LINGUIST List 27.706

Mon Feb 08 2016

Calls: Historical Ling, Text/Corpus Ling/Poland

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 08-Feb-2016
From: Tine Breban <>
Subject: Workshop: Getting More out of Corpus Data: Empirical Evidence for Semantic Change
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Full Title: Workshop: Getting More out of Corpus Data: Empirical Evidence for Semantic Change

Date: 18-Sep-2016 - 21-Sep-2016
Location: Poznan, Poland
Contact Person: Tine Breban
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site: http://

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics

Call Deadline: 15-Mar-2016

Meeting Description:

Since the advent of historical corpora, empirical research into language change in English has soared. But even though, more, better and bigger corpora were compiled and new methods for processing and analysing data developed, what does not appear to have changed very much since the early corpora is what we are looking for to detect language change. This is particularly a problem for changes that have been defined primarily in terms of a change in function or meaning, such as grammaticalization or subjectification. Corpora do not directly give access to meaning, and it is common practice to support a hypothesized change in function and meaning with evidence of differences in form or distribution, as the latter changes can be observed empirically. Researchers have to rely on concomitant changes that can be observed in corpus data. The issue that this workshop seeks to redress is the limited types of changes in form and distribution that are usually discussed as evidence.

The problem of operationalizing semantic change has been raised by several linguists studying subjectification (Aaron and Torres Cacoullos 2005, De Smet and Verstraete 2006, Torres Cacoullos and Schwenter 2006, López-Couso 2010, Traugott 2010), and intersubjectification (Traugott 2010, Brems et al. 2014). But the problem also applies for grammaticalization. Even though, it is one of the most well-studied types of semantic change in the ‘corpus age’, the foundational works on grammaticalization appeared in the 1980s-1990s, before large scale diachronic corpora were widely used, and the most widely applied proposal for operationalization is still Lehmann’s (1995 [1982]) parameters set. The possibility to look at authentic contexts has prompted a better understanding of the semantic-pragmatic mechanisms of change, but it has not improved the empirical search criteria.

The aim of this workshop is to develop a more extended toolkit of empirical changes to help the identification of semantic change. The tenet is that the only way to do is, is by bringing together the results of as many and as different case studies that take a micro-analytical approach to change. That is, cases studies that bring to light the distributional changes that accompany semantic change in English. Several examples already out there include recent work on the English noun phrase: Adamson (2000), Breban (2010) couple a semantic change with a change in an item’s position in relation to other items in the noun phrase; Paradis (2000), Vandewinkel and Davidse (2008), Ghesquière (2014) show that a change in collocational behaviour can be a sign of semantic change; Vartiainen (2013) opens a new window on subjectification by showing that subjectified adjectives co-occur more with indefinite determination. Hilpert (2008) on the development of future auxiliaries and Van Bergen (2013) on the grammaticalization of uton as an adhortative show how a similar micro-analytical approach can be used in the verb phrase. At sentence level, Walkden (2013), who uses position of the verb as a window the meaning of Old English hwæt, can be an inspiration. The goal is to build up a toolkit of form/distribution and meaning/function change associations that can be applied in the empirical study of semantic change, and that might form a critical mass breaking the code of the operationalization of grammaticalization, subjectification and intersubjectification.

Call for Papers:

This workshop welcomes papers that report on:

- case studies identifying form and distributional changes that accompany semantic change in all areas of English
- the operationalization of theoretical notions such as collocational expansion (Himmelmann 2004), decategorialization (Hopper 1991), etc.
- case studies applying quantitative analysis to micro-analytical changes in form/distribution
- case studies that explore how theoretical proposals for operationalization such as Boye and Harder (2012) for grammaticalization and Visconti (2012) for subjectification can be applied to corpus data
- the implications of form/distributional changes for our understanding of the mechanisms of semantic change, and/or a Construction Grammar model of change

This workshop will be held during ISLE4 (18-21 September 2016, Poznan, day of the workshop TBC). Papers in the workshop will be allotted 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussion, in keeping with the format of the conference. Please submit your abstract (300-500 words, excluding the title, linguistic examples and references) though the EasyChair system on the conference website ( The deadline for submissions is 15 March 2016. Notification of acceptance of papers is 25 April 2016.

Convenor: Tine Breban (University of Manchester)

Page Updated: 08-Feb-2016