William Labov: Words Floating on the Surface of Sound Change
William S-Y Wang: A Dialogue on Language Change
Here are some comments on the Dialogue from our participants:
"The bilingualism conference and the dialogue between two Williams are unforgettable linguistic events, full of compelling topics and sparkling thoughts. It was not only confined to bilingual and sound change, but covered all manner of linguistic interests. It's the best festival this year to spur my linguistic thinking!"
" 'Two Bills' showed dazzling charisma and profound erudition in a different manner. With rabbit in front of a snake, Bill Labov swallowed each large question without even time to enjoy its taste, yet his digestion is always as good as his appetite. With a glass of wine and even lit candles, Bill Wang gently raised his forks and knives (maybe chopsticks and spoon) to cut the question into small pieces. Not only he himself has a satisfied feat but also those watching him might feel rather pleased."
"Change is the only constant. Language is no exception. No scholarly event has allowed for the portrait of this very fact more vividly until the Dialog on Sound Change. Two intellectual giants—the "Double Bills" (Professors Wang and Labov)—convened at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for a most educational and stimulating discussion on linguistic sound change that encompassed its intellectual history, its cognitive and social origins, its functions, its implications, and its future. Three and a half hours flew by. The event was as dynamic as
the subject matter."
"I could not believe that I would have the most enviable luck to be able to attend the dialogue by "the two Bills"! It was once-in-a-life time opportunity to be able to listen to the illuminating history, clarifications of important issues, conjectures on the developments, and the intelligent interactions among the speakers and the panelists. The moderators, Prof. Feng and Lee, raised insightful questions, which otherwise would not have been answered at other times or places or even in our life time! I congratulate you on your vision of organizing this dialogue and thank you for allowing us to witness history happening. If the entire event could be made available online, it would be a legacy to the academic world."
"It was very impressive that the committee could invite two famous figures Prof. Labov and Prof. Wang to engage in an in-depth conversation on sound change. Their conversation touched upon some fundamental issues in sociolinguistics and language change and would definitely inspired young scholars to pursue a deeper understanding of the relentless change of language."
"I also enjoyed the "unforgettable" "Bill2Bill Dialogue" very much! I really appreciate the organizing committee's effort in piecing these events together in forming an excellent conference."
"We were extremely honored and excited to attend the Dialog between William Labov and William S-Y. Wang on sound change, organized by the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages in the Chinese University of Hong Kong on May 16. During the event, Prof. Labov discussed the sociolinguistics data on sound change in certain U.S. east coast cities. Based on the modern visualization techniques, he vividly illustrated some typical sound change patterns shown in the data during 1920s to 1980s, including the collateral sound changes and competitive sound changes. Meanwhile, Prof. Wang reviewed his lexical diffusion theory and summarized the major literatures of the applications of this theory in not only sound change phenomena but also syntactic change phenomena. He also discussed the possible driving forces of sound change, including individual variation and gender difference, and briefly introduced a simulation study of sound change."
"After hearing these talks and the follow-up discussions between Labov, Wang, and invited panel members and scholars from Hong Kong and oversea universities, we had the following thoughts. First, the rich empirical data collected in the past few decades have greatly reformulated and largely extended the theoretical discussion on sound change. In addition, with the adoption of new technologies, such as visualization techniques and computer simulations, we have obtained more quantitative understanding on this long-standing topic in linguistics. Furthermore, with the adoption of neuroimaging, simulation, and other techniques from other disciplines, as shown in the Bilingualism conference, the study of sound change has transformed from describing this phenomenon, as in many past studies, to explaining the causes and relevant factors behind the sound change phenomena, as in many current studies. We can reasonably predict that in the near future, the study of sound change will become more interdisciplinary, and this traditional linguistics topic will shed important light on the natures of language, language evolution, and language users. Their rigorous scholarship, fruitful research outputs, original and deep thoughts, and open-minds toward multidisciplinary methods set a model for our young generation. As new comers of the language evolution research realm, we are greatly inspired by such an exciting event of the dialog between the two admirable scholars."
"My deep appreciation to all of you for bringing about this very successful event. It was very gratifying to review the distance lexical diffusion has traveled over the years, a More importantly, the occasion connected Chinese Linguistics to an international heritage which will surely have a healthy impact for years to come. Thank you, and congratulations!"
"Congratulations on organizing a terrific event. The double-Bill symposium will be a landmark in high-profile linguistics in Hong Kong for many years to come. Thank you again for inviting me as a scholar there and giving me the opportunity to interact with them. I look forward to future events and hopefully collaboration between our institutions."
"I'd like to express my deepest gratitude to the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, the Department of Chinese Language and Literature and the Language Acquisition Laboratory of CUHK for organizing such a meaningful event. The Dialogue between Professor Labov and Wang provided us not only with the latest development of the study on sound change, but also with the ways of pursuing the truth. It was my honor to be one of the participants."
"I learned a lot from the various papers, and the Double Bill afternoon was stimulating and exciting at a high intellectual level. We enjoyed every minute of the visit to Hong Kong."
Comments on the Conference