Call for papers: workshop "Usage-based approaches to language change" - ICHL 2011

Evie Coussé evie.cousse at
Tue Nov 23 10:06:10 UTC 2010

Call for papers for the workshop "Usage-based approaches to language change"
at ICHL 2011 in Osaka (Japan).


Conveners: Evie Coussé (Ghent University, Belgium) and Ferdinand von Mengden
(Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)


Workshop description


Most approaches to language (change) have principally in common that they
locate the main explanandum of language in the human mind and that they
operate with categories. Change is, implicitly or explicitly, seen as a
shift of a linguistic form from one category to another ? whether across
discrete or fuzzy boundaries. A well-know example of this view is the
importance of reanalysis in explaining language change in mainstream
historical linguistics. Reanalysis is considered to be the underlying
mechanism that motivates changing patterns in usage such as contextual
extension and increasing generalization / abstraction in meaning. 


However, alternative views have also been expressed, in which linguistic
structure is seen as subject to constant negotiation in communication.
Hopper?s (1998) Emergent Grammar or Keller?s (1994) Invisible Hand are
prominent examples. Without denying the share that cognition has in the
production of utterances and the usefulness of categories for linguistic
description, structure is seen as epiphenomenal in these approaches.
Structure is in a constant flux across time, area and social strata and,
therefore, language use or actual communication are the loci of structure
formation and hence of change.


In line with this usage-based perspective of language and language change,
an alternative for reanalysis has been proposed in which (changing)
discourse patterns are directly related to meaning without referring to
changes in abstract structures (e.g. Bybee e.a 1994, Haspelmath 1998, De
Smet 2009). However, a larger coherent vision of the relation between
language usage and language change is still largely missing. 


The workshop aims at discussing possibilities for such a usage-based
framework on language change. We wish to combine case studies with
theoretical contributions that help setting up a comprehensive model on
language change, in which language use is in the focus and in which the core
properties of language are seen in its dynamics rather than in its states. 


Call for papers


As the workshop has been approved and accepted by the conference organizers
of ICHL 2011, a call for papers is launched for interested speakers. 


Abstracts of no more than 300 words, including literature references, should
be submitted through the conference website (
<> Please remember to indicate
the workshop title in the appropriate place on the abstract submission form.


Please note that also potential speakers that have reacted positively to the
initial call for participation in October 2010 are required to send a full
abstract through the conference website.


Important deadlines:

15 January 2011: abstract submission deadline

28 January 2011: notification of acceptance




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.


De Smet, H. (2009) Analysing reanalysis. In: Lingua 119, 1728-1755.


Haspelmath, M. (1998) Does grammaticalization need reanalysis? In: Studies
in Language 22, 315-351.


Hopper, P.J. (1998) Emergent grammar. In: M. Tomasello (ed.) The new
psychology of grammar: cognitive and functional approaches to language
structure. Mahwah: Erlbaum: 155-176.


Keller, R. (1994) On language change. The invisible hand in language.

London: Routlegde.



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