[Lingtyp] SLE workshop: Valence orientation in contact

Johanna NICHOLS johanna at berkeley.edu
Sat Jan 13 12:17:27 UTC 2018

This workshop is accepted for the SLE 2018 meeting in Tallinn, Aug.
29-Sept. 1, but as the program listing doesn't have it linked to an
abstract we are sending this repeat announcement with the workshop
description below.  Yes, this workshop is definitely on, and this SLE
meeting should be a very good venue for presenting work on valence.

The deadline for submitting abstracts for the meeting, including for
workshop presentations, is Monday, Jan. 15.  Abstracts are submitted via
Easychair.   The link and guidelines for abstracts are at

Abstracts should i) be anonymous, ii) not exceed 500 words (including
examples, exclusive of references), and (3) state research questions,
approach, method, data and (expected) results.

When submitting your abstract, please choose submission to this workshop,
which is listed as WS18.

Eitan, Riho, Johanna

*Valence Orientation in Contact: a Cross-Linguistic Perspective*
Workshop for SLE 51, Tallinn, 2018
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 lexical meaning influences propensity to causativize or decausativize.
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

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 Europe.

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, while generally
genealogically conservative, 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 Armenian). 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 valence orientation
    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 list. We also
welcome contributions that
criticize existing wordlists or propose new ones.
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