Colloquium on “Cyclicity and the theory of language change”

The University of Manchester, 17-18 July, 2023

Access the program HERE.

This colloquium is the concluding event of the AHRC Research Network The role of pragmatics in cyclic language change.

Cyclicity has long been assumed to be an important and recurrent pattern in language change. However, the precise characteristics, distribution, and possible reasons of cyclical change – and the justification of its assumption in the first place – have not yet been investigated thoroughly.

In this conference, we would like to bring together diachronic research on languages from a variety of language families from different periods, with the intention to reflect on its importance for the theory of language change. Some of the questions on which we invite contributions include:

  • What kind of pattern in language change do we accept as instance of a cycle?
  • How do we empirically establish the assumption of a cycle in language change?
  • To what extent can other patterns in language change be related to cycles?
  • To what extent can the assumption of cycles be motivated by pragmatic factors such as implicatures and inferencing, politeness, register, as well as constraints of discourse genres (discourse traditions)?
  • To what extent does the assumption of cycles relate to proposals made in theories of language change such as grammaticalization or construction grammar?
  • In what notional domains of grammar (e.g., tense, aspect, deixis, pronouns) do phenomena of cyclicity concentrate?
  • Are there cycles outside morphology and syntax, e.g., in lexical change or in phonology?
  • Do we find cycles in all language families and all periods, or are there specific restrictions?