PLM2010 thematic discussion session: Competing explanations of language change and variation

Plenary: Nikolaus Ritt (Vienna), “Agents or Vehicles? The role of speakers in directing linguistic evolution”

As competing explanations are the leitmotif of PLM 2010, this session will be devoted to explanatory challenges in theories of language change. The discussion workshop will concentrate on the role of linguistic variation and other factors in competing proposals concerning the mechanisms of language change. The focal event of the session will be the plenary talk by Nikolaus Ritt, followed by six oral presentations. We shall welcome abstracts of presentations dealing with the following topics and questions:

  • Why does language change happen at all?
  • Does language change have a direction? Are there “historical laws” governing its progress?
  • Synchronic variation and diachronic change: how are they interrelated?
  • How can we account for the observed tempo of language change and the scale of variation in speech communities?
  • Functional explanations of language change, their adequacy and predictive power.
  • Evolutionary approaches to language change: replication, competition and selection as explanatory notions.
  • Is language a tool designed and controlled by its human users, or does it have a life of its own?
  • Should we expect linguistic structures to be rational?

When submitting the abstract via Linguist List’s EasyAbs system, please make sure you select “Language Change and Variation (discussion session)” in the “Abstract Classification 1” field. The extended deadline is 20 April 2010. Please follow the general abstract submission guidelines.

Session conveners:
Piotr Gąsiorowski
Jarosław Weckwerth