[lg policy] call: Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Aug 30 15:32:44 UTC 2011

Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones

Date: 16-Dec-2011 - 16-Dec-2011
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Contact Person: Ben Hermans
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics

Call Deadline: 01-Oct-2011

Meeting Description:

Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones
A colloquium organized by the journal Taal & Tongval


Anne Breitbarth, University of Ghent
Ben Hermans, Meertens Institute

Often, one finds transitional zones between two neighbouring dialects.
Typically, linguistic forms coexist in these zones that are
representative of both dialects. These transitional zones are liable
to change, in the sense that often, the variation created by the
rivaling forms is eliminated in favor of a single form. It has always
been one of the central questions in dialectology what changes are
attested in transitional zones, how they progress, and why they
progress the way they do.

In recent years, a lot of work has been done that continues this long
tradition in dialectology. This work has focussed on the diachronic as
well as the synchronic dimensions of these questions, both from an
empirical and a theoretical angle. It is the goal of this colloquium
to present an overview of this recent work on changes in transitional
zones. We therefore welcome presentations of an empirical or a
theoretical nature, addressing historical or synchronic aspects of
phonological, syntactic or morphological changes in transitional

An example of an empirical study of the type we envisage is Peters and
Fischer (2007). On the basis of an extensive database of 14th and 15th
century documents, they show that in some regions of the Middle Low
German area, the variation in transitional zones dramatically
decreases, in favor of a gradually expanding dialect area, leading to
regional standardization. Examples of synchronic studies of changes in
progress are amply supplied in Labov (1994).

Not only does the colloquium have an empirical dimension (addressing
the question what changes have occurred in the past and are occurring
in the present), it also addresses the question why certain changes
apply in transitional zones. Here are some questions we think are

Labov (2007) makes an important distinction between transmission and
diffusion. Transmission is a type of change that is induced by the
language learning child. It is ‘change from below’, and presumably it
is therefore without exceptions. Changes of this type are generated by
the process of incrementation, in which successive cohorts and
generations of children advance the change in the same direction over
many generations. Diffusion is a consequence of dialect contact, a
situation in which adults attempt to learn a neighboring dialect. This
is ‘change from above’, which, therefore, can have exceptions. In this
type of change, morphosyntactic structures tend not to be transferred
from one dialect to another. Related theoretical questions concern the
properties of adult dialect contact, semi-communication (cf. e.g.
Braunmüller 2007), and the direction of agentivity in the specific
change, applying e.g. Van Coetsem’s (2000) theory of language contact
and Winford’s (2005) interpretation of it to dialect contact.

Another theoretical question we are interested in is the role of
grammar in linguistic change. Andersen (1988) argues that the role of
grammar is often decisive. In this way he explains, among other
things, why over the centuries, in the Polish language area a
palatalized consonant is changed into a non-palatalized one, rather
than the other way around. In his view the unidirectionality of this
change follows from the fact that a more complex grammar tends to be
changed into a less complex one, rather than the other way around. On
the contrary, the role of formal grammar in language change is
explicitly denied in Hale (2007), who believes that change is rather a
matter of ‘misanalysis’, caused by perceptional factors.

We welcome presentations addressing these and other aspects of the
theoretical dimension, based on empirical observations, both from
diachronic and synchronic angles.

Call for Papers:

We welcome abstracts for 30 (20+10) minute presentations. Abstracts
are restricted to one page A4 in 12 point Times New Roman, with 1 inch
margins on all sides.

Abstracts should be submitted through the EasyAbs system via
http://linguistlist.org/confcustom/TenT2011 or by email to one of the

Deadline for the submission of abstracts is 1 October 2011.
Notification of acceptance will be around 15 October.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents.
Members who disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal,
and to write directly to the original sender of any offensive message.
 A copy of this may be forwarded to this list as well.  (H. Schiffman,

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to

This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list