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LINGUIST List 22.4745

Tue Nov 29 2011

Confs: Historical Ling, Typology/USA

Editor for this issue: Amy Brunett <brunettlinguistlist.org>

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        1.     Na'ama Pat-El , Contact Among Genetically Related Languages

Message 1: Contact Among Genetically Related Languages
Date: 28-Nov-2011
From: Na'ama Pat-El <npatelaustin.utexas.edu>
Subject: Contact Among Genetically Related Languages
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Contact Among Genetically Related Languages

Date: 21-Apr-2012 - 22-Apr-2012
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Contact: Na'ama Pat-El
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/mes/events/conferences/language_contact_2012/language_contact_2012.php

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Typology

Meeting Description:

One of the major issues discussed in the context of contact is the question of linguistic structure and what contribution typological structural similarity has on the extent of borrowing. The assumption that similar structure is an essential factor in borrowability ('structural compatibility requirement'), which was common early on (Weinreich 1953; Moravcsik 1978) has been abandoned, but recent studies suggest that there is some correlation between structural similarity and structural changes, although this may hold only as a tendency (Haig 2001). To date, most investigations of contact phenomena have focused on languages coming from different or only distantly related families. In such languages, if any similarity exists, it is typological, rather than genetic. Yet the issue of contact among genetically related languages is a crucial problem for historical linguistics, with profound implications for determining subgrouping among related languages, reconstructing protolanguages, and understanding the histories of their speakers. In the past, historical linguistics often worked under the assumption that languages split from a common language (proto-language) and developed independently thereafter. The effects of contact among related languages may lead to erroneous family trees, in which languages are assigned to incorrect nodes on the basis of borrowed similarities. Yet despite these challenges, detailed investigation that weighs different features according to their relative borrowability can make progress toward untangling these complex linguistic relationships. Establishing the methodological best practices and most common pitfalls in distinguishing contact from genetic inheritance remains an outstanding challenge in historical linguistics. Therefore, we plan to conduct an international workshop where relevant test cases will be presented and theoretical debates may further our understanding of the effect of genetic relation on the results of language contact.

In this workshop we expect to address, among others, the following questions:

1. What kinds of problems are unique to dealing with contact between closely related languages? Is it possible to conclude that some contact-induced changes are more likely to be displayed in related languages?
2. What insights may be provided by case studies of particular contact situations involving related languages? Can these insights serve to inform the theoretical debate in general or should we treat contact between genetically related languages as a different type?
3. What are the implications of such contact effects for reconstruction? What are the criteria to distinguish evolutionary changes from contact induced changes, if such exist?
4. To what extent can we predict the relative borrowability of different types of linguistic features, and in different sociolinguistic circumstances (language shift, bilingualism, etc.)? How much is the terminology used in language contact applicable to contact between related languages? Is it, for example, meaningful to call speakers of related languages bilingual?
5. What are the linguistic implications of contact among related dialects, as opposed to more distantly related languages?
6. To what extent, and by what criteria, can subgrouping be reliably determined when contact has taken place? How can we efficiently distinguish between contact-induced change and internal changes?
7. With regard to the ongoing debate about typological similarity as a factor in borrowability, what is the difference between typologically-based similarity and genetically-based similarity?

Paul-Alain Beaulieu (University of Toronto)
Claire Bowern (Yale)
Patience Epps (UT Austin)
John Huehnergard (UT Austin)
Maarten Kossmann (Leiden University)
Alexander Magidow (UT Austin)
H. Craig Melchert (UCLA)
Marianne Mithun (UC Santa Barbara)
Na'ama Pat-El (UT Austin)

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