[Lingtyp] CfP: SLE 2018 workshop
johanna at berkeley.edu
Wed Oct 11 06:28:47 EDT 2017
*Call for abstracts*
*Valence orientation in contact: a cross-linguistic perspective*
*Workshop proposal for SLE 2018 (Tallinn, Aug. 29-Sept. 1) *(
Organizers: Eitan Grossman, Riho Grünthal, and Johanna Nichols
Nichols, Peterson & Barnes (2004) have proposed that a general typological
parameter of languages is their valence orientation – that is, the overall
tendency of a language to treat members of causal-noncausal verb
alternations in a particular way. In some languages, verbs with meanings
like *seat* and *scare* tend to be formally derived from verbs meaning *sit*
and *fear* (e.g., Nanai, Lakhota), while in other languages, the direction
of derivation is the converse (e.g., Russian, Maasai). Yet other languages
tend to treat both members as derived (e.g., Ingush, Hausa), or neither
member as derived (e.g., Ewe, Ossetic). This work intersects with
Haspelmath (1993, 2017) and Haspelmath et al. (2014), which show that some
members of causal-noncausal pairs tend to be coded as causatives, while
others tend to be coded as anticausatives. All of the above studies are
interested in form-meaning and/or form-frequency correspondences, as are
studies conducted in generative frameworks (e.g., Levin & Rappoport Hovav
1995 and subsequent literature).
However, meaning- or usage-based explanations (called* ‘functional theories*’
in Bickel 2015), which appeal to cognitive or communicative biases, may be
only one part of an account of cross-linguistic diversity in basic valence
orientation or, more broadly, in the coding of causal:noncausal verb pairs.
Another possible set of factors is *‘event-based’ *(Bickel 2015), i.e.,
historical contingencies that have brought speakers of different languages
into contact, potentially leading to convergence, on the one hand, or
divergence, on the other. Therefore it is important to directly target the
possibility that the distribution of valence orientation across languages
is influenced by language contact. Preliminary support for this possibility
is found in Haspelmath (1993), which points to a European preference for
anticausatives, or Nichols et al.’s (2004) finding that basic valence
orientation tends to pattern areally. For example, transitivizing
languages, which prefer the formal derivation of a causal verb from a
noncausal verb, are especially prominent in Northern Asia and in North
America, while they are strongly dispreferred in Africa, Australia, and
Such broad areal distributions are the point of departure for the proposed
workshop on *Valence Orientation as a Contact-Influenced Parameter: A
Crosslinguistic Perspective*. The hypothesis to be investigated in this
workshop is that valence orientation is prone to contact-induced change.
This hypothesis still remains to be evaluated on the basis of detailed case
studies that specifically target valence orientation in actual contact
situations. Indeed, several studies point to the possibility of convergence
in valence orientation in certain contact situations.
- Kulikov & Lavidas (2015) point to an areal split within Indo-European,
such that verb lability increased in the western languages (e.g., Romance
and Germanic) and decreased in the eastern languages (e.g., Indo-Aryan and
- Coptic and Koine Greek, which were in intensive contact in Late
Antique Egypt, both developed an increased tendency to labile verbs
(Grossman 2017, Lavidas 2009).
- Russian Yiddish has moved away from the Germanic profile towards a
strong detransitivizing preference as in Russian, while United States
Yiddish has shifted towards a preference for labile verbs as in English
(Luchina-Sadan, in prep.), as has Pennsylvania German (Goldblatt, in prep.).
We invite abstracts for 20-minute talks that focus on one of the following
(or similar) topics:
1. case studies of individual contact situations that provide a detailed
discussion of the valence orientation of the languages in contact, in order
to evaluate the extent to which language contact played a role in shaping
2. areal studies of valence orientation;
3. global cross-linguistic studies of valence orientation;
4. valence orientation in pidgins, creoles, or mixed languages;
5. other aspects of valence orientation in the context of language
6. family biases (Bickel 2011 and subsequent literature);
7. relevant methodological issues and questions.
