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LINGUIST List 22.3400

Mon Aug 29 2011

Calls: Historical Linguistics, Sociolinguistics/Belgium

Editor for this issue: Alison Zaharee <alisonlinguistlist.org>

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        1.     Anne Breitbarth , Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones

Message 1: Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones
Date: 29-Aug-2011
From: Anne Breitbarth <anne.breitbarthugent.be>
Subject: Dialects in Contact: Changes in Transitional Zones
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Full Title: 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 zones.

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 interesting.

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 organizers.

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

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