Aims and objectives

Network members will study a number of specific cases of cyclicity from across a wide range of languages, in order to obtain a better understanding of the nature of different types of cycles and their place within a broader theory of language change.

In particular, we will investigate how and to what extent cycles belonging to different levels of linguistic description may interrelate. Our working hypothesis, which breaks with tradition in the field, is that cycles are pragmatically driven by default. We will develop this line of thought within a cognitive-functional approach to language, which is particularly well suited to accounting for pragmatic influences at the level of both grammar and lexicon.

Our more specific objectives are:

  • to assess the role of both cognitive-pragmatic and sociopragmatic factors such as inferencing, discourse processing, politeness, and discourse traditions in triggering and driving cyclic changes at different levels of linguistic description;
  • to assess the degree to which cyclic changes affect similar notional domains and/or manifest in similar ways across different languages and language families;
  • to assess the degree to which cyclic changes at different levels of description may be linked;
  • to assess the relative importance of form-to-function-driven cyclicity vs function-to-form-driven cyclicity;
  • to assess the degree to which some notional fields (such as temporality) are more prone to exhibit cyclicity than others, and to investigate possible reasons for this;
  • to assess the extent to which cycles at different levels of description involve so-called chain shifts, and whether those that do typically involve push chains or drag chains;
  • to add a substantial body of additional case studies to already existing work.

These objectives will be addressed through a range of collaborative activities, including workshops for network members, joint publications, and an international conference to be held in 2023. 

The current network constitutes a follow-up to a previous network led by the PI, which was funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant in 2016-18, and which focused specifically on semantic/pragmatic cyclicity and on evolutions from Latin to Romance.