The Fourth AMC Symposium Edinburgh, December 2024

The fourth AMC Symposium will take place on 2-4 December 2024. It will be held in-person in Edinburgh.

The theme of the Symposium is Contact and language change

Background

Contact between languages and between dialects has long been known to lead to change. The extent to which this occurs, however, and the precise ways in which it happens have been subject to considerable debate and disagreement. Some historical linguists seem to treat contact as the dustbin of unexplained phenomena, with endogenous accounts always trumping contact; others, on the other hand, go as far as making exogeny the primary explanation for any change. The likelihood of change at different linguistic levels (lexical, phonological, morphological, syntactic etc) is sometimes linked to different types of contact (the duration and nature of contact, the number of languages and dialects involved, the age of the speakers involved etc), while complex scenarios involving intensive contact between multiple languages or dialects can be argued to lead to the emergence of whole new languages and lects.

Focused research into the types of change that occur in contact conditions runs the gamut from being fairly unconstrained in terms of the social effects of change — often relying on fuzzy notions such as prestige, while allowing a fairly circumscribed set of structural changes —, to providing minute detail on the social conditions that govern such change — placing few limitations on the structural factors that promote individual features from a pool of variants. It is this symposium’s goal to interrogate the mechanics behind these tensions between endogeny and exogeny in language change and to attempt to find more focused ways of thinking about the overlapping influences of the structural and social aspects of contact.

We hope, therefore, that this symposium will include discussion (informed by either empirical study and/or theoretical reflection) of questions like the following:

  • What kinds of social conditions are likely to facilitate or impede different kinds of contact-induced change?
    • Do different extra-linguistic factors — time-depth, power differentials, demographic asymmetries, widespread bilingualism, etc.— lead to different kinds of structural change?
    • What structural and social conditions underlie the emergence of different kinds of areal effects?
  • What (if any) structural constraints exist on contact-induced change under different contact conditions?
    • Can exogenous changes and endogenous changes produce all the same effects, or are there changes that can only happen in contact situations?
    • How do genetic relatedness and structural similarity influence contact-induced change?
    • Do phenomena like creolisation, language mixing and new-dialect formation each have fundamentally distinct structural outcomes?

Many of the relevant points can be seen as part of one overarching question:

How should we understand the tradeoff between the social and structural aspects of contact-induced language change?

Invited speakers

Claire Bowern (Yale)
Pavel Iosad (Edinburgh)
Marianne Mithun (UC Santa Barbara) 
Shana Poplack (Ottawa)
Kaius Sinnemäki (Helsinki) 
George Walkden (Konstanz)

Call for papers

The deadline for abstract submissions was on 30 April 2024.

Details can be found here.

Programme

A detailed programme for the three days will be available in due course. In the meantime, the selected papers (talks and posters) are available here.

Organisers

  • Nikolas Gisborne
  • Lisa Gotthard
  • Patrick Honeybone
  • Bettelou Los
  • Warren Maguire
  • Benjamin Molineaux