erratum: dates for ESSE workshop on Historical Linguistics

Niki Ritt nikolaus.ritt at
Mon Jan 13 10:07:27 UTC 1997

Dear colleages,
an unfortunate error occured to me in my recent posting about the
Historical Linguistics workshop at ESSE next year. The announced date
of the conference is
NOT --->  Sept. 30th, 1996
BUT --->  September 5th-9th 1997!!
Please accept my apologies for this annoying piece of
mis-information, and find a corrected version of the annnouncement
Announcement of a Workshop to be held at
September 5th-9th, 1997
The Study of Historical English and Contemporary Society
Converners: Olga Fischer, Amsterdam, Nikolaus Ritt, Vienna
Theme and Aim of the Workshop
The workshop is intended for colleagues engaged in the study and
teaching of the history of the English language who are interested in
reflecting on the current status of their discipline within the E
uropean academic community. It seems to us that such reflection is
necessitated by the fact that after a century or so during which
historical linguistics represented one of the back bones of English
studies, it has during the last two decades tended to become
increasingly marginalised both within the English research community,
and, maybe more radically, within university curricula. Part of the
reason for this may be that, while the value of the historical
enterprise is normally taken more or less for granted by those of us
engaged in it, we are not used to making explicit what exactly it is
that we think we are contributing both to the larger academic
community we are part of and, in particular, to the education of our
students. In that respect we tend to differ from colleagues in su ch
neighbouring disciplines as socio-linguistics, discourse analysis or
applied linguistics, for example, who have had to argue their way into
the university curriculum in more recent years.
Since we think that the historical discipline does have more to
offer than is generally acknowledged, we feel it is time to raise,
first of all, our own awareness in that respect. The workshop at ESSE
4 is intended to represent a first step in that direction and to deal
with problems like the following:
* Can the methods employed and/or the insights gained in the study of
the history of the English language make genuine contributions to
neighbouring disciplines whose social relevance is more immediately
* Can knowledge about the history of dialectal variety and
standardisation in English deepen our understanding of the role and
social status of standard and non-standard varieties of present-day
English, and our understanding of the nature of these varieties?
* Do the factors underlying language change throw light on the way
languages are acquired? More generally, what is  the relationship
between  the theory of  grammar and language change (or the theory of
change)? Is the one subservient to the other, or should they be
considered different disciplines? Should the same methodology be used
for both?
* To what degree is knowledge about past stages of English necessary
for understanding the English cultural and particularly literary
* Are there any particular cognitive skills that the study of
historical linguistics helps to refine, and of what value would
these skills be to students in their post-academic lives as, for
example, teachers of English?
All those problems relate - quite generally speaking - to the nature
and justification of our discipline and should be discussed in the
light of one central question:
How might historical linguistics best be integrated in contemporary
university curricula and what are the best methods for teaching the
subject within a typical English Studies course?
Structure of the Workshop and Modes of Participation
Due to the time limit of 2 hours the workshop can only be productive
if the discussion is already well under way by the time we get
together. In our opinion this does not only preclude the reading of
actual  papers, but it also makes it rather unlikely that we'll get
anywhere even by only discussing papers distributed among participants
in advance. The workshop can only succeed, we think, if we u se it for
summarising and rounding up a discussion that is more or less finished
 (and we mean: FINISHED!!) when we meet. - In order to make this
possible we think the following procedure will be mos t adequate.
First, every potential participant should decide if s/he wants to
actively partake in the workshop or prefers just to listen. We greatly
hope that for most of you the former will be the c ase - after all we
are planning a workshop. Potential active participants should then
send us abstracts for papers focusing on a topic related to the
problem area outlined above. We shall then screen the abstracts and
select a small number - i.e. nor more than ten - to be elaborated into
short 'target papers'. The selection will not exclusively be made on
grounds of quality but also in order to provide a range of 'target
papers' which is representative with regard to both topics and
different European backgrounds. 'Target papers' will then be
distributed to all participants, and colleagues with abstracts on
related topics will be asked to elaborate those into comments on and
replies to the 'target papers'. These peer commentaries will again be
distributed to all participants before the workshop. Thus, all
participants will get a survey of open questions and controversial
issues, as well as a chance to form their own opinions on them. At the
actual workshop we can then try to settl e open questions and to
resolve disagreements. In the (unlikely?) case that we all agree on
everything and that all questions are solved by September, we can use
the meeting to celebrate our consensu s and to pat each others' backs.
Colleagues wishing to participate in the workshop must register for
ESSE/4 using the appropiate form supplied in The European English
Messenger V/2 1996 and also availabe on eMail request from the
convenors. Registration for the workshop itself can be informal and
addressed to the convenors.
Colleagues should express their wish to participate in the workshop
before the end of February, and indicate if they would like to write a
target paper/commentary. Only participants thus registered will
receive further circulars, the programme as well as the papers. The
deadline for the submission of abstracts is March 31st. The deadline
for the submission of target papers is June 10th.  Commentaries should
reach us before the end of July and will be distributed to all
participants at the beginning of August.
Olga Fischer
Engels Seminarium / Universiteit van Amsterdam
Spuistraat 210 / 1012 VT Amsterdam
phone: 020-5252825
eMail: Olga.Fischer at
Nikolaus Ritt
English Department / University of Vienna
Universitaetsstra=DFe 7
A-1010 Vienna
Phone: int. 43 1 40103 2064
Fax: int. 43 1 40 60 444
e-mail: nikolaus.ritt at
Nikolaus Ritt
English Department
University of Vienna
Universitaetsstra=DFe 7
A-1010 Vienna
Phone: int. 43 1 40103 2064
Fax: int. 43 1 40 60 444
e-mail: nikolaus.ritt at

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