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Call for Papers: Workshop ?Subject and transitivity in Indo-European and beyond: A diachronic typological perspective?

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  • Ilja Serzants
    * APOLOGIES FOR MULTIPLE POSTING! Dear colleagues, Please be so kind as to distrubute this call for papers among interested colleagues and potential
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 18, 2009


      Dear colleagues,
      Please be so kind as to distrubute this call for papers among
      interested colleagues and potential participants.

      Thanks a lot!

      Yours sincerely,

      Leonid Kulikov
      Ilja Ser?ant

      Weare planning to organize the workshop.

      at the 43rd annual Meeting of Societas Linguistica Europaea Vilnius,
      2?5 September 2010 (http://www.flf.vu.lt/sle2010/first_call)

      Leonid Kulikov (Leiden University) and Ilya Ser?ant (University of Bergen)
      Contact emails: L.Kulikov@... , ilja.serzants@...

      The workshop proposal (including a preliminary list of participants
      and the topics of their papers) should be submitted to the SLE
      organizers before November 15, 2009.
      Therefore we ask potential participants to send us the provisional
      titles of their presentations (with a draft abstract) no later than
      November 7.
      Abstracts should be submitted by the end of December.

      Workshop description


              The recent decades are marked with a considerable progress in
      the study of grammatical relations (subject, object) and their
      relationships with transitivity (see, among others, Hopper & Thompson
      1980; Kittilä 2002; Næss 2007). Impressive results are achieved both
      in the study of the notion of prototypical transitive and intransitive
      clauses, with canonical subject and object marking (see, in
      particular, Aikhenvald et al. 2001; Bhaskararao & Subbarao 2004), and
      in the research of intermediary, ?quasi-transitive?
      (?quasi-intransitive?) types, often correlating with non-canonical
      encoding of the core relations (non-nominative subjects etc.).
      Meticulous research of subject properties has discovered an amazing
      variety of criteria of subjecthood that can be used as a powerful tool
      for detecting (non-canonical) subjects and, virtually, to arrive at a
      more adequate definition of subject.

              Indo-European languages are particularly notorious for their
      diversity of non-canonical subject marking, ranking from nominative
      (standard), to dative, genitive, accusative etc., as in Icelandic (1)
      (see, among others, Bar?dal 2001), Lithuanian (2a), Polish (Holvoet
      1991), or Bengali (Onishi 2001):

      (1)        Icelandic
              Mér                      likar                þessi         tilgáta
              I:DAT        like:PRES:3SG         this          hypothesis
              ?I like this hypothesis.?

      (2)        Lithuanian
      a.             Man          uo lietaus            su?alo             
                  I:DAT        because of rain  freeze:PAST:3SG         hand:NOM.PL
              My hands became frozen because of rain.'

      While the synchronic study of subject and transitivity in
      Indo-European languages (and beyond) has furnished detailed
      descriptions of syntactic patterns, inventories of features and types
      and valuable cross-linguistic observations, little attention was paid
      to the diachronic aspects of the phenomena in question. We cannot yet
      explain why and how the non-canonical subject marking emerges and
      disappears, how does it correlate with changes in the system of
      transitivity types. Correlations between different transitivity types
      and the status of the syntactic arguments (in particular, their
      subject/object properties) can be illustrated with the Lithuanian
      example in (2b). In contrast with (2a), it instantiates a higher
      degree of control of the subject over the situation, and the canonical
      subject marking is in correlation with the whole construction becoming
      more transitive as compared to (2a) (Ser?ant, forthc.):

      (2)         Lithuanian
      b.        (Kol ?jau ? universitet?,)           
                            su?alau                      rankas,
                  (While I was going to university)         freeze:PAST:1SG 
                 (nes vis? keli? spaud?iau snieg? rankose.)
                 (because all the way I pressed snow in the hands)
              ?While I was going to the university, I froze up my hands,
      because all the way I pressed snow in the hands.?

              Thus, of particular interest are such constructions where
      we observe increase of transitivity correlating with the increase of
      subject (and object) properties of the core argument(s). This is the
      case with the North Russian ?possessive perfect? constructions, as in
      (3), which originates in possessive construction of the mihi-est type
      with the passive participle (cf. Kuteva & Heine 2004), and attests
      acquiring subject properties by the oblique ?possessor? noun
      (Timberlake 1976):

      (3)         U nego           korov-a           /         korov-u     
              at he:GEN          cow-NOM  /         cow-ACC          
              ?He has milked the cow.?