Wordlist approaches have been shown to give sensitive and rigorous measures
of cross-linguistic similarity and distance, and we especially welcome
abstracts that base the study of languages in contact on existing standard
wordlists, such as the list of 18 verb-pair meanings provided by Nichols et
al. (2004) (revised in Nichols (2017)
for which roughly 200 languages have already been coded; the 31 verb-pair
meanings in Haspelmath (1993) or the 20 verb-pair meanings in Haspelmath et
al. (2014); or the 20-gloss list in Nau & Pakerys (2017/in press); or the
31-pair WATP <http://watp.ninjal.ac.jp/en/> list. We also welcome
contributions that criticize existing wordlists or propose new ones.
Prospective contributors should send us a title and short abstract (maximum
300 words; non-anonymous) by *Monday, Nov. 6*. Earlier inquiries are
welcome. Proposals will be reviewed and we will have notification by Nov.
15. If the proposal is successful all participants will need to send in a
full abstract by the regular SLE conference deadline of Jan. 15, 2018.
Bickel, Balthasar. 2013 . Distributional biases in language families. In:
Balthasar Bickel, Lenore A. Grenoble, David A. Peterson & Alan Timberlake
(eds.), *Language typology and historical contingency*, 415-444. Amsterdam:
Bickel, Balthasar. 2015. Distributional typology: statistical inquiries
into the dynamics of linguistic diversity. <http://www.zora.uzh.ch/109110/>
In Bernd Heine & Heiko Narrog (eds.), *The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic
Analysis, 2nd edition,* Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldblatt, Noa. In prep. Coding of causal-noncausal verb pairs in German
speech islands: a micro-typology. Unpublished manuscript.
Grossman, Eitan. 2017. Language-specific transitivities in contact: the
case of Coptic. Forthcoming in *Journal of Language Contact*.
Haspelmath, Martin. 1993. More on the typology of inchoative/causative verb
In Bernard Comrie & Maria Polinsky (eds.), Causatives and transitivity,
87–120. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Haspelmath, Martin. 2017. Universals of causative and anticausative verb
formation and the spontaneity scale.
Haspelmath, Martin, Andreea Calude, Michael Spagnol, Heiko Narrog & Elif
Bamyaci. 2014. Coding causal–noncausal verb alternations: A form–frequency
*Journal of Linguistics* 50(3): 587 - 625.
Kulikov, Leonid & Nikolaos Lavidas. 2015. Reconstructing voice and passive
in Proto-Indo-European. In: Leonid Kulikov & Nikolaos Lavidas (eds.)
Proto-Indo-European syntax and its development, 101-124. Amsterdam: John
Lavidas, Nikolaos. 2009. Transitivity alternations in diachrony: changes in
argument structure and voice morphology. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars.
Levin, Beth, and Malka Rappaport Hovav. 1995. Unaccusativity: At the
syntax-lexical semantics interface. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Luchina-Sadan, Elena. In prep. Causal-noncausal verb alternations in
Yiddish in comparison with Russian and German. Unpublished manuscript.
Nau, Nicole & Jurgis Pakerys. In press. Transitivity pairs in Baltic –
between Finnic and Slavic? In Katarzyna Janić and Nicole Nau, eds.,
of Valence-changing Operations Within and Across Languages. *Thematic issue
of* Linguistica Posnaniensis* 58:2. Poznań: Adam Mickiewicz University and
De Gruyter Open.
Nichols, Johanna, David A. Peterson & Jonathan Barnes. 2004. Transitivizing
and detransitivizing languages. *Linguistic Typology* 8: 149–211.
Nichols, Johanna. 2017. Realization of the causative alternation: Revised
wordlist and examples.
WATP. The World Atlas of Transitivity Pairs (2014). Tokyo: National
Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics. (Available online at:
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