call for papers workshop Vilnius

Freek Van de Velde Freek.VanDeVelde at
Tue Nov 3 11:07:16 UTC 2009


This call for papers might interest the subscribers of Funknet.

Best regards,

Freek Van de Velde.

SLE 2010 Vilnius: Workshop proposal

Multiple source constructions in language change

In recent work on grammaticalization and language change in general, it has often been stressed that change does not affect individual lexemes, but entire constructions (see Bybee et al. 1994: 11; Croft 2000:62, 156, 163; Heine 2003: 575; Bybee 2003: 602-3, 2007; Traugott 2007). However, although most case studies on diachronic language change now recognize the importance of the source construction as a whole, they generally focus on just one such construction, drawing gradual, yet straight lines from one particular source construction to one specific syntagm. Using the metaphor proposed in Croft (2000: 32-37), constructions form diachronic lineages as they are replicated in usage, and change is typically conceived of as occurring within a lineage through altered replication. Recent studies, however, demonstrate that innovations in language change may derive not just from one, but from different sources at once. That is, change often seems to involve some interaction between lineages or between the branches of a lineage.

Multiplicity of source constructions can be witnessed on two levels. On the macro-level, the involvement of multiple source constructions entails a merger of clearly distinct lineages. One linguistic item or construction can then be traced back to two independent items or constructions, each with its own prior history. Several types of merger can be discerned, which are however not mutually exclusive:

·                Syntactic blends ('intraference' in Croft 2000): the formal and functional features of different lineages are recombined into a new construction. For example, the Lunda passive has been argued to combine two source constructions, a left-dislocated object construction and an impersonal construction (Givón & Kawasha 2006). The history of English gerunds and present participles seems to be a protracted series of mergers, with exchange of formal, semantic and distributional features (Fanego 1998; Miller 2000), to the point that the two clause types are now believed to have merged completely (Huddleston & Pullum 2002).

·                Contact-induced change ('interference' in Croft 2000): the function of a foreign construction is merged with a 'home-bred' form. Examples are the use of the locative preposition bei instead of von to mark the agent of passives in Pennsylvania Dutch under the influence of English (Heine & Kuteva 2003: 538), or the emergence of a periphrastic perfect in Silesian Polish, calqued on the German perfect (Croft 2000: 146).

·                Two lineages produce paradigmatic alternates in a single construction. Here lineages merge on a functional level, but their different forms are retained and integrated in a new paradigm. The clearest case is morphological suppletion, as in English go/went or Classical Greek trekh-/dram- 'run'. However, the phenomenon also occurs in syntax, as illustrated by the alternation of Dutch hebben/zijn or German haben/sein as perfect auxiliaries. As is well known, the choice for one auxiliary or the other depends on the semantics of the verb: transitives and unergatives take hebben/haben; unaccusatives take zijn/sein. Though currently functioning as alternates within a single grammatical category, the hebben/haben-perfect and the zijn/sein-perfect can be traced back to different source constructions (Van der Wal 1992:152-153).

·                A constructional slot attracts new items: it has been proposed that when functional domains recruit new items through grammaticalization, this may in part be due to analogical attraction by a more abstract syntactic construction (Fischer 2007). This seems particularly plausible when, in the extreme case, an abstract slot recruits productively from a single source domain. For instance, the English evidential be-Ved-to-V-construction has become productive for verbs of perception, communication and cognition (Noël 2001). But the issue is more complicated when items from different source domains are involved. Prepositions, for instance, may be derived from very different sources yet converge on a single new category, as illustrated by German statt and wegen, deriving from nominal constructions, as opposed to während, deriving from a participle (Kluge 2002).
On the micro-level, innovation can take place within what is historically a single lineage, but under the influence of different uses of the same item.

·                In lexical semantics, Geeraerts (1997) proposes that two senses of a polysemous lexical item may conspire to produce a third.

·                The same seems to happen in grammar. New uses of a grammatical or grammaticalizing item may be triggered by pragmatic implicatures arising (seemingly?) independently in a number of its collocations. For example, the aspectual meanings of the English phrasal verb particle out arose in several specific collocations at once (De Smet forthc.). The development of the emphasizing meaning of particular was influenced by two other sense strains of the adjective - a descriptive and a determining one - each associated with its own specific collocational set. (Ghesquière 2009).

·                The most dramatic cases are certain examples of degrammaticalization. For example, Fischer (2000) has argued that, long after it had been reanalysed as an infinitive marker, English to has developed back in the direction of the preposition to.

The recurrent involvement of multiple source constructions in language change raises a number of questions, from methodological/descriptive to theoretical:

1.             How do we prove that different source constructions have a genuine impact? Clearly, mere resemblance of constructions does not necessarily imply that they actually interact as sources of an innovation.

