Historical Linguistics 2017

Historical Linguistics

July 24 - August 4, 2017



The courses were offered by six invited lecturers and two researchers from the University of Göttingen.

The first theoretical course consisted of three parts. Part 1 of the course offered a critical survey of contemporary semantic and pragmatic analyses of speech acts. In particular, the nature of "social acts" was investigated such as come about by illocutionary acts. Part 2 investigated the hypothesis that speech acts are proposals to establish a contract between the speakers. Starting from current common ground models such as the Table Theory it was argued that a successful speech act consists of (a) a proposal by the speaker and (b) an agreement by the addressee. Part 3 explored the consequences of the model for the pragmatics/syntax interface and for language change.

A second theoretical course concentrated on theoretical issues regarding the morphosyntax and semantics of sentence mood and clause typing in diachrony. It mainly focussed on data concerning the development from (Vulgar) Latin to Romance, taking also medieval Romance varieties into consideration. The main topics included basic word order from Latin to Romance, diachronic perspectives on information structure and illocutionary force as well as interface phenomena such as special interpretative flavours added to sentence types and triggered by morphosyntactic means. The participants thus became familiar with different grammar-theoretical approaches to the interpretation and analysis of language change with respect to these topics.

Apart from these two topics, a third interdisciplinary course was offered during the first week. This course discussed the possible connection between diachronic change and langauge acquisition, with a focus on issues such as information structure, gradience/gradualness, frequency, complexity, and the size of rules.

In order to provide the participants with the necessary knowledge about the methods and empirical instruments of historical linguistics, a two-week course was held on historical and diachronic corpus linguistics and on how to deal with historic linguistic data. This class introduced students to the use of syntactically annotated ("parsed") corpora for research in diachronic syntax. Methods were illustrated with two case studies in the history of the Germanic and the Romance languages.

Additionally, participants conducted a practical activity in the second week. This exercise session consisted of practical work on some concrete issues of language variation and change in Romance languages. The students were instructed on how to approach research questions by working with (tagged, partially tagged or non-annotated) historical corpora, such as the OVI database of Old Italian, the (Old) French corpus FRANTEXT, the (Old) Spanish corpus CORDE/Corpus del Español and the (Old) Portuguese corpus Tycho Brahe.

Finally, poster presentations by the participants allowed everyone involved to receive important feedback on their research.

The Social Program included

  • Visit to the art exhibition documenta in Kassel (one day exhibition)
  • Visit to "Pauliner Church", including the famous historical library
  • Guided tour of Göttingen
  • Visit to Saline Luisenhall

Prof. Dr. Regine Eckardt, University of Konstanz
Prof. Dr. Anthony Kroch, University of Pennsylvania
Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Remberger, University of Vienna
Dr. Emanuela Sanfelici, University of Frankfurt
Dr. Beatrice Santorini, University of Pennsylvania
Prof. Dr. Marit Westergaard, University of Tromso

Prof. Dr. Marco Coniglio, Seminar für Deutsche Philologie
Prof. Dr. Anke Holler, Seminar für Deutsche Philologie, Courant Research Centre "Text Structures"
Prof. Dr. Guido Mensching, Seminar für Romanische Philologie

This Summer School was part of a series of Summer Schools in Linguistics. Topics of previous Summer Schools were:

  • 2015: Göttingen Spirit Summer School on Negation
  • 2016: Göttingen Spirit Summer School on Complex Clauses