LINGUIST List 29.3591

Tue Sep 18 2018

Calls: Historical Linguistics, Typology/Australia

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

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Date: 17-Sep-2018
From: Eugen Hill <>
Subject: Trends in the Development and Evolution of Inflection
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Full Title: Trends in the Development and Evolution of Inflection

Date: 01-Jul-2019 - 05-Jul-2019
Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Contact Person: Eugen Hill
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Typology

Call Deadline: 12-Oct-2018

Meeting Description:

Trends in the Development and Evolution of Inflection

It is well known that in the development and subsequent evolution of inflection cross-linguistically recurrent patterns can be identified. Several patterns are robust enough to justify being called “trend”. The most well-known trends are, for instance, the following:

- inflection trapped between the stem of a word and a former clitic tends to secondarily relocate toward a word-external position,
- conjugation patterns containing bound person-indexes tend to restructure on the basis of the 3rd person secondarily reanalysed as the bare stem,
- languages tend to abandon very short inflectional forms of nouns, pronouns and verbs either by replacing such forms with compounds or by tolerating defectiveness.

The aim of the proposed workshop is to improve our present-day understanding of such cross-linguistic trends in the development and evolution of inflection by describing more trends and identifying the determinants which may be responsible for such trends.
To achieve this, the workshop will address the following particular issues resp. research questions.

-- Can more cross-linguistically recurrent patterns in development and evolution of inflection be discovered? How to look for them in a principled resp. systematic way?

In recent times more diachronic trends in inflection have been proposed. All such trends have been discovered by means of directly looking into the development of languages either descending from a documented common ancestor or being closely related, thus allowing for a “shallow” reconstruction of an undocumented common ancestor. The obvious advantage of this approach is the control over both the starting-point and the end-point of the relevant processes. Its disadvantage is the amount of information about the relevant languages which is needed for such an investigation. Is it possible to infer typological trends in the evolution of inflection from other sources, such as the synchronic cross-linguistic distribution of inflectional patterns?

-- Can trends be used for establishing uncommon or rare patterns of change? How to deal with conflicting trends?

Describing trends in inflection helps to structure the evidence in a way facilitating a more comprehensive investigation of inflectional change in the relevant domain. So, the description of externalization of inflection has led to the recent discovery of its rare opposite. Can more uncommon patterns of change be discovered? How to look for them in a more comprehensive resp. more systematic way?

-- What are the factors responsible for trends in the development and evolution of inflection? What are the possible patterns of interaction between these factors?

It seems established that trends in the development and evolution of inflection partly imply a well-defined target- or goal-construction and partly seem to depend on the cross-linguistically common sources of the structure in question.
The question which remains to be answered is as to what may be the possible determinants of goal-oriented changes or what may define the goal? An obvious factor is areal pressure, i.e. a goal-oriented change may target a structure present in a neighbouring language. A second possible factor might be the structural pressure from within the system in question itself. The third possible factor may be constituted by synchronic cognitive or functional preferences which define structures more suitable for processing information.
It is important to identify evidence helpful for establishing which factors may be at work in the case of each particular diachronic trend and what are the possible patterns of interaction between these factors.

Call for Papers:

The workshop welcomes papers dealing with the above stated questions from both the theoretical and the empirical perspective. Case studies on particular trends are as welcome as papers offering new generalizations.

Talks can be submitted through

Page Updated: 18-Sep-2018