LINGUIST List 27.1746

Thu Apr 14 2016

Confs: Discipline of Ling, General Ling, Historical Ling, Socioling, Typology/Belgium

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 14-Apr-2016
From: Anne Breitbarth <>
Subject: The Determinants of Diachronic Stability
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The Determinants of Diachronic Stability

Date: 28-Jun-2016 - 28-Jun-2016
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Contact: Anne Breitbarth
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Discipline of Linguistics; General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Typology

Meeting Description:

That human languages are constantly evolving is an undeniable fact. By now, theories have become very apt at dealing with linguistic variation and change. But the reality is that populations are in constant flux, socially and linguistically. Much of what used to be considered “internally caused change” might perhaps more appropriately have to be considered as contact-induced on the level of contact between varieties of a single diasystem. This realization turns the faithful stable transmission of linguistic features where it does occur into an urgent explanandum. Different linguistic subfields have responded to this in different ways, and many questions still need to be addressed.

- Within the field of typology, the question of diachronically and cross-linguistically more stable traits of languages has been put on the agenda mainly by the work of Johanna Nichols (e.g. Nichols 1992).
- From a markedness point of view, inflectional classes apparently needlessly complicate morphological systems and lead to the expectation that they should be diachronically unstable (e.g. Wurzel 1989). The fact that this is empirically not confirmed is in need of explanation (e.g. Lass 1990).
- While there is no question that language contact may induce change (e.g. Thomason & Kaufman 1988), it has only more recently been noted that there may also be linguistic stability in spite of language contact, and that it may, in some cases, even be contact-induced (e.g. Trudgill 2011, Braunmüller et al. eds. 2014).
- A further question that has not yet satisfyingly been answered is why, given the same or similar input conditions in different languages, some linguistic changes never happen, or, once initiated, stall (e.g. Weinreich, Labov & Herzog 1968, Labov 1994; 2001).
- More recently, the related question of whether there can be such a thing as stable variation in language, and how it interacts with language change has been added to the research agenda (e.g. Wallenberg 2013, Fruehwald & Wallenberg 2013).
- It is unclear what the influence of type and token frequency is on keeping certain properties diachronically stable. On the one hand, research on grammaticalization has indicated that highly frequent items are more likely to grammaticalize, and therefore, low frequency of usage might be expected to favour stability. On the other hand, highly frequent elements often resist analogical change, so in this sense, ‘low frequency items’ are expected to be more prone to change.
- Finally, the role of extra-linguistic factors such as normative pressure in keeping linguistic phenomena constant should be studied more systematically, and with an eye on interaction with the language internal factors mentioned above.

The workshop will be held at Ghent University, on 28 June 2016. Its goal is to bring together researchers from different areas of linguistics to discuss the determinants of diachronic stability from their individual perspectives, with the aim of fostering dialogue between them.

Keynote Speakers:

- Sheila Watts (Cambridge)
- Joel C. Wallenberg (Newcastle)t


We are happy to announce that the programme for the workshop on ‘The Determinants of Diachronic Stability’ is now online:

All practical information concerning the event can be found at

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that this workshop precedes the 18th Diachronic Generative Syntax conference (DiGS 18), taking place from 29 June – 1 July 2016. All information regarding this conference, including the programme, can be found at

Registration for both events is now open: an online registration form can be accessed at

We hope to welcome you in Ghent!

The organizing committee,

Miriam Bouzouita
Anne Breitbarth
Lieven Danckaert
Melissa Farasyn
Liliane Haegeman
Elisabeth Witzenhausen

Tuesday, 28 June 2016



Invited speaker: Sheila Watts
Token stability vs. type stability: Studies from the History of German

10:00-10:15 Coffee break

10:15-10:50 Thorhallur Eythorsson and Sigridur Saeunn Sigurdardottir Arguments in a cold climate: Stability and change in Icelandic weather verbs

Pierre Rucart
Arabic loans in the verbal system of Afar

Susanne Vejdemo and Thomas Hörberg
The role of frequency in measuring the rate of lexical replacement

12:00-13:00 Lunch break (on site)

Charlotte Galves
Competition, stability and change in the emergence of Brazilian Portuguese

13:35-14:10 Theresa Biberauer
Contact and acquirers: the “exotic” factors that have shaped Afrikaans V2

14:10-14:55 Waltraud Paul & Redouane Djamouri
Disharmony in harmony with diachronic stability: The case of Chinese

14:55-15:10 Coffee break

15:10-16:00 Invited speaker
Joel Wallenberg
title t.b.c.

Henri Kauhanen
Stable variation arises from noisy across-population bias distributions in the absence of global bias

Ian Roberts
Stable and unstable OV systems: the role of pleiotropic formal features

Reception at Townhall

Page Updated: 14-Apr-2016