LINGUIST List 21.5177

Mon Dec 20 2010

Calls: Historical Ling, Typology, Pragmatics, Semantics/Spain

Editor for this issue: Amy Brunett <>

        1.     Volker Gast , Indefinites in Diachronic and Comparative Perspective

Message 1: Indefinites in Diachronic and Comparative Perspective
Date: 19-Dec-2010
From: Volker Gast <>
Subject: Indefinites in Diachronic and Comparative Perspective
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Full Title: Indefinites in Diachronic and Comparative Perspective Short Title: Indef
Date: 08-Sep-2011 - 11-Sep-2011 Location: Logroño, Spain Contact Person: Volker Gast
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Pragmatics; Semantics; Typology

Call Deadline: 15-Jan-2011

Meeting Description:

This workshop on Indefinites in Diachronic and Comparative Perspective' will take place at the 44th annual meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (Universidad de la Rioja, Logroño, September 2011).

The category of indefinite pronouns comprises a broad range of expressions such as existential, universal and negative pronominal quantifiers ('someone', 'everyone', 'no one'), free choice items (e.g. stressed 'any', 'whoever [+ VP]') and generic or impersonal pronouns (e.g. 'one' as in 'one should not do this'), to name just the most prominent English representatives of this class. It constitutes a notoriously difficult topic of linguistic investigation for several reasons. Most importantly perhaps, the interpretation of indefinite pronouns is often heavily context dependent, and it is not clear how much meaning should be assigned to the pronouns themselves, and how much should be attributed to the context. The fact that the 'division of labour' in this domain is subject to historical change, often rather rapid and with variation showing up within historical corpora, adds an additional layer of complexity to the problem. Moreover, relevant historical changes often appear to spread through the lexicon, rather than applying generally.

As a consequence of these difficulties, many contemporary linguists have investigated the occurrence of indefinite pronouns in specific sets of contexts rather than determining a single reading for any given pronoun, e.g. with the help of 'semantic maps'. This, however, raises the question of how the contexts for indefinite pronouns can be characterized or defined independently, and the question remains how much meaning is to be attributed to the pronouns themselves, and how much is contributed by the context. Moreover, the relationships between major sub-classes of indefinite pronouns, as well as their relations to other types of (non-indefinite) pronouns (e.g. 'we', 'you') and grammatical categories (e.g. the passive voice), provide an interesting field of investigation that has not so far received much attention.

In this workshop we aim to bring together semantically oriented scholars working on indefinite pronouns from a diachronic and/or comparative point of view in order to discuss questions like the following:

- How can the contexts licensing specific types of indefinite pronouns be characterized?- What is the relationship between (licensing) contexts and the lexical content of the relevant pronouns?- What factors (in addition to semantic and pragmatic ones) determine the distribution of indefinite pronouns (e.g. register, politeness)? Can any relevant crosslinguistic generalizations be made?- How can the meaning and distribution of indefinite pronouns be modeled in contemporary semantic and pragmatic theories?- What patterns of polysemy are attested, and with what frequencies?- What types of historical development can be observed? Which of them are restricted by universal principles and which ones seem to be more or less random?- Can diachronic developments be traced in historical corpora? To what extent are such changes lexically specific?- How can language change in the domain of indefinites best be modeled, esp. with respect to the high degree of 'dynamicity' typical of this class of expressions?- What relation holds between (specific types of) negative pronouns and (specific types of) sentential negators?- How do impersonal and personal indefinites relate to one another?

Call for Papers:

Abstracts can be submitted via the submission form of the host conference (SLE 2011):

Please indicate the name of the workshop in the field 'Title of the paper'.

Abstracts have to be anonymous. They should be between 400 and 500 words in length (exclusive of references), and they should state research questions, approach, method, data and (expected) results.

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