The Société d’Histoire et d’Epistémologie des Sciences du Langage (SHESL) is a learned society that was founded in January 1978. Although SHESL has always worked in close association with the research group Histoire des Théories Linguistiques (HTL), now part of the Université de Paris, SHESL takes pride in having members from all over the world.

SHESL aims at promoting the study of linguistic ideas, in any period, area and domain of concern, as long as this domain relates to the theorization of language, the production of linguistic materials (lexicons, grammars, automatic parsers…), or the social and institutional aspects of scientific inquiry in the field of the language sciences.

The study of linguistic ideas involves both historical and meta-theoretical (or “epistemological”) aspects. The historical dimension involves the documentation of theoretical models from other times and traditions, the social organization of linguistic inquiry, and the production of linguistic artefacts. Historical investigations contribute to an understanding of the social, cultural and scientific environment of actors and schools, and of the formation and evolution of linguistic ideas. Epistemology offers critical perspectives on all aspects of the language sciences : linguistics, grammar, rhetoric, logic, poetics, exegesis, pragmatics, philosophy of language, semiotics. The two complementary fields of history and epistemology of course often overlap.

SHESL has two main activities :

1. SHESL organizes meetings, notably an annual international conference. Conferences of the past few years have dealt with specific traditions (e.g. German philology and linguistics, French grammaticography), social issues (organizational aspects of linguistic research ; the social roles of linguists), schools (structuralism ; cognitive linguistics), artefacts (writing systems), and enduring ideas in the study of language, as in the latest conference, which addressed the notion of linguistic / theoretical complexity in the history of linguistics. SHESL is one of the learned societies involved in the organization of ICHoLS, the most important conference in the field (ICHoLS 14 took place in Paris in August 2017).

2. SHESL edits the journal Histoire Epistémologie Langage (HEL). HEL is published twice a year and accepts papers in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. From 2021 HEL will be available in open-access. The whole collection of the journal until 2019 is available freely on Persee : llection/hel. The latest issues (for members) are available at

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Société d'histoire et d'épistémologie des sciences du langage