SHESL conference 2023

Call for papers
SHESL Conference 2023
New historical and diachronic perspectives on grammaticalization

Paris, Institut d’Études Avancées, Hôtel de Lauzun
12–13 January 2023

The Société d’histoire et d’épistémologie des sciences du langage (SHESL) invites abstracts for the 2023 annual conference on the topic “New historical and diachronic perspectives on grammaticalization”.

This conference is intended as an opportunity to present and discuss contributions for a projected edited volume on the historical background and epistemological foundations of grammaticalization research. For this reason, the conference will consist of a small number of one-hour sessions, each with a 45-minute presentation and 15-minute question time.

Please send abstracts for contributions by 15 August 2022 to
Abstracts should be around 250 words long and include a bibliography.

Keynote presentations
Elena Smirnova (Neuchâtel)
“Recent changes in the notion of grammaticalization and the rise of alternative concepts”

Walter Bisang (Mainz)
“Grammaticalization—unity and diversity”

Conference description
The field of grammaticalization has been flowering for over half a century. Grammaticalization phenomena have been investigated from various perspectives: language-specific and typological, synchronic and diachronic, linguistic and psycholinguistic, morpho-syntactic and semantic, etc. The definition and, indeed, the very existence of grammaticalization have been called into question (Roberts 1993, Newmeyer 1998: 263-275, Roberts & Roussou 1999, Campbell & Janda 2000, Janda 2000), apparently to no avail. However, this might partly explain why so much effort has been put into defining the phenomenon of grammaticalization (Ramat & Hopper 1998, Lehmann 2015, Hopper & Traugott 2003), and investigating the grey areas in which it seems to overlap with other phenomena, mainly lexicalization (Cabrera 1998, Wischer 2000, Lehmann 2002), pragmaticalization (Diewald 2011, Heine 2013, Degand & Evers-Vermeul 2015) and constructionalization (Mauri & Sansò 2011, Trousdale 2014, Traugott 2015, Smirnova 2015).

In the large body of work on grammaticalization which has resulted from these efforts, comparatively little attention has been devoted to the origin and shaping of the concept in past centuries. While few authors believe they have invented the term and the concept (Fagard 2019), many rightly credit Meillet (1912) for inventing the term, but for the greater part the literature on grammaticalization ignores earlier work on the emergence of grammar from lexical items. There are a few exceptions, and the importance of Gabelentz (2016 [1891]) as a precursor is also recognized by various authors (Lehmann 1982: 1–9, Heine et al 1991: 5-23, Hopper & Traugott 1993: 19–38). However, a full picture would need to include other precursors, such as Schiller (1960[1795]), Whitney (1875), Darmesteter (1877), Bréal (1887), Bally (1965[1913]) and others (see Plank 1992, Christy 1999, McElvenny 2016ab).

More than a century after Meillet’s now famous paper, with tens of thousands of papers and volumes on grammaticalization,[1] it seems appropriate to take the time to pause and think about what the future and past of grammaticalization have in common. We invite colleagues specialized in diachrony and epistemology to exchange their views on the matter, focusing for instance on the following issues, looking both back at past centuries of research on language and languages, and ahead at what can be done to further our understanding of the concept:

  • What are the most important steps in bringing to light the phenomenon of grammaticalization?
  • How has the concept evolved from 18th and 19th-century ideas on the nature and development of grammar to the 20th-century notion of grammaticalization? How does this relate to modern views on the topic?
  • In what ways are the conceptualization of language and its diachronic development influenced by the broader intellectual context of each age, e.g. by uniformitarianism in geology, systems theory in sociology, holistic notions of the organism in biology, and aesthetics in art history and theory?
  • How crucial are diachronic corpus studies and typological perspectives to an accurate analysis of grammaticalization phenomena?
  • How important to a discussion of grammaticalization are concepts such as lexicalization, pragmaticalization and constructionalization?

[1] A query on ‘grammaticalization’, on Google scholar, December 22nd, 2021, yielded “About 57,200 results”.

Bally, Charles. 1965[1913]. Le langage et la vie. Genève: Droz.

Bréal, Michel. L’histoire des mots. Vol. 43. C. Delagrave, 1887.

Cabrera, Juan C. Moreno. On the relationships between grammaticalization and lexicalization. The limits of grammaticalization (1998): 211–227.

Campbell, Lyle, and Richard Janda. “Introduction: conceptions of grammaticalization and their problems.” Language sciences 23.2-3 (2000): 93–112.

Christy, Craig. 2002. Tooke’s “abbreviation” and Bréal’s “latent ideas” – a new perspective on grammaticalization. History of Linguistics 1999: Selected Papers from the Eighth International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, 14–19 September 1999, Fontenay-St. Cloud. Vol. 99. John Benjamins Publishing, 2002.

Darmesteter, Arsène. De la création actuelle de mots nouveaux dans la langue française et des lois qui la régissent. Vol. 31. F. Vieweg, 1877.

Degand, Liesbeth, and Jacqueline Evers-Vermeul. Grammaticalization or pragmaticalization of discourse markers? More than a terminological issue. Journal of historical pragmatics 16.1 (2015): 59–85.

Diewald, Gabriele. Pragmaticalization (defined) as grammaticalization of discourse functions. (2011): 365–390.

Fagard, B. 2019. Talmy GIVON. — The diachrony of grammar. Compte-rendu, Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris.

Gabelentz, Georg von der. 2016[1891]. Die Sprachwissenschaft, ihre Aufgaben, Methoden und bisherigen Ergebnisse. Herausgegeben von Manfred Ringmacher and James McElvenny. Berlin: Language Science Press.

Heine, Bernd, Ulrike Claudi and Frederike Hünnemeyer. 1991. Grammaticalization: a conceptual framework. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Heine, Bernd. On discourse markers: Grammaticalization, pragmaticalization, or something else? Linguistics 51.6 (2013): 1205–1247.

Hopper, Paul & Elizabeth Traugott. 2003[1993]. Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hopper, Paul J., and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. Grammaticalization. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Janda, Richard D. “Beyond “pathways” and “unidirectionality”: On the discontinuity of language transmission and the counterability of grammaticalization.” Language sciences 23.2–3 (2000): 265–340.

Lehmann, Christian. 2004. Theory and method in grammaticalization. Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik 32.2: 152–187. Pre-print:

Lehmann, Christian. 2015[1982]. Thoughts on Grammaticalization. Berlin: Language Science Press.

Lehmann, Christian. Grammaticalization: Synchronic variation and diachronic change. Vol. 20. na, 1985.

Lehmann, Christian. New reflections on grammaticalization and lexicalization. Typological Studies in Language 49 (2002): 1–18.

Mauri, Caterina, and Andrea Sansò. How directive constructions emerge: Grammaticalization, constructionalization, cooptation. Journal of Pragmatics 43.14 (2011): 3489–3521.

McElvenny, James. 2016a. The fate of form in the Humboldtian tradition: the Formungstrieb of Georg von der Gabelentz. Language and Communciation 47: 30–42.

McElvenny, James. 2016b. The secret history of grammaticalization. History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences.

Meillet, Antoine. 1921[1912]. L’évolution des formes grammaticales. In: Meillet (1921), 130–148. (Original in Scientia [Rivista di Scienza] 12.26. Available at: )

Meillet, Antoine. L’évolution des formes grammaticales. Scientia 6.12 (1912).

Newmeyer, Frederick J. (1998). Language Form and Language Function. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Plank, Frans. 1992. Language and Earth as Recycling Machines. In: Naumann, Bernd, Frans Plank, Gottfried Hofbauer, eds., Language and Earth: elective affinities between the emerging sciences of linguistics and geology, 221–269. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Ramat, Anna Giacalone, and Paul J. Hopper, eds. The limits of grammaticalization. Vol. 37. John Benjamins Publishing, 1998.

Roberts, Ian (1993). A formal account of grammaticalization in the history of Romance futures. Folia Linguistica Historica 13, 219–258.

Roberts, Ian, and Anna Roussou. 1999. A formal approach to “grammaticalization”, Linguistics 37(6), 1011-1041.

Schiller, Friedrich. 1960[1795]. Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen. Edited by Albert Reble. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.

Smirnova, Elena. Constructionalization and constructional change. Diachronic construction grammar (2015): 81-106.

Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. Toward a coherent account of grammatical constructionalization. Diachronic construction grammar (2015): 51-79.

Trousdale, Graeme. On the relationship between grammaticalization and constructionalization. Folia Linguistica 48.2 (2014): 557-578.

Whitney, William Dwight. 1875. The Life and Growth of Language. London: King & Co.

Wischer, Ilse. Grammaticalization versus lexicalization. Fischer, Olga et al (2000): 355-370.

Benjamin Fagard
James McElvenny

Scientific committee
Gabriele Diewald
Gaétane Dostie
Benjamin Fagard
Jean-Michel Fortis
Jacques François
John Joseph
Christine Lamarre
Jacqueline Léon
James McElvenny
Wiltrud Mihatsch
Claire Moyse-Faurie
Didier Samain

Organizing committee
Émilie Aussant
Benjamin Fagard
Muriel Jorge
Chloé Laplantine
James McElvenny
Thi Kieu Ly Pham
Pierre-Yves Testenoire


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