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Conference Information

Full Title: DGfS 2014 Workshop: Language in Historical Contact Situations (LHC)

Short Title: AG6
Location: Marburg, Germany
Start Date: 05-Mar-2014 - 07-Mar-2014
Contact: Carola Trips
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: The workshop ‘Language in Historical Contact situations (LHC): Diagnostics for Grammatical Replication’ (AG 6) is organised as part of the 36. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft / Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS) ‘Gottesteilchen der Sprache? Theorie, Empirie und die Zukunft sprachlicher Kategorien ‘, to be held at the University of Marburg, Germany, March 5-7, 2014.

Whereas there is good hope to prove the existence of ‘God’s particle’ experimentally and thus prove the Standard Model in particle physics, no such endeavour can be expected to confirm or refute the current standard assumptions in linguistics, let alone in historical linguistics. But just like physical proof (or probability) can be gained from particle collisions in Large Hadron Colliders, our LHC workshop will bring us closer to linguistic truth by provoking collisions between differing approaches to historical language contact situations: Proponents of what might be called the ‘no-linguistic-constraint hypothesis’ (Thomason & Kaufman, 1988 and others) contend that in principle anything is borrowable between languages in contact, including grammatical patterns if that contact is intense enough. Current research in grammaticalization, language contact and language change (e.g. Heine & Kuteva 2005), has shown, however, that grammatical replication is quite regular and follows universal patterns of grammaticalization, so this would mean that in grammatical contact influence linguistic constraints do apply. Moreover, trying to understand language contact without being informed about the sociolinguistic background is fraught with risks, and is particularly so in considering contact in past states of language where obtaining such information may be particularly challenging. If it is the case that contact influence manifests itself especially through code-switching in the spoken register, this poses another problem to investigating contact in historical settings, since until recent times only written evidence remains.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together experts from the fields of grammaticalization, language contact, language acquisition and diachronic linguistics to discuss the following questions: Are there minimal units of analysis, i.e. ‘Gottesteilchen’, that should be discerned in positing contact influence, e.g. is anything below the word level, such as phonology or bound morphology, normally unborrowable? Is grammatical contact, if seen within current generative assumptions, a matter of feature transfer, that is a formal feature of the Source language but previously absent from the Recipient language activated in the latter as a result of contact? If so, how does this comport with current theories of native versus non-native grammar acquisition, especially as regards the representation of formal features? And how should methodological and sociohistorical aspects be integrated into such an investigation?


Thomason, Sarah Grey and Terrence Kaufman. 1988. Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics. London: University of California Press.

Heine, Bernd and Tania Kuteva. 2005. Language contact and grammatical change. Cambridge: CUP.

Invited Speakers:

Tania Kuteva (University of Düsseldorf)
Raymond Hickey (confirmation still pending)


Carola Trips
Richard Ingham
Achim Stein
Linguistic Subfield: Historical Linguistics
LL Issue: 24.3246

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