What do we need to consider in order to understand the innovation and propagation of phonological change, and to reconstruct past phonological states? The Fifth Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology will offer an opportunity to discuss fundamental questions in historical phonology as well as specific analyses of historical data.
The symposium is organised under the auspices of the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics and hosted online by the Department of Linguistics and English Language and the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh.
There will be no invited speaker this year, given that the conference will need to be online: we don’t think long online talks work very well. We will be organising some special events during the conference, however, including a forum to discuss fundamental questions in historical phonology, and opportunities for people to chat with each other informally. We will advertise these when the programme is announced.
Call for papers
We see historical phonology as the branch of linguistics which links phonology to the past in any way. Its key concerns are (i) how and why the phonology of languages changes in diachrony, and (ii) the reconstruction of past synchronic stages of languages’ phonologies. These are inextricably linked: we need to understand what the past stages of languages were in order to understand which changes have occurred, and we need to understand which kinds of changes are possible and how they are implemented in order to reconstruct past synchronic stages.
We define phonology, broadly, as that part of language which deals with the patterning of the units used in speech, and we see historical phonology as an inherently inter(sub)disciplinary enterprise. In order to understand (i) and (ii), we need to combine insights from theoretical phonology, phonetics, sociolinguistics, dialectology, philology, and, no doubt, other areas. We need to interact with the traditions of scholarship that have grown up around individual languages and language families and with disciplines like history, sociology and palaeography.
The kinds of questions that we ask include at least the following:
- Which changes are possible in phonology?
- What is the precise patterning of particular changes in the history of specific languages?
- How do changes arise and spread through communities?
- Are there characteristics that phonological changes (or particular types of changes) always show?
- What counts as evidence for change, or for the reconstruction of previous stages of languages’ phonologies?
- What kinds of factors can motivate or constrain change?
- Are there factors which lead to stability in language, and militate against change?
- To what extent is phonological change independent of changes that occur at other levels of the grammar, such as morphology, syntax or semantics?
- What is the relationship between the study of completed phonological changes and of variation and change in progress?
- What is the relationship between phonological change and (first and second) language acquisition?
- What types of units and domains, at both segmental and prosodic levels, do we need in order to capture phonological change?
- How can the results of historical phonology inform phonological theorising?
- How does phonologisation proceed — how do non-phonological pressures come to be reflected in phonology?
- How can contact between speakers of different languages, or between
speakers of distinct varieties of the same language, lead to
phonological change, or to the creation of new phonological systems?
- How has historical phonology developed as an academic enterprise?
We invite one-page abstracts addressing these, or any other questions relevant to the symposium topics, by 6th September 2021.
The conference will take place around the 6th of December, 2021, with specific dates to be announced later.
Please submit your abstracts via EasyAbs. Abstracts should not exceed one A4 or US Letter page with 2.5 cm or 1 inch margins in a 12pt font. The file should not include any information identifying the author(s). All examples and references in the abstract should be included on the one single page, but it is enough, when referring to previous work, to cite ‘Author (Date)’ in the body of the abstract — you do not need to give the full reference at the end of the abstract. Please do not submit an abstract if it goes over one page — it will be rejected.
To submit an abstract, use the EasyAbs submission page here:
We expect to have two types of presentation at ESHP5: (i) talks (of around 20 minutes in length) and (ii) poster-like presentations, which will take the place of posters in a traditional conference, and will involve presenters producing a text-based poster-like paper and a short video (to be played to everyone), and having a live discussion slot, as at regular poster sessions.
When submitting your abstract, you can choose to be considered for (i) either type of presentation, or (ii) only poster-like presentation. If you choose (i), we will assume that you would rather have a talk.
The conference email address is email@example.com.