Martin Burr Grant 2019

[Post updated 14 May 2018]

Application deadline 30 September 2018

The Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas invites applications for the Martin Burr Grant, which awards small amounts of funding (usually up to a maximum of £500) to support any form of activity which brings together language and history and allows them to be enjoyed by a non-academic audience. This money is made available thanks to the generosity of the late Martin Burr who was himself a non-academic with a passion for the study of language and history and the connection between them. Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Jobs and funding

Call for Papers : SHESL-HTL CONFERENCE 2019. Linguistics and its historical forms of organization and production. Paris, 24-26 January 2019

This conference is an occasion for celebrating the 40th anniversary of the SHESL (Société d’histoire et d’épistémologie des sciences du langage) and the associated journal HEL (Histoire Epistémologie Langage), as well as the 35 years of existence of the HTL research group (Histoire des théories linguistiques). It is open to all scholars who have an interest in the history, sociology and philosophy of the language sciences.


Scientific inquiry may justifiably be seen as a practice ruled by specific epistemic criteria (hypothesis-testing and empirical adequacy). It may also be viewed as involving forms of organization which reflect institutional and didactic traditions, theoretical affinities, paths of transmission, and various social, political or even religious concerns. From this point of view, we are confronted with the multifarious forms of organization of linguistic research, description and prescription, and with the attendant diversity in scientific production.

Forms of organization and forms of production may deviate more or less from the beaten tracks of what academic research today regards as bona fide structures and theoretical work. Apart from the universities, one may think for instance of learned societies (international, national or more local), religious congregations, more or less enduring and organized intellectual circles, networks, schools of various guises, linguistic institutes, academies, etc.; and of their productions, in the form of descriptive and more or less theoretical studies, translations and glosses, manifestos, instructions (for collecting “data” or for the purpose of setting a descriptive framework), memoirs, bulletins, missionary grammars, terminological prescriptions, pedagogical textbooks and dictionaries. Beyond structures laid out by academic institutions, forms of organization may involve more or less stabilized theory groups and networks, and schools of various guises; at stake here is the description of these “invisible colleges”, of their historical motivations and goals, of factors inducing in actors a sense of belonging and of the strategies employed in securing a place in academia. The very broad understanding of “forms of organization” proposed in this call leaves considerable latitude in the ways forms of linguistic organization and production can be considered; in particular, it does not restrict the purview to sociological approaches, although proposals in this direction are of course welcome.

In brief, the conference committee invites proposals which will bear on the ways in which linguistic inquiry has organized itself, or, in other words, the various modes in which individuals involved in linguistic research, description and prescription have coalesced into groups, schools, “paradigms” (if this Kuhnian notion is applicable in linguistics or not), research programs, and institutions of various sorts.

The following more specific topics may be broached (the list is not intended to be exhaustive):
-The constitution of intellectual circles and networks (including from a sociological standpoint)
-The role of religious congregations and their history
-The constitution of modern university disciplines (e.g. the institutionalization of linguistic research in 19th century Germany)
-The role of learned societies and their history
-The notion of “school” (e.g. the Geneva or Prague school of structuralism)
-The constitution of linguistics as a self-standing discipline in the academic world
-The notions of paradigm and research program in linguistics
-The characterization of products related to linguistic activity (e.g. grammars), insofar as they are representative of a school, institution, etc.

Place and date:
Paris, 24-26 January 2019.


Please send your abstracts (around 500 words, + bibliography and keywords) to:

Deadline for submission: 30 June 2018
Notification of acceptance: beginning of September 2018

Registration fees: 50 € (35 € for the students, and )
Free for the members of the SHESL

Posted in Conferences and workshops, Uncategorized

CfP: Sprache und Globalisierung

Die Gesellschaft für Interlinguistik e.V. (GIL) lädt herzlich ein zu ihrer Jahrestagung 2018 mit dem Schwerpunkthema

Sprache und Globalisierung Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

Call for Papers: “A host of tongues” – Multilingualism, lingua franca and translation in the Early Modern period

FCSH-UNL, Lisbon, 13th to 15th December 2018

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the linguistic situation in Europe was one of remarkable fluidity. Latin, the great scholarly lingua franca of the medieval period, was beginning to crack as the tectonic plates shifted beneath it, but the vernaculars had not yet crystallized into the national languages that they would become a century later, and bi- or multilingualism was still rife. Through the influence of print capitalism, the dialects that occupied the informal space were starting to organise into broad fields of communication and exchange (Anderson 2006: 37-46), though the boundaries between them were not yet clearly defined nor the links to territory fully established. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, languages were coming into contact with an intensity that they had never had before (Burke 2004: 111-140), influencing each other and throwing up all manner of hybrids and pidgins as peoples tried to communicate using the semiotic resources they had available. New