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LINGUIST List 22.4513

Fri Nov 11 2011

Confs: Historical Ling, Socioling/Belgium

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        1.     Anne Breitbarth , Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones


Message 1: Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones
Date: 11-Nov-2011
From: Anne Breitbarth <anne.breitbarthugent.be>
Subject: Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones
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Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones

Date: 16-Dec-2011 - 16-Dec-2011
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Contact: Ben Hermans
Contact Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics

Meeting Description:

Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones
A colloquium organized by the journal Taal & Tongval

Organizers:

Anne Breitbarth, University of Ghent
Ben Hermans, Meertens Institute

Often, one finds transitional zones between two neighbouring dialects. Typically, linguistic forms coexist in these zones that are representative of both dialects. These transitional zones are liable to change, in the sense that often, the variation created by the rivaling forms is eliminated in favor of a single form. It has always been one of the central questions in dialectology what changes are attested in transitional zones, how they progress, and why they progress the way they do.

In recent years, a lot of work has been done that continues this long tradition in dialectology. This work has focused on the diachronic as well as the synchronic dimensions of these questions, both from an empirical and a theoretical angle. It is the goal of this colloquium to present an overview of this recent work on changes in transitional zones. We therefore welcome presentations of an empirical or a theoretical nature, addressing historical or synchronic aspects of phonological, syntactic or morphological changes in transitional zones.

An example of an empirical study of the type we envisage is Peters and Fischer (2007). On the basis of an extensive database of 14th and 15th century documents, they show that in some regions of the Middle Low German area, the variation in transitional zones dramatically decreases, in favor of a gradually expanding dialect area, leading to regional standardization. Examples of synchronic studies of changes in progress are amply supplied in Labov (1994).

Not only does the colloquium have an empirical dimension (addressing the question what changes have occurred in the past and are occurring in the present), it also addresses the question why certain changes apply in transitional zones. Here are some questions we think are interesting.

Labov (2007) makes an important distinction between transmission and diffusion. Transmission is a type of change that is induced by the language learning child. It is ‘change from below’, and presumably it is therefore without exceptions. Changes of this type are generated by the process of incrementation, in which successive cohorts and generations of children advance the change in the same direction over many generations. Diffusion is a consequence of dialect contact, a situation in which adults attempt to learn a neighboring dialect. This is ‘change from above’, which, therefore, can have exceptions. In this type of change, morphosyntactic structures tend not to be transferred from one dialect to another. Related theoretical questions concern the properties of adult dialect contact, semi-communication (cf. e.g. Braunmüller 2007), and the direction of agentivity in the specific change, applying e.g. Van Coetsem’s (2000) theory of language contact and Winford’s (2005) interpretation of it to dialect contact.

Another theoretical question we are interested in is the role of grammar in linguistic change. Andersen (1988) argues that the role of grammar is often decisive. In this way he explains, among other things, why over the centuries, in the Polish language area a palatalized consonant is changed into a non-palatalized one, rather than the other way around. In his view the unidirectionality of this change follows from the fact that a more complex grammar tends to be changed into a less complex one, rather than the other way around. On the contrary, the role of formal grammar in language change is explicitly denied in Hale (2007), who believes that change is rather a matter of ‘misanalysis’, caused by perceptional factors.



We are happy to announce the programme of this year's Taal & Tongval colloquium ''Dialects in contact: changes in transitional zones'', which will take place on 16 December 2011 in the building of the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature (Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde (KANTL)), Koningstraat 18 in Gent, Belgium.

9:00-9:30
Coffee

9:30-9:45
A. Breitbarth (UGent) & B. Hermans (Meertens): Opening

9:45-10:30
Elvira Glaser (UZürich): Grammatical change and variation in Swiss German dialects

10:30-11:00
David Britain (UBern): A peaceful, stable transition? Dialect contact, variation and change in the English Fenland.

11:00-11-20
Coffee break

11:20-11:50
Gunther de Vogelaer (UMünster): A dialect continuum in child language?

11:50-12:30
Nynke de Haas (UNijmegen): Transmission and diffusion of conditions on verbal morphosyntax: the Northern Subject Rule in Middle English and after
12:30-14:00
Lunch break

14:00-14:45
Arjen Versloot (Frisian Academy/UAmsterdam): Frisian Varieties -- Isolation and contact

14:45-15:15
Christian Schwarz (UBolzano): Phonological dialect change and the formation of transitional zones in Southwest Germany.

15:15-15:30
Tea break

15:30-16:00
Thomas Strobel (UFrankfurt): Coexisting strategies of partitive-anaphoric reference in German dialects: Transitions and changes in progress.

16:00-16:45
Paul de Lacy (URutgers): The limited role of the grammar in language change: Frequency, phonotactics, and alternations

16:45-17:45
Reception

Alternate:

Ben Hermans: The role of grammar in dialect contact



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