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Mechanisms of Language Change Research Area

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages

 

Mechanisms of Language Change research themes

 

Cluster themes

The Mechanisms of Language Change research cluster focuses on achieving excellence in three core areas of the study of language change: historical morphology and syntax, language contact and standardization & prescriptivism.


Theme 1: Historical morphology and syntax

Key research questions:

  1. How can we distinguish between possible and impossible pathways of change? Is grammaticalization unidirectional? What do apparent instances of degrammaticalization tell us about directionality in language change?
  2. How can we analyse syntactic change from the perspective of generative grammar? In particular, what does it mean to think of change as the resetting of the values of parameters?
  3. Is syntactic reconstruction possible? Can we apply what we know about mechanisms of language change to produce better accounts of change in languages before the advent of written records?

Cluster members working in this area:


Theme 2: Language contact

Key research questions:

  1. What is the relation between language internal and language external change?
  2. Is contact-induced change qualitatively the same or different from other change? For instance, does it just occur at a faster rate?
  3. Are there changes that are impossible in non-contact situations but that can be induced by contact? What can we learn from looking at bi- or multi-lingual situations?

Cluster members working in this area:


Theme 3: Standardization and prescriptivism

Key research questions:

  1. What are the most appropriate models for understanding the standardization of languages? Can we find an appropriate cross-linguistic model?
  2. What role do prescriptivism and purism play in language change? What effect, if any, do metalinguistic texts have on language change?
  3. To what extent do so-called prescriptive texts actually reflect or drive language change?

Cluster members working in this area: