LOT Summer School 2018

Mechanisms and methods in historical linguistics

Freek Van de Velde



Title of the course:

Mechanisms and Methods in Historical Linguistics



Course description:

This course deals with the ins and outs of language change. We will look at the main mechanisms of regular as well as irregular change, and the methods that historical linguists use to come to grips with the diachronic phenomena they study. The focus will be on morphosyntactic and semantic change, rather than on phonology or historical pragmatics. The course does not assume prior knowledge, apart from basic linguistic terminology.

Day-to-day program:

Monday: Mechanisms, Part 1. Regularity in language change: grammaticalisation, subjectification, intersubjectivity, semantic pathways, and drift

Tuesday: Mechanisms, Part 2: Irregularity in language change: exaptation, homoplasy, and degeneracy

Wednesday: Methods, Part 1: the comparative method and quantitative corpus-based approaches

Thursday: Methods, Part 2: ‘nomothetic’ approaches: correlational studies, demographic factors, and complexity

Friday: Methods, Part 3: Modelling and forecasting: s-curves, time series analysis, and simulation (iterated learning and agent-based modeling)

Reading list

Background and preparatory readings:

  • Aitchison, J. 2012. Language change. Progress or decay? 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bybee, J. 2015. Language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Campbell, L. 1998. Historical linguistics: an introduction. 2nd edn. Cambridge, Ma: MIT Press.

Course readings:

Lecture 1:

  • Heine, B. 2003. ‘Grammaticalization’. In: B.D. Joseph & R.D. Janda (eds.), The handbook of historical linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 575-601.
  • Traugott, E.C. 1995. ‘Subjectification in grammaticalization’. In: D. Stein & S. Wright (eds.), Subjectivity and subjectivisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 31-54.

Lecture 2:

  • Van de Velde, F. & M. Norde. 2016. ‘Exaptation. Taking stock of a controversial notion in linguistics’. In: M. Norde & F. Van de Velde (eds.), Exaptation and language change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 1-35.
  • Van de Velde, F. 2014. ‘Degeneracy: the maintenance of constructional networks’. In: R. Boogaart, T. Colleman & G. Rutten (eds.), The extending scope of construction grammar. Berlin: De Gruyter. 141-179.

Lecture 3:

  • Weiss, M. 2014. ‘The Comparative Method’. In: C. Bowern & B. Evans (eds.), The Routledge handbook of historical linguistics. Abingdon: Routledge. 127-145.
  • Hilpert, M. & St.Th. Gries. 2016. ‘Quantitative approaches to diachronic corpus linguistics’. In: M. Kytö & P. Pahta (eds.), The Cambridge handbook of English historical linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 36-53.

Lecture 4:

  • Ladd, R.D., S.G. Roberts & Dan Dediu. 2015. ‘Correlation studies in typological and historical linguistics’. Annual Review of Linguistics 1: 221-241.
  • Szmrecsanyi, B. 2012. ‘Analyticity and Syntheticity in the history of English’. In: T. Nevalainen & E.C. Traugott (eds.), The Oxford handbook of the history of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 654-665.

Lecture 5:

  • Denison, D. 2003. ‘Log(ist)ic and simplistic S-curves’. In: R. Hickey (ed.), Motives for language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 54-70.
  • Steels, L. 2016. ‘Agent-based models for the emergence and evolution of grammar’. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 2015447

Further readings (not obligatory, but recommended if you're interested):

Lecture 1:

  • Ghesquière, L., L. Brems & F. Van de Velde. 2012. ‘Intersubjectivity and intersubjectification: typology and operationalization’. English Text Construction 5(1): 128-152.
  • Fischer, O. 2007. Morphosyntactic change. Functional and formal perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hopper, P. & E.C. Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Malkiel, Y. 1981. ‘Drift, slope, and slant: background of, and variations upon, a Sapirian theme’. Language 57(3):535-569.
  • Narrog, H. & B. Heine (eds.). 2011. The Oxford handbook of grammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Traugott, E.C. 1989. ‘On the rise of epistemic meanings in English: an example of subjectification in semantic change’. Language 65: 31-55.
  • Traugott, E.C. & R.B. Dasher. 2002. Regularity in semantic change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Urban, M. 2011. ‘Asymmetries in overt marking and directionality in semantic change’. Journal of Historical Linguistics 1(1): 3-47.
  • Van der Horst, J. 2013. Taal op drift. Lange-termijnontwikkelingen in taal en samenleving. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff [Great book on ‘drift’, but only available in Dutch]

Lecture 2:

  • Lass, R. 1990. ‘How to do things with junk: exaptation in language evolution’. Journal of Linguistics 26: 79-102.
  • Van de Velde, F. & J. Van der Horst. 2013. ‘Homoplasy in diachronic grammar’. Language Sciences 36(1): 66-77.
  • Winter, B. 2014. ‘Spoken language achieves robustness and evolvability by exploiting degeneracy and neutrality’. BioEssays 36: 960-967.

Lecture 3:

  • Campbell, L. 2013. Historical linguistics. An introduction. 3rd edn. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Chapter 5: ‘The comparative method and linguistic reconstruction’ (pp. 107-158)
  • Dubossarsky, H., Y. Tsvetkov, C. Dyer & E. Grossman. 2015. ‘A bottom up approach to category mapping and meaning change’. NetWordS 2015 Word Knowledge and Word Usage. 66-70.
  • Harrison, S.P. 2003. ‘On the limits of the Comparative Method’. In: B.D. Joseph and R.D. Janda (eds.), The Handbook of historical linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 213-243.
  • Hilpert, Martin. 2013. Constructional change in English: developments in allomorphy, word formation, and syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wolk, C., J. Bresnan, A. Rosenbach & B. Szmrecsanyi. 2013. ‘Dative and genitive variability in Late Modern English: exploring cross-constructional variation and change’. Diachronica 30(3): 382-419.

Lecture 4:

  • Bromham L., X. Hua, T.G.Fitzpatrick & S.J. Greenhill. 2015. ‘Rate of language evolution is affected by population size’. PNAS 112(7):2097-2102.
  • Carlier, A., W. De Mulder & B. Lamiroy. 2012. ‘Introduction: the pace of grammaticalization in a typological perspective’. Folia Linguistica 46(2): 287-301.
  • Kusters, W. 2003. Linguistic complexity: the influence of social change on verbal inflection. Utrecht: LOT Dissertation Series.
  • Lupyan, G. & R. Dale. 2010. ‘Language structure is partly determined by social structure’. PLoS ONE 5(1).
  • Reali, F., N. Chater & M.H. Christiansen. 2018. 'Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: how population size affects language.' Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285 (1871).
  • Roberts, S. & J. Winters. 2012. ‘Social structure and language structure: the new nomothetic approach’. Psychology of Language and Communication 16(2): 89-112

Lecture 5:

  • Baxter, G. & W. Croft. 2016. ‘Modeling language change across the lifespan: Individual trajectories in community change’. Language Variation and Change 28: 129-173.
  • Beuls K. & L. Steels. 2013. ‘Agent­Based models of Strategies for the emergence and evolution of grammatical agreement’. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58960. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058960.
  • Blythe, R.A. & W. Croft. 2012. S-curves and the mechanisms of propagation in language change. Language 88(2): 269-304.
  • Landsbergen, F., R. Lachlan, C. Ten Cate & A. Verhagen. 2010. ‘A cultural evolutionary model of patterns in semantic change’. Linguistics 48(2): 363-390.
  • Lestrade, Sander. 2015. ‘A case of cultural evolution: The emergence of morphological case’. In: B. Köhnlein and J. Audring (eds), Linguistics in the Netherlands. John Benjamins: Amsterdam. 105-115.
  • Pijpops D., K. Beuls & F. Van de Velde. 2015. ‘The rise of the verbal weak inflection in Germanic. An agent-based model’. Computational Linguistics in the Netherlands Journal 5: 81-102.
  • Sanchez-Stockhammer, C. 2015. ‘Can we predict linguistic change? An introduction’. In: C. Sanchez-Stockhammer (ed.), Can we predict linguistic change? Special issue of Varieng: Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English. Vol. 16.
  • Van Trijp, R. 2013. ‘Linguistic selection criteria for explaining language change: a case study on syncretism in German definite articles’. Language Dynamics and Change 3(1): 105-132.