William Labov has been awarded a doctorate honoris causa

William Labov with with the medal of doctor honoris causaWilliam Labov, professor of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), has been made doctor honoris causa by UPF today,  5 June, at an academic ceremony presided over by rector Josep Joan Moreso. The ceremony took place this lunchtime at the auditorium of the Poblenou campus, hosting such an event for the first time was full-to-overflowing.

The ceremony, which was broadcast live over the University website and Twitter (hashtag #Labovhonoris) included the performance of different pieces by the Choir of Pompeu Fabra University. William Labov's promoter was Enric Vallduví, professor of the Department of Translation and Language Sciences at UPF, while the laudatio speech was given by M. Teresa Turell, professor of the same department.

It began with the entrance of the academic authorities to the sound of Cohors Generosa, which was followed by the opening speech given by the rector Josep Joan Moreso. Then, Josep Fargas, general secretary of the University, read out the agreement by the Board of Governors of 14 December last at the proposal of the department of Translation and Language Sciences of the Faculty of Translation and Interpretation and of the University Institute for Applied Linguistics  (IULA) to confer the honoris causa degree.

This agreement recognizes William Labov's brilliant teaching and research track record and his being one of the leading figures in the field of linguistics and founder of variationist and quantitative linguistics.

After entering , accompanied by his promoter to the tune of the traditional Catalan piece La dama d'Aragó, M. Teresa Turell gave her laudatio of William Labov (Catalan version and English version, pdf documents, 8 pages, 52 Kb) in which she gave an extensive overview of his academic career.

William Labov and Enric Vallduví access to the auditoriumThen, the rector awarded professor Labov , thus becoming a member of the University's Senate of doctors.

The last part of the act included the new doctor's speech of acceptance (Catalan version and English version, pdf documents, 3 pages, 35 Kb), following the rendering of El Cant dels ocells by the Choir, and the rector's speech (Catalan version and English version, pdf documents, 2 pages, 34 Kb ). The notes of the popular university song Gaudeamus igitur, sung by all in attendance standing, brought the ceremony to a close.

William Labov is the eleventh person to have been made doctor honoris causa by Pompeu Fabra University, which has awarded this top academic distinction to South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu (2000), the intellectual and historian Miquel Batllori (2002), film director  Woody Allen (2007), economist and Nobel Prize winner Robert M. Solow (2008).

M. Teresa Turell saying the laudatioThe others to have been distinguished are Alois M. Haas (2009) and the ex-president of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet (2010); economic historian Jordi Nadal, and singer songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat (2011), and legal philosophers Eugenio Bulygin and Ernesto Garzón Valdés (2011).

Taking the pulse of humanity through language

North American professor William Labov (Rutherford, New Jersey, 1927) has been and is still one of the dominant figures in sociolinguistics since it became a discipline in the 1960s.

His academic and research career took place and became consolidated mainly at the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded the Sociolinguistics Programme and the Linguistics Laboratory, which he has directed since 1976, and at which many of today's top researchers in the field trained, such as S. Ash, P. Cohen, B. Lavandera, S. Poplack, D. Shiffrin and Maria Teresa Turell, among many more.

Known throughout the world for his study of African American vernacular English, which establishes the bases of the theory and of the methodology of linguistic variation, Labov has always backed the linguistic minorities and has devoted himself intensely to taking, as he himself said, "the pulse of humanity through language".

Short biography

Josep Joan Moreso put de medal to William Labov William Labov began his university studies at Harvard in north America (1948) following which he worked as an industrial chemist between 1949 and 1961. He then decided to devote himself to linguistics and was a pupil of Uriel Weinreich (1925-1967).  

Labov established a programme for the empirical study of language in language communities, which began with his degree thesis at Columbia University in 1963.

This programme is widely incorporated and implemented in his work The Social Stratification of English in New York City (1966), a work of fundamental influence for social dialectology.

Furthermore, he is the author of a great many seminal papers on the study of linguistic variation and change. In What is a Linguistic Fact? (1975) he introduces a new paradigm in 20 th century linguistics, establishing a bridge between the traditional study of language and the new discipline of sociolinguistics.

aspect of the auditorium during the ceremonyHis way of proceeding, through representative samples of speakers and rigorous, sophisticated quantitative analyses, aims fundamentally at establishing the structure of language, its forms and the underlying organization as well as the mechanisms and causes of linguistic change.

Other of his most noteworthy works are Language in the Inner City: Studies in Black English Vernacular (1972), Sociolinguistic Patterns (1972), Principles of Linguistic Change (vol. I Internal Factors, 1994; vol. II Social Factors, 2001) and The Atlas of North American English (2006).