LINGUIST List 24.3886

Thu Oct 03 2013

Calls: Historical Linguistics, Morphology, Typology/Poland

Editor for this issue: Bryn Hauk <>

Date: 03-Oct-2013
From: Rik van Gijn <>
Subject: Diachronic Stability of Complex Verbal Morphology
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Full Title: Diachronic Stability of Complex Verbal Morphology
Date: 11-Sep-2014 - 14-Sep-2014 Location: Poznań, Poland Contact Person: Rik van Gijn
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Morphology; Typology

Call Deadline: 25-Nov-2013

Meeting Description:

The distribution of (potentially) morphologically complex verb forms over the globe is clearly skewed (Bickel & Nichols 2013): complex inflectional verb forms are predominantly found in the Americas, Papua New Guinea, and north-eastern Asia. Africa and Australia present a more scattered picture, and Eurasian languages (with some notable exceptions) predominantly have lower inflectional complexity on the verb.

This geographical skewing raises the question whether verbal morphological complexity (in terms of many potential categories per verb) is diffused through contact. If so, this is rather unexpected from the perspective of language contact theories, which predict that very basic architectural features (such as morphological structure) are relatively resistant to contact-induced change (see e.g. Thomason & Kaufman 1988, Heine & Kuteva 2007, Dunn et al. 2007).

Another possible explanation for the skewed patterns may be that, rather than contact-induced similarities, they represent very old structures, which are in fact due to inheritance from an ancestor language far beyond the reach of the comparative method. Interestingly, this answer would give new life to the claims by early pre-typological grammarians that genetic affiliation can be shown by the comparison of morphological structure.

This workshop is dedicated to contributing to the advancement of our knowledge about the diachronic development of morphological complexity.


Bickel, Balthasar & Johanna Nichols. 2011. Inflectional Synthesis of the Verb. In: Dryer, Matthew S. & Haspelmath, Martin (eds.) The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Munich: Max Planck Digital Library, chapter 22. Available online at Accessed on 2013-09-20.

Dunn, M., Terrill, A., Reesink, G., Foley, R. A., & Levinson, S. C. 2005.Structural phylogenetics and the reconstruction of ancient language history.Science, 309(5743), 2072-2075.

Heine, Bernd & Tania Kuteva. 2007. The genesis of grammar: a reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thomason, Sarah G. & Terrence D. Kaufman. 1988. Language contact, creolization, and genetic inheritance. University of California Press.

Call for Papers:

We invite potential contributors to send short (max. 300 words) abstracts before November 25, 2013. We particularly welcome contributions from a comparative perspective, either within families, or within contact areas, that can give us better insights into the developmental paths of complex structures, whether through internal or contact-induced change. Specific topics of interest include:

- (Linguistic) areas where (poly-)synthesis is a prevalent feature
- Morphologically diverse language families (perhaps versus consistent ones)
- Islands or typological enclaves of verbally complex languages in areas dominated by isolating languages and vice versa.
- Specific (semantic or functional) areas in the verb complex and their diachronic development
- Comparison of verbal complexity between areas

Please send you abstracts to one of the workshop organizers:

Rik van Gijn - University of Zürich (

Page Updated: 03-Oct-2013