[Lingtyp] Call for papers: Workshop on Historical Linguistics and Typology

Epps, Patience L pattieepps at austin.utexas.edu
Wed Nov 19 15:36:46 UTC 2014

Historical Linguistics and Typology: Assessing a Partnership
The University of Texas at Austin; Sept. 12-13, 2015

Historical linguistics and linguistic typology have long had a close relationship. From a functional-typological perspective, diachronic pathways help explain the emergence and distribution of cross-linguistic patterns; from a historical perspective, common processes of change and cross-linguistically attested states are both taken as indicators of more likely reconstructions. In fact, many early typologists argued that typology should be the foundation of reconstruction; Roman Jakobson (1958: 23), for example, believed that typology is a crucial predictive tool, and thus a reconstruction that conflicts with it is "questionable." Indeed, some typologically oriented scholars are of the opinion that, in cases where a reconstruction contradicts a strong cross-linguistic tendency, the reconstruction must be reevaluated or discarded. Many scholars, like Jakobson himself, do not defend the requirement that reconstructions conform to typological results, beyond arguing, as Greenberg does, that "it is a highly suspicious circumstance that a language not directly attested, but only reconstructed by a complex line of reasoning, should not conform to well-attested synchronic typological principles" (1995:146). The idea that a feature can be reconstructed only if it is already attested elsewhere, while never fully discussed in the literature, is repeated even in recent works in the relatively new subfield of diachronic typology (for example, Hendery 2012:245).  At the same time, however, some historical linguists reject this idea, suggesting instead that typology can be used as a tool in the reconstruction process, but should not necessarily override the results attained via internal or comparative reconstruction (Compare here the debate within Indo-European linguistics over the glottalic theory.)
            Despite some push-back from historical linguists, especially within Indo-European linguistics (Watkins 1964; Dunkel 1981, Stevens 1992, and note also the cautionary remarks of Fox 1995), there is essentially no programmatic debate on this issue today and many historical linguists accept the typological mandate without question; Gamkrelidze, for example, states that "a linguistic reconstruction running counter to language universals cannot, naturally, claim to really reflect a language system that did historically exist" (1997:27). However, typological ‘rara’ can certainly arise (Wohlgemuth and Cysouw 2010), as can unusual diachronic pathways; moreover, our understanding of what constitutes an ‘unusual’ pathway is crucially informed by our reconstructions, creating a risk of circularity.
            Given the general lack of overt empirical or theoretical discussion of the relationship between historical linguistics and typology, we invite proposals for 20-minute presentations (plus 10 minutes for questions) on topics dealing with the relationship between these areas of linguistic investigation. Contributions may address issues such as the following:
-     What can typology and historical linguistics offer each other, and what risks may derive from their close company?
-     Do typology and historical linguistics treat evidence similarly?
-     How do both disciplines make sense of rare or unusual phenomena?
-     Do newer approaches, such as diachronic typology and grammaticalization, offer insights into the relationship between typology and historical linguistics?
-     In light of new emphases on the diversity of human languages, to what extent must we reconsider any reliance on universals as a tool for historical linguistics?

Please send abstracts of no longer than 500 words (not including references) to ut.austin.histling at gmail.com<mailto:ut.austin.histling at gmail.com> by May 1st 2015.

The organizers:
Hans Boas; Patience Epps; Danny Law; Na’ama Pat-El; Marc Pierce.
Comrie, Bernard (1983). "Typology and Reconstruction". In C. Jones (ed.), Historical Linguistics: Problems and Perspectives. London: Longman. 74-97.
Dunkel, G. (1981). "Typology versus Reconstruction". Bono Homini Donum: Essays in Historical Linguistics in Memory of J. Alexander Kerns. Y. Arbeitman and A. R. Bomhard. Amsterdam, John Benjamins. 2: 559-569.
Fox, Anthony.  (1995).  Linguistic Reconstruction: An Introduction to Theory and Method.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gamkrelidze, T. V. (1997). "Language Typology and Linguistic Reconstruction". Linguistic Reconstruction and Typology. J. Fisiak. Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter: 25-48.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (1995). "The Diachronic Typological Approach". In M. Shibatani and T. Bynon (eds.), Approaches to Language Typology. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 145-166.
Hendery, Rachel (2012). Relative Clauses in Time and Space: A case study in the methods of diachronic typology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Jakobson, Roman (1958). “Typological Studies and their Contribution to Historical Comparative Linguistics”. In: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Linguists, ed. by Eva Sivertsen, 17-35.  Oslo: Oslo University Press.
Newmeyer, F. J. (2000). "Uniformitarian Assumptions and Language Evolution Research". The Transition to Language. A. Wray. Oxford, Oxford University Press: 359-375.
Schwink, Frederick W. (1994). Linguistic Typology, Universality and the Realism of Reconstruction. Washington: Institute for the Study of Man.
Shields, Kenneth, Jr. (2011). “Linguistic Typology and Historical Linguistics”. In Jae Jung Song (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology. Oxford: Oxford university Press. 551-567.
Stevens, Christopher M.  (1992).  “The Use and Abuse of Typology in Comparative Linguistics: An Update on the Controversy.”  Journal of Indo-European Studies 20: 45-58.
Watkins, Calvert (1964). “Preliminaries to the Reconstruction of Indo-European Sentence Structure”. In Lunt, Horace G. (ed.), Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Linguistics. The Hague: Mouton. 1035-1042.
Wohlgemuth, Jan and Michael Cysouw, eds. (2010). Rara & Rarissima: Documenting the Fringes of Linguistic Diversity. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.

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