2.             How should we typologize the various changes involving multiple source constructions? For a start, involvement of multiple sources may be more likely in some domains of grammar than others (semantics, morphology, syntax) and is certainly more conspicuous in some cases than in others (macro-level vs. micro-level). It is not entirely clear, then, whether in all cases we are dealing with a similar phenomenon, triggered by fundamentally similar mechanisms.

3.             How common is the involvement of multiple source constructions in language change? It is possible that the involvement of multiple source constructions is a significant catalyst for change, which could even imply that 'uncontaminated' lineage-internal changes form the exception. Alternatively, the involvement of multiple sources could be merely apparent or accidental and have no great impact on change.

4.             How can developments involving multiple source constructions be modelled in a theory of grammar and language change? Especially if change canonically involves multiple sources, this has implications for how constructions are represented in speakers' minds and how language change takes place (Joseph 1992). Proper theoretical modelling of different changes is also necessary to determine to what extent multiplicity of source constructions in change is a homogeneous phenomenon.

We invite papers that address one or more of the above questions, to be presented in a one-day workshop, bringing together scholars interested in language change, from the domains of grammar, grammaticalization, morphology and typology. Particularly welcome are papers that are based on corpus and/or historical data and that aim to contribute to existing theorizing.

Confirmed key note speaker:

Brian Joseph


The workshop is to be held at the 43rd annual meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europeae in Vilnius, September 2-5 (


We ask potential participants to send us their provisional titles and short descriptions no later than November 12, so as to allow us to submit a workshop programme, including a preliminary list of participants and a short description of their topics, to the SLE Scientific Committee. Contributors will be notified if the workshop is accepted by December 15. Abstracts should then be submitted electronically via the SLE website by January 1.


Lobke.Ghesquiere at<mailto:Lobke.Ghesquiere at>

Workshop conveners:

Freek Van de Velde, Lobke Ghesquière, Hendrik De Smet


Bybee, J., R. Perkins & W. Pagliuca (1994). The evolution of grammar. Tense, aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bybee, J. (2003). Mechanisms of change in grammaticalization. The role of frequency. In: Joseph, B.D. & R.D. Janda (eds.). The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 602-623.

Bybee, J. (2007). Historical Linguistics. In: Geeraerts, D. & H. Cuyckens (eds.) The handbook of cognitive linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 945-987.

Croft, W. (2000). Explaining language change. An evolutionary approach. Harlow: Longman.

De Smet, H. (forthc.). Grammatical interference. Subject marker for and phrasal verb particle out. In: Traugott, E. & G. Trousdale (eds). Gradualness, gradience and grammaticalization. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Fanego, T. (1998). Developments in argument linking in early Modern English gerund phrases. English Language and Linguistics 2: 87-119.

Fischer, O. (2000). Grammaticalisation: unidirectional, non-reversible? The case of to before the infinitive in English. In: Fischer, O., A. Rosenbach & D. Stein (eds.). Pathways of change. Grammaticalization in English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 149-169.

Fischer, O. (2007). Approaches to morphosyntactic change from a functional and formal perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Geeraerts, D. (1997). Diachronic prototype semantics. A contribution to historical lexicology.
Oxford: Clarendon Press

Ghesquière, L. (2009). (Inter)subjectification and structural movement in the English NP. The adjectives of specificity. Folia Linguistica 43 (2): 311-343.

Givón, T. & B. Kawasha. (2006). Indiscrete grammatical relations. The Lunda passive. In: Tsunoda, T. & T. Kageyama (eds.). Voice and Grammatical Relations. In Honor of Masayoshi Shibatani (Typology Studies in Language 65). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 15-41.

Heine, B. (2003). Grammaticalization. In: Joseph, B.D. & R.D. Janda (eds.). The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 575-601.

Heine, B. & T. Kuteva (2003). "On contact-induced grammaticalization". Studies in Language 27:529-572.

Huddleston, R. & Pullum, G. (2002). The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambrige: Cambridge University Press.

Joseph, B.D. (1992). Diachronic explanation. Putting the speaker back into the picture. In: Davis, G.W. & G.K. Iverson (eds.). Explanations in historical linguistics. John Benjamins. 123-144.

Kluge, F. (2002). Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Miller, G.D. (2002). Nonfinite structures in theory and change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Noël, D. (2001). The passive matrices of English infinitival complement clauses. Evidentials on the road to auxiliarihood? Studies in Language 25: 255-296.

Traugott, E. (2007). The concepts of constructional mismatch and type-shifting from the perspective of grammaticalization. Cognitive Linguistics 18: 523-557.

Van der Wal, M. (i.c.w. C. van Bree) (1992). Geschiedenis van het Nederlands. Utrecht: Spectrum.

Freek Van de Velde
University of Leuven, Fac. of Arts
Dept. of Linguistics
Blijde Inkomststraat 21, P.O. Box 3308
BE-3000 Leuven
0032 16 32 47 81

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