts (security, education, SLA, social media, business, music industry, etc.), and from various traditions, i.e. where ‘race’ as a concept may historically have different connotations. As a result the focus of this panel is to ask critical questions about the relations between language, race and power (Alim 2016) such as, How are concepts like ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ reproducing or challenging power relations? How are these concepts themselves involved in processes of inequality? Why do social scientists interested in racial and ethnic inequality disagree on the use of the concept of ‘race’? What is the political meaning of ‘race’ as a concept? How is whiteness contingent on ‘race’ or ‘ethnicity’? etc.

Finally, these questions will be addressed in contributions that come from different sub-disciplines of sociolinguistics: from contemporary, ethnographic and discourse analytically oriented work to also more historiographical work on language and race.

Key words: race, ethnicity, raciolinguistics, intersectionality, interdisciplinarity, whiteness, discourse

If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact the panel convenor before 14 October 2019:

Sibo Kanobana 

PhD Candidate

Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication

MULTIPLES Research Centre for Multilingual Practices and Language Learning in Society

Ghent University


Tel.: (+32) 476 726 736

Unsettling the NORMs: The sociolinguistics of immigration to the countryside

Marion Kwiatkowski, Jan-Ola Östman


The sociolinguistic effects of immigration are most often studied in the context of large urban melting pots. Rural areas have long served as a counterpart and maintained their image as the havens of traditional language use that have not been 'tainted' by language contact. However, immigration can no longer be considered a predominantly urban phenomenon as rural areas have experienced increased population influx. This panel seeks to widen the scope of the sociolinguistics of immigration by placing a special focus on rural areas, their social dynamics and linguistic practices.

Traditionally, rural societies have been described as having closed and close-knit social networks that slow down or even prevent language change. The panel seeks to understand to what extent this notion of a closed social network is still applicable in rural areas with increased immigration? To what extent do we see a disruption of the traditional understanding due to an unprecedented amount of immigration? To what extent and how do the potential changes in social network structure affect language contact, and with that, linguistic change?

The panel approaches the sociolinguistic effects of immigration to the countryside from several angles, spanning from linguistic change of the local dialect and of heritage languages, to the impact of the local social dynamics on the linguistic practices of the immigrant and non-immigrant population. 

The panel offers an opportunity for scholars from a multitude of linguistic areas working on the effects of immigration to rural areas to share their observations and discuss future implications for how we should approach the study of sociolinguistic effects of immigration as well as the study of linguistic practices in rural communities in general.

Studies in all areas of sociolinguistic research are invited, structural as well as functional (cultural, contextual), empirical as well as theoretical.


Keywords: Immigration, Rural areas, Language contact, Social networks


If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact the panel convenors before 26 October 2019:


Marion Kwiatkowski

Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian 

and Scandinavian Studies

University of Helsinki


Jan-Ola Östman

Unequal Personalities: Language Education and the Politics of Difference

Sara Nyssen, Katy Highet

Language is often perceived as an expression of a particular personhood and, by extension, a reflection of one’s personality – the ‘chaotic’ multilingualism of the early 20th century Macedonians as indexical of their ‘disorderly’ psyche, being one example (Gal, 2013). Different ways of speaking are therefore seen to reflect different ways of being that are linked to forms of morality. In educational contexts, ‘personality’ is used as a discursive trope to justify the unequal valuation of individuals’ linguistic behaviour as well as to point to a type of persona that acquiring certain languages and registers allows them to be. Yet, ‘personality’ in this context is often understood as a psychological, and thus individual, phenomenon, rather than social and ideological.

This panel is concerned with how the concept of personality is mobilised in language learning contexts. By critically investigating the idea that language is a transparent expression of an inner personality, this panel will explore how language learners and teachers negotiate ideas about personality, and the moral dimensions of such processes. In addition, it will address the histories and structures that they are a product of, and the implications of such ideas. Specifically, we welcome ethnographic contributions from different geographical contexts, from both classrooms and less institutionalised sites, that explore the following questions:

- How, and under what circumstances, are certain languages or registers seen as linked with particular personalities?

