‘Mutual Intelligibility: Language, Culture, Cognition’

deadline for submissions: 
March 13, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University of Surrey (Guildford, UK)
contact email: 

‘Mutual Intelligibility: Language, Culture, Cognition’

University of Surrey, Guildford, UK

18-19 June 2020




Deadline for submissions: Friday 13 March 2020 to milcc2020@gmail.com


Despite being perceived as unique, self-contained systems, most languages of the world are not isolated entities, and exist in linguistic continua with other related varieties. Related languages share many properties, giving rise to the global phenomenon of mutual intelligibility, where a speaker of one language can use their variety to efficiently communicate with a speaker of another language, and vice versa (e.g. Spanish and Portuguese).

Whilst research in this area has typically been associated with the realm of linguistics, a cultural studies approach to mutual intelligibility demonstrates how it facilitates intercultural exchange between communities, challenging the misconception of languages as discrete units that has reinforced national and racial essentialism. From the point of view of cognition, meanwhile, empirical research methods can shed light on the biological underpinnings of mutual intelligibility, i.e. what neural correlates and cognitive processes underlie language comprehension and by extension enable speakers of different languages to successfully communicate with each other.

Our timely inter-disciplinary two-day workshop is the first of its kind to examine mutual intelligibility from cultural and cognitive as well as linguistic perspectives. By bringing together researchers from a range of fields, this workshop aims to provide a foundation for the development of multi-disciplinary research projects on mutual intelligibility. The goal is to gain a broader understanding of this significant and complex global phenomenon, and identify how various theoretical and empirical research methods can be combined in future research.

We invite proposals for twenty-minute presentations from researchers and cultural practitioners working from diverse disciplines, backgrounds and perspectives. Topics for submissions may include (but are not limited to) the following:

- Linguistic studies of mutual intelligibility;

- Literary/socio-cultural manifestations of mutual intelligibility;

- Cognitive studies including experimental approaches to mutual intelligibility;

- New avenues for research into mutual intelligibility.

We particularly encourage contributions on multi-disciplinary approaches, and on linguistic, socio-cultural and cognitive approaches to mutual intelligibility between understudied or under-documented languages. In the spirit of fostering inter-disciplinary discussion and collaboration, we ask that the proposed talks are aimed at an audience of non-specialists.

The workshop will take place at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK on 18-19 June 2020.




Please send abstracts of approximately 350 words (excluding references) plus a short bio (max 150 words) to milcc2020@gmail.com by midnight on 13 March 2020.


Three travel grants of up to £100 are available for PhD students – please indicate your intention to be considered for one of these awards when you submit your abstract.




Deadline for submission of abstracts: 13 March 2020

Notification of acceptance/rejection of abstracts: expected 27 March 2020

Registration open: 20 April 2020

Registration closing date: 5 June 2020





£20 per person (£10 for postgraduate research students)




Dr Nadezda Christopher, University of Surrey

Dr Catherine Barbour, University of Surrey

Dr Katie Gilligan, University of Surrey



Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Surrey

Surrey Morphology Group

School of Literature and Languages, University of Surrey

School of Psychology, University of Surrey


For further information, please visit the workshop website: http://www.ias.surrey.ac.uk/workshops/mutual_intelligibility/index.php