Call for papers


Conference co-organised by GEHLF, HTL, SIDF and SHESL

Programme organisers : Wendy Ayres-Bennett, Bernard Colombat, Bernard Combettes, Valérie Raby, Gilles Siouffi

Partners : SHESL (Société d’Histoire et d’Épistémologie des Sciences du Langage), Société Internationale de Diachronie du Français (SIDF), laboratoire « Histoire des Théories Linguistiques » (HTL, UMR 7597, Université Paris-Diderot Paris 7, Université Sorbonne nouvelle Paris 3), Groupe d’Études en Histoire de la Langue Française (GEHLF/STIH, Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Dates : Thursday 21 January 2016 to lunchtime on Saturday 23 January 2016

Place : Paris

Website :

Calendar :

Deadline for abstracts : 1 June 2015

Colleagues will be informed whether their paper has been accepted by 10 July 2015
Abstracts of around 500 words (plus a bibliography and list of key words) should be sent to (with SHESL-HTL2016 in the subject field).

Papers should focus on the relationship between the history of (one or more) languages and the history of linguistic representations. We welcome submissions on any language or period.


Given the way disciplines are structured, the history of linguistic thought and the history of different languages have often been treated in parallel, and the intersections and convergences between them have not been properly examined. However, this was not always the case. Ferdinand Brunot’s monumental History of the French Language, for instance, moves constantly between these two domains. More recent examples for French are provided by the work of Jean Stéfanini (1962) or Jean-Pierre Seguin (1993). And in another tradition, the case of Steinthal (1890-1891) may be seen as a model case of this double focus on the history of a language and the history of its analysis.

The availability today of large-scale corpora, both for the analysis of linguistic usage and for the study of metalinguistic texts, should make this confrontation easier. How far have the new methodologies developed both for the history of languages and for the history of linguistic ideas given fresh impetus to the exploration of the relationship between the two disciplines?

This conference aims to examine the diverse ways in which these two fields, each with its own approach, interact. We welcome papers which address the following questions :

1. General questions

How does the language state influence contemporary representations of the language?

What representation of the history of languages is provided by linguistic theories?

Do metalinguistic texts (of different kinds including works on spelling, lexicons, teaching dialogues, dictionaries, volumes of remarks, grammars, treatises on languages, translation methods, etc.) play a prescriptive role? What part do they play in the process of standardisation, the establishment of reforms, etc.?

What place is given to linguistic data of a historical nature in the exemplification and theoretical reflections of a grammarian or linguist?

2. What place is given to the history of the language and to the history of linguistic thought in contemporary grammars (whether already published or being developed)?

3. How have certain linguistic traditions conceived the history of their languages when these are viewed as ahistorical, revealed or unchanging?

4. What are the situations (or contexts) which favour or necessitate reference to the “other” discipline or promote exchanges between the two disciplines? Conversely, when is it possible for them to remain autonomous?

5. What is the basis for the construction of the disciplinary fields of the history of the language and the history of linguistic thought? Depending on the tradition (according to period, place, institutional history, etc.), which option is preferred?

- complete autonomy of the two disciplines?

- subservience of one discipline to the other?

- interaction or mixing of the two disciplines ?

Is it possible to identify ‘key texts’ in the history of these relations? We might think of Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics, of Brunot’s History of the French Language, or of the works of Ascoli (1874) or Tullio De Mauro (1963, 2014).

What notions allow us to explore these relations? To what extent are the oppositions between internal and external history or language as an artefact and language as a system useful?

To what extent has socio-historical linguistics renewed the relationship between the two fields?

6. How should we treat the articulation between the history of the language and the history of linguistic thought in the case of languages with an oral tradition? The linguistic description of languages with an oral tradition is underpinned by descriptive and metalinguistic categories, with a history which differs from that of grammars for languages with a written tradition. How should this history be described?

7. What does recent reflection around certain mechanisms of language change – such as analogy, reanalysis, grammaticalization, lexicalization, pragmaticalization, constructionalization, etc. – contribute to the study of particular linguistic features or to thinking about the reasons for and the nature of linguistic change in general? How far do these concepts, exploited both in a synchronic perspective and in studies of the history of the language, shed fresh light on the Saussurian dichotomy between synchrony and diachrony?

Abstracts and papers for the conference may be in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish.

Sample bibliography

Ascoli, Grasiado Isaia. 1878 [1874]. « Schizzi franco-provenzali », in Archivio Glottologico Italiano, 3, Florence, p. 61-120.
Bowern, Claire & Evans, Bethwyn (ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics, London, Routledge.
Brunot, Ferdinand et Bruneau, Charles. 1905-1972. Histoire de la langue française des origines à 1900. Paris, Armand Colin, 1966. Reprint of first ed., 10 vol. [1905-1937] and 3 new vol. [1966-1972]. Vol. 12 et 13 by Charles Bruneau.
De Mauro, Tullio. 1963. Storia linguistica dell’ Italia unita, Bari, Laterza.
De Mauro, Tullio. 2014. Storia linguistica dell’ Italia repubblicana, Bari, Laterza.
Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1916. Cours de linguistique générale, Lausanne, Paris, Payot.
Seguin, Jean-Pierre. 1993. L’Invention de la phrase au 18e siècle, Paris, Louvain, Bibliothèque de l’Information grammaticale, Peeters.
Stéfanini, Jean. 1962. La Voix pronominale en ancien et moyen français, Gap, Ophrys (Publications de la faculté des lettres d’Aix-en-Provence).
Steinthal, Heymann. 1890-1891. Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft bei den Griechen und Römern mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Logik, Vol. 1, 1890, vol. 2, 1891. Berlin, F. Dümmler. Reprint Hildesheim, Olms, 1971.