- How do teachers/learners perceive the influence of personality on language learning?

- What moral evaluations are connected to particular languages and personalities?

- How are ideas about the link between language and personality, and the moral evaluations connected to them, connected to wider histories and structures of race, gender, class? 

- What are the social, economic or political implications of these ideas?



Gal, S. (2013). Tastes of Talk: Qualia and the moral flavor of signs. Anthropological Theory, 13(1–2), 31–48


Keywords: personality, language learning, personhood, morality, ethnography


Prof. Judith Irvine (University of Michigan)


If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact the panel convenors before 10 October 2019:

Sara Nyssen

Ghent University


Katy Highet

UCL Institute of Education

The discourse of contestation and deviance

Roberta Piazza


This panel addresses the discourse of economic and social inequalities resulting in marginalisation and exclusion. It wants to focus on individuals and groups who are liminal, who live on the edge, having been discarded and expelled by dominant majoritarian society because their way of life is seen as a being deviant and thus challenging. In spite of the strong pressures for individuals to conform to dominant norms and canons, various forms of social diversity exist in all societies and numerous people find hard to conform and accommodate. Moreover, even though mainstream society tends to exclude marginal/ liminal individuals, it nonetheless still intervenes in a variety of ways which, collectively, help to sustain such diversity (for example, support for day centres for the homeless, mobile communities, women’s groups, and migrants). This results in a complex interaction between spaces and modalities of conformity and, vice versa, contestation and deviation.

The focus of the panel is both on the authoritarian discourses constructed and sustained by hegemonic groups that constitute the foundations of urban exclusion (for instance, narratives around private ownership, sedentarism, reproductive sexuality, productivity, competitiveness, morality, cleanliness or even the monopoly of English as the only international language) and on the response to these narratives by the victims of society’s exclusion who sustain alternative discourses. The panel is, therefore, interested in forms of legitimated hegemonic discourse as well as any kind of contestation of and resistance to it (Chun 2009, Reddy 2000, Hart & Kelsey 2019, Finley & Calabrese 2003) that can take the shape of civil disorder through riots and protests (Hart & Kelsey 2019), occupation of illegitimate spaces as well as uncanonical interpretation of space, forms of decolonisation in teaching, art performances, positive journalism and much more.

The panel encourages interdisciplinary contributions.

Key words: hegemonic discourse, contestation, inequality, deviance, conformity, space, media, exclusion and liminality.

If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact the panel convenor before 14 October 2019:

Dr Roberta Piazza

Reader in English Language & Linguistics

School of English

University of Sussex


Tel. (+44)1273-876067 or 552942

Multilectalism and Polyglossia Unsettled

Charley Rowe


In many societies, multilectalism, particularly in the form of polyglossia, is a reality to be managed in daily life. While diglossia (or polyglossia) in some communities is relatively stable, in others it is shifting rapidly, and in ways that are complex and, in some cases, unexpected and unpredictable. Realities currently under discussion for some language societies include koineization, dual-continua diglossia, diglossic breakdown and/or shift, dialect moribundity, ideology, and the interaction of these which makes classification difficult--particularly as a reflection of the speed of sociolinguistic change.


Some of these changes are reflections of a society’s n-glossic/n-lectal status, e.g., immigration (including intermarriage), which may involve notions of transfer of the immigrants’ home country’s sociolinguistic situation and its concomitant linguistic attitudes and values; “organic” changes (so, “natural” changes from within), and shifts in prestige orientation--so, the levels of prestige of each language variety relative to the other(s) in the same society.


The panel seeks to investigate the complexities of current (putatively) diglossic and other, similar multilectal states in various societies, and to situate and document their place in society as a whole.


Keywords: diglossia, koineization, language and society, moribundity, multilectalism, .


If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact the panel convenor before 26 October 2019:


Charley Rowe

Department of English and Comparative Literature

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill




Cyprus Acquisition Team

Department of English Studies

University of Cyprus

Intercultural communication: the (martial) art of non-violent communication.

Greet De Baets & Ellen Van Praet


In today’s deeply divided times, intercultural understanding is suffering: “unscrupulous media and politicians stoke ethnic and racial fear for their personal gain” and “ever more barriers between people […] are being put up and fortified” (Piller, 2017: 202).

It has been widely documented that one of the challenges people are facing in intercultural relations is communicating non-violently or collaboratively (Rosenberg, 2015; d’Ansembourg, 2001). This panel wants to engage with perspectives on bridging cultures, zooming on the importance of non-violent communication (Rosenberg, 2015). In particular, it invites explorations of the potential relevance of self-defence techniques (e.g. martial arts) or the philosophy of peace and non-violence (Brawdy, 2001) for the training of intercultural communication skills.

Specifically, the panel welcomes contributions from different geographical contexts, different methodologies and different research domains.


Brawdy, P. (2001) Exploring Human Kindness through the Pedagogy of Aikido. Annual Meeting of the American      Educational Research Association, Seattle.


d’Ansembourg, T. (2001). Cessez d’être gentil soyez vrai! Montréal: Les Éditions de l’Homme.

Piller, I. (2017). Intercultural Communication: A critical introduction, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd.

Rosenberg, M. (2015). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd edition, Encinitas, California:  PuddleDancer Press.


Keywords:  interculturalism, aikido, non-violence, martial arts, sociolinguistics

If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact:

Greet De Baets (Ms)

Doctoral Researcher

Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication

MULTIPLES Research Centre for Multilingual Practices and Language Learning in Society

Ghent University


Phone: + 32 474 71 48 00


Dr Ellen Van Praet

Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication

MULTIPLES Research Centre for Multilingual Practices and Language Learning in Society

Ghent University


Unsettling language barriers in health care

Yvonne Tse Crepaldi and Xinyue Xu

Language choice and language use in healthcare settings are critical to medical outcome. With polyglossia and global mobility, healthcare professionals and patients often do not share the same linguistic code(s) and/or sociocultural backgrounds.  Such diversity often presents language barriers to the provision of health care (Jacobs & Diamond, 2017). Minority groups may be marginalized and quality of health care can be compromised. Language barriers, not limited to multilingualism but also medical discourse (i.e. medical genre), could result in misunderstanding or lack of understanding on medical conditions, treatment options and procedures, disease management, erroneous diagnosis, uninformed consent, etc. Confronting with little shared language, level of interaction and information may reduce, which does not only affect medical outcome but also health literacy, doctor/nurse-patient relationship, patient autonomy and satisfaction.


To bridge communication gaps, participants in these medical encounters may deploy a language broker (e.g. professional or lay interpreters), accommodate each other through a lingua franca or code-switching (which may involve using a less proficient second language), or resort to other discourse strategies or resources.  Aspects of these mediated solutions could be questionable and favourable (e.g. Bridges et al., 2015). Their implications may also range from perception of language use, social identities and power, diglossia, medical education, to healthcare policy and language policy.


The panel welcomes studies of healthcare communication on various language barriers, using Conversation Analysis or other empirical methods.


Bridges, S., Drew, P., Zayts, O., McGrath, C., Yiu, C. K. Y., Wong, H. M., & Au, T. K. F. (2015). Interpreter-mediated dentistry. Social Science & Medicine, 132, 197–207.

Jacobs, E. A., & Diamond, L. C. (2017). Providing Health Care in the Context of Language Barriers: International Perspectives. Bristol, UK; Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Multilingual Matters.


Keywords:  healthcare communication, language barriers, conversation analysis, medical discourse, multilingualism


Discussant: Associate Professor Susan Bridges (The University of Hong Kong)


If you would like to contribute to this panel, please contact:


​Yvonne Tse Crepaldi

Nanyang Technological University


Xinyue Xu

The University of Hong Kong