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Conference Information

Full Title: Loss of Inflection

Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Start Date: 31-Jul-2017 - 04-Aug-2017
Contact: Helen Sims-Williams
Meeting Email: click here to access email
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Meeting Description: The loss of inflection has been observed in the history of a vast number of languages. It plays an important theoretical role in discussions of syntactic change (e.g. Allen 2006, Fischer 2010) and language contact and death (McWhorter 1998, Polinsky 1995, Campbell and Muntzel 1989), and is a crucial step in the ‘typological cycle’ (van Gelderen 2011, Igartua 2015). But while the development of inflection has been extensively discussed in theoretical work on language change, the mechanisms and pathways leading to inflectional loss have received little attention beyond histories of individual languages. This workshop will bring together scholars concerned with theoretical issues in historical linguistics to examine the loss of inflection in broad perspective. Our aim is to bring attention to neglected theoretical questions concerning the loss of inflection, and to begin to integrate it into general theories of language change.

During its recorded history English has lost most of its inflection, including the morphological marking of mood, case and gender, and almost all of its person and number marking. English is far from unique in this regard: the loss of inflection has been observed in the history of a vast number of languages, representing disparate genealogical and geographical classes. At first glance this may appear to be just a matter of decay: words have got shorter, categories reduced, and meaning simplified. But closer inspection reveals that this reduction typically comes about through the interaction of innovations at all levels of grammar. At one level the result is simplification, but the processes that lead to it involve a complex series of systemic changes and the adoption of new organizing principles. Far from being just a matter of decay, the evidence so far shows that the loss of inflection follows along lines determined by paradigmatic structure, and so reveals properties of the organization of inflectional systems that might otherwise remain hidden.
Linguistic Subfield: Historical Linguistics
LL Issue: 27.4446

This is a session of the following meeting:
International Conference on Historical Linguistics 23

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