Cfp: Workshop on diachronic valency

Seppo Kittilä sepkit at UTU.FI
Mon Jan 30 11:03:38 UTC 2006

(Apologies for multiple postings)


Diachronic typology of voice and valency-changing categories

Call for papers

      The last decades of the 20th century are marked with the rapid development of the typological study of voice and other valency-changing categories, such as passive, causative, reflexive, antipassive and anticausative (decausative). We now dispose of rich catalogues of possible systems of valency-changing derivations attested in the languages of the world. More specifically, we know a lot about the morphological, syntactic and semantic synchronic properties of these categories. On the other hand, a systematic treatment of these categories in a diachronic perspective is lacking. The rise, development and decline of these categories mostly remain on the periphery of the typological interests. Such an imbalance of the synchronic and diachronic typology (which is not limited to the valency-changing categories) has a number of reasons.
       One of the main reasons for this imbalance can be found in the fact that synchronic linguistics have at its disposal the material of hundreds of languages of various genetic affiliation and different structural types, whereas the material for diachronic typological generalizations is much more limited. There are relatively few languages for which we dispose of textual evidence for the period sufficient to observe essential changes in the morphological system and syntactic types (say, 1000 years or more). A good many of these languages belong to two major families, Indo-European and Afro-Asiatic. This unavoidably limits the typological diversity of the data. This being the state of affairs, it is advisable to start a diachronic typological research with collecting evidence from languages (language groups) with a history well-documented in texts for a sufficiently long time span (no less than 1000 years). On the other hand, in the case of languages with lesser documente
d history, important generalizations can be obtained on the basis of comparison of genetically related languages, which can serve as a basis for reconstruction of possible scenarios of changes within the system of valency-changing categories. Approaching the history of a particular valency-changing category, such as passive or causative, it might be useful to trace the relevant category C (passive, causative etc.) from the earliest attested texts in an ancient language (L0) onwards up to its reflexes in the daughter languages (L1, L2 etc.). Of particular interest would also be – if available – evidence from the sister languages of L0 (L´, L´´ etc.), which can serve as a basis for a tentative reconstruction of the hypothetical history and possible sources of C in proto-language *L.
      These and related issues will be in the spotlight of the workshop “Diachronic typology of voice and valency-changing categories”. The idea of our workshop is to bring together scholars working on valency phenomena in both (1) languages (language families) with well-documented history (such as Indo-European or Semitic) and (2) languages which furnish less historical evidence but, nevertheless, can provide us with some valuable data on the basis of comparison of daughter languages and linguistic reconstruction (as is the case with Uralic). Ideally, a typologically-oriented study of a valency-changing category in a diachronic perspective should be organized in accordance with a questionnaire, such as those widely used in synchronic typology, for instance, in the framework of the Leningrad / St. Petersburg Typological School (cf. the questionnaire for a study of resultatives outlined in Typology of resultative constructions, ed. by Vladimir Nedjalkov, Amsterdam, 1988, p. 5
7ff.). We believe that using a questionnaire will render our workshop more effective and, eventually, make the collection of papers more publishable. Accordingly, the selection of papers will slightly differ from the usual procedure. If you are interested in the general topic of the workshop, please take a look at our “Preliminary questionnaire for a diachronic typological study of valency-changing categories” (available at We strongly encourage you to submit a paper along the guidelines outlined in this questionnaire – which, as we hope, will contribute to the maximal mutual intelligibility between the participants and to the efficiency of the workshop. Papers providing explicit answers to at least some questions of this questionnaire in an individual language or group of languages and discussing various aspects of the diachronic typology of valency-changing categories will be particularly welcome. Please send us a detai
led abstract (up to 2 pages) of your paper no later than March 20th. We will give priority to papers that follow the guidelines suggested in the questionnaire, but other papers may also be considered, as long as they deal with the development of valency categories in and/or across languages. The organizers reserve, if necessary, the right to approach the author(s) of proposed papers, in order to encourage him/her/them to modify the topic of the paper, focusing on some particular aspects of the problem in question. We hope that this will help to organize our workshop, making it more homogenous and, eventually, more efficient.
       The workshop will be arranged as a part of the symposium ‘Structure and Context’ organized by The Linguistic Association of Finland (SKY) to be held August 21-22, 2006 in Turku (Åbo Akademi University), Finland. Please visit for the SKY Symposium (these pages will include practical information: how to get to Turku, the venue of the symposium, accommodation, etc.).
       Please do not hesitate to approach us in the case you have any questions about the workshop, in particular, the range of topics you would like to deal with.

Leonid Kulikov 
Leiden University / Universität Göttingen
L.Kulikov at

Seppo Kittilä
University of Turku / University of Oulu
sepkit at

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