PhilSoc Meetings

PhilSoc usually holds seven meetings each academic year, in October, November, January, February, March, May and June (AGM). At most meetings, a full paper is read; other meetings take the format of a thematic symposium. Significant announcements made at meetings are reported on the homepage of the Society's website.

Unless otherwise indicated, tea is served at 3.45pm and the meeting begins at 4.15pm.

The Society has a YouTube channel where video recordings of some of its past meetings may be found.

PhilSoc welcomes proposals for papers to be read at meetings. Proposals should be forwarded to the Honorary Secretary (contact details on the Contact page). Papers may be on any topic falling within the scope of PhilSoc's interests, but speakers are asked to bear in mind that the audience will represent a wide range of linguistic interests, and papers should therefore be accessible to non-specialists.


May 2024

What social media can tell us about dialect variation and change
David Willis (Oxford), chaired by Nigel Vincent

Organised in association with the British Academy, this year's Anna Morpurgo Davies lecture will be held at the Royal Society and broadcast online.

Registration is required for both in-person and online attendance; please register using this link.

Like all ordinary meetings of the Society, the lecture will commence at 4:15pm. Instead of the usual tea before, this lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

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This talk will looks as some of the challenges and discoveries associated with using social media (Twitter/X) as a source for examining dialect variation and change. Messages from social media constitute a fantastic source of evidence for linguistic diversity, much of which is otherwise inaccessible, allowing us to see patterns of linguistic variation across thousands, sometimes even millions, of people. We will look at some of the results of the Tweetolectology project, which has been mapping linguistic variation across various countries, with case studies from Welsh, English and Haitian Creole framed around key research or methodological issues of broad general interest


June 2024

AGM & the President's Lecture: Seeing meaning: Using visualisation techniques to explore conceptual patterns in Early Modern English discourses
Susan M. Fitzmaurice (Sheffield)

The lecture will be given in hybrid modality, online and in person at St Catharine's College, Cambridge; details TBD.

The lecture will be preceded by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Society.

Please note that all ordinary meetings commence at 4:15pm. Members are welcome to come for tea at 3:45 pm.

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The work discussed in this talk is part of the Linguistic DNA research project (, whose principal aim was to identify the cultural and intellectual concepts marking early English modernity. To enable the search for an innovative bottom-up method for identifying concepts in discourse, the project developed an automated processor for generating concepts from a corpus of early modern English discourse, Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership. The resulting process, concept modelling,  generates billions of ‘quads’ (four lemmas that co-occur within a span of 100 tokens of text) (Mehl, 2022). The immediate problem was how to interpret the strong association between lemmas in a quad; work thus far has focused on developing a theory of discursive meaning and using analytical techniques to map conceptual meaning onto the quads. Although close semantic-pragmatic analysis is a thorough and nuanced approach to  identifying the structure of concepts, it is time-consuming and impractical when the datasets are so large.  Distant reading, using lexical co-occurrence data and visualisation techniques, has the potential to help us see patterns in the data, to form hypotheses about conceptual structures, and thus dramatically enrich the close semantic-pragmatic inspection of quads. In this talk, we zoom back out from the inspection of manageable sets of quads (as explored in Fitzmaurice 2021, 2022) to tackle quad constellations–namely all of the quads associated with a particular node word–to explore how data visualisation techniques might assist in revealing their conceptual meaning.


Fitzmaurice, Susan. 2021.  Looking for Concepts in Early Modern English: Hypothesis building and the uses of encyclopaedic knowledge and pragmatic work. Journal of Historical Pragmatics. 22:2 (2021) 282-300.

Fitzmaurice, Susan. 2022. From Constellations to Discursive Concepts; or: The historical pragmatic construction of meaning in Early Modern English. Transactions of the Philological Society 120:3 (2022) 489-506.

Mehl, Seth. 2022. Discursive quads: New kinds of lexical co-occurrence data with linguistic concept modelling. Transactions of the Philological Society 120:3 (2022) 474-488.