5th Variation and Language Processing Conference

The 5th Variation and Language Processing Conference (VALP5) will be held at University of Copenhagen from 25-27 August 2021, after successful previous conferences in the UK, New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

This conference provides a venue for researchers coming from traditionally distinct fields, such as sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive science, experimental phonetics, syntax and pragmatics, who work on the relationship between linguistic variation, in its widest sense, and language processing. A main theme of this year’s conference will be the processing of linguistic and indexical variation by bi- and multilingual individuals, and we encourage submissions both within and beyond this theme. 

Plenary speakers 

Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics Kathryn Campbell-Kibler 
(Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University, the United States)


Where do we keep indexical meaning?

Linguistic features at all levels of structure can be used to match, highlight, and shape aspects of the speech context, a semiotic system we call indexicality or indexical meaning (Silverstein 1977, 2003). While somewhat understood at the interactional and cultural levels, indexical meaning is poorly understood at the cognitive level. The most widespread cognitive model of sociolinguistic processing is the sociolinguistic monitor (Labov 1993), which I argue in Campbell-Kibler (2016) is insufficient to capture the patterns of sociolinguistic behavior we witness across different aspects of language and social processing.

In this talk I argue that a model of sociolinguistic behavior and, more specifically, of indexical meaning, must be grounded in realistic models of both language and social cognition. I argue that while sociolinguistic systems of meaning-making are powerful and self-reinforcing at the larger levels (see for example Irvine & Gal's (2000) semiotic processes of language ideology), the evidence suggests that at the cognitive level they are distributed across multiple types of processing, each of which develops and accesses its own indexical links between linguistic and social constructs. I suggest that closer attention to research on memory systems will yield more effective models of sociolinguistic processing and, in turn, improve our understanding of concepts like social meaning, salience, and language attitudes.


Professor of Psycholinguistics Marianne Gullberg 
(Lund University Humanities Lab/Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University, Sweden)


Multimodal convergence in multilingual language use

Studies of speakers who learn, know, and use more than one language invariably show that languages do not exist in isolation but rather interact, affect, and change each other. In this talk I will discuss a particular case of such interaction, namely convergence, where two languages in contact in an individual mind change to become more similar to each other than their monolingual versions. Convergence has traditionally been dealt with only in speech and only in longstanding functional bilinguals, but I will illustrate that convergence is bimodal, looking at changes in speech, gesture, and sign language, and that it is not only found in functional bilingualism, but also in second language situations. I discuss the theoretical and methodological implications of such multimodal convergence for our models of language use and processing.


Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience Peter Hagoort 
(Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics/Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging/Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands)


Variations on a Theme in the Neural Infrastructure for Language

Undeniably members of the species homo sapiens produce and understand speech, and many of them are able to read and write. They do this in very different varieties.  The sound repertoires of the more than 7000 languages that are still around today vary widely, as do their grammatical structures, and the meanings that their lexical items code for. For instance, some languages have a sound repertoire of only a dozen phonemes, whereas others have more than a hundred; some languages have a very elaborate system of morphological markers, whereas others are very limited in their morphological inventory; some languages make semantic distinctions in one domain, others in another domain. Further, sign languages are expressed by movements of hands and face, whereas spoken languages are expressed by movements of the vocal tract. In addition to the variability in the world's languages, there is individual variation in language skills within the population of any given language community. Some people command only a limited vocabulary and simple sentence structures, whereas others are polyglots speaking multiple languages fluently, or can do simultaneous translation between languages.

Undeniably the human brain provides the neurobiological infrastructure for our human language skills. This infrastructure requires the contribution of multiple neural networks, some more specialized for language than others. In addition, there is substantial neural plasticity that enables the accomodation of language variation and individual variation in language skills. I will provide examples from a tone language and language cortex in the congenitally blind. This variation is, however, not unbounded. Certain basic neural motifs can be identified. These motifs are determined by the connectomic organization of the brain. I will discuss some recent insights into the variations on a theme in the neural infrastructure for language.



The conference will be in a hybrid format with presentations both online and on site. The conference will be single session with oral presentations only. All talks will be streamed and recorded (unless esplicitly denied by the authors – if you do not wish to have your presentation recorded, please send an email to VALP5@hum.ku.dk). Streaming and recording will ONLY be available to registered participants.

Conference programme (pdf)

Book of abstracts (pdf)

Zoom instructions for online presenters (pdf)

Important dates

Registration deadline: August 20 2021. Please register by filling in the registration form.

Conference dates: Wednesday 25 - Friday 27 August 2021.

Abstract submission

Abstract submission is now closed.

Conference dinner

Vegetarian (or vegan). The dinner costs 475 Danish kroner (approximately 64 Euro/75 US $/55 £) for a three-course dinner with two beverages at the waterfront restaurant Kayak Bar.

Practical information




The registration deadline is 20 August 10 2021.

Please register by filling in the registration form.

The fee for participation on site will be 750 Danish kroner (approximately 100 Euro/125 US $/85 £) and includes coffee and lunch throughout the conference. Participation online will be 75 Danish kroner (approximately 10 Euro/12.50 US $/8.50 £). The conference dinner will be 475 Danish kroner (approximately 64 Euro/75 US $/55 £) for a three-course dinner with two beverages at the waterfront restaurant Kayak Bar.

In case we need to move all of VALP5 online because of covid-19, we will refund registration fees for those who have prepaid for attendance on site.







We plan to host the conference at University of Copenhagen with a mix of physical and virtual participation.

According to estimations by the Danish Health Authority, the entire adult Danish population is now expected to be vaccinated by the end of August 2021, i.e. at the same time as the conference. You can stay updated at this official Corona - Covid19 page.

We will of course continue to follow official guidelines on social distancing, hand hygiene and staying home when ill.

In case of continued travel restrictions for international participants, it will be possible to attend the conference virtually.