              Another issue relevant for a diachronic typological study of
      subject and transitivity is the evolution of alignment systems. The
      developments in the system of subject-marking and expansion of
      non-canonical subjects, typically accompanied by rearrangements of
      transitivity types, may open the way to dramatic changes in the type
      of alignment ? for instance, from nominative-accusative to
      ergative-absolutive (as in Indo-Iranian), or from ergative-absolutive
      to nominative-accusative (as it was, presumably, the case in
      Proto-Indo-European, according to some hypotheses; cf. Bauer 2001 and
      Bavant 2008, among others). The relationships between these syntactic
      phenomenon are not yet sufficiently studied. In particular, our
      knowledge of the subject and transitivity features of the
      Indo-European proto-language is still quite limited (see Barðdal &
      Eythórsson 2009).

              Indo-European languages, with their well-documented history
      and long tradition of historical and comparative research, offer a
      particularly rich opportunity for a diachronic typological study of
      the above-listed issues (see Bar?dal 2001 on Icelandic). One of the
      first research projects concentrating on the diachronic aspects of
      these phenomena started in 2008 in Bergen, under the general guidance
      of J. Bar?dal (see http://ling.uib.no/IECASTP).

              The idea of our workshop is to bring together scholars
      interested in comparative research on subject and transitivity in
      Indo-European and to open up new horizons in the study of these
      phenomena, paying special attention to its diachronic aspects. While
      the workshop concentrates mainly on evidence from Indo-European,
      papers on non-Indo-European languages which could be relevant for a
      diachronic typological study of the issues in question will also be

      The issues to be addressed include, among others:
      ?        theoretical and descriptive aspects of a study of subject and
              ?        criteria for subjecthood and subject properties in
              ?        features of transitivity and transitivity types in
      Indo-European; how to define transitivity in constructions with
      non-canonical subjects and/or objects?
      ?        mechanisms of the rise or disappearance of non-canonical
      ?        evolution of transitivity and changes in the inventory of
      transitivity types in the history of Indo-European
      ?        relationships between subject marking and transitivity types:
      evolution of subject-marking with different semantic classes of verbs
      ?        the main evolutionary types (from the point of view of
      subject marking and transitivity types) attested for Indo-European
      ?        subject and changes in the type of alignment: the emergence
      of ergativity out of constructions with non-canonical subject
      ?        voice, valency-changing categories and subject marking: their
      relationships in a diachronic perspective

      Leonid Kulikov                Ilya Ser?ant
      Leiden University        University of Bergen


      Aikhenvald. A.Y. et al. (eds) 2001. Non-canonical marking of subjects
      and objects. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
      Barðdal, J. 2001. Case in Icelandic: A Synchronic, Diachronic and
      Comparative Approach. Lund: Dept. of Scandinavian Languages, Lund
      Barðdal, J. & Eythórsson, Th. 2009. The Origin of the Oblique Subject
      Construction: An Indo-European Comparison. In: V. Bubeník et al.
      (eds), Grammatical Change in Indo-European Languages. Amsterdam: John
      Benjamins, 179?193.
      Bauer, B. 2001. Archaic syntax in Indo-European: the spread of
      transitivity in Latin and French. Berlin: Mouton.
      Bavant, M. 2008. Proto-Indo-European ergativity... still to be
      discussed. Pozna? Studies in Contemporary Linguistics 44/4: 433-447.
      Bhaskararao, P. & Subbarao, K. V. (eds) 2004. Non-nominative Subjects.
      2 vols. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
      Holvoet, A. 1991. Transitivity and clause structure in Polish: a study
      in case marking. Warszawa: Slawistyczny Os?rodek Wydawniczy.
      Holvoet, A. 2009: Difuziniai subjektai ir objektai. In: A. Holvoet &
      R. Mikulskas (eds), Gramatini? funkcij? prigimtis ir rai?ka. Vilnius:
      Vilniaus universitetas & Asociacija ?Academia Salensis?, 37-68.
      Hopper, P. & Thompson, S. 1980. Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse.
      Language 56/2: 251-299.
      Kittilä, S. 2002. Transitivity: toward a comprehensive typology. Åbo:
      Åbo Akademiska Tryckeri.
      Kuteva, T. & Heine, B. 2004. On the possessive perfect in North
      Russian. Word 55: 37-71.
      Næss, Å. 2007. Prototypical transitivity. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
      Onishi, M. 2001. Non-canonically marked A/S in Bengali. In: A.Y.
      Aikhenvald et al. (eds), Non-canonical marking of subjects and
      objects. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 113-147.
      Ser?ant, I. A. forthc. Lability across oblique subject predicates in
      Baltic. In: L. Kulikov & N. Lavidas (eds), Typology of labile verbs:
      Focus on diachrony.
      Timberlake, A. 1976. Subject properties in the North Russian Passive.
      In: Ch. N. Li (ed.), Subject and Topic. New York: Academic Press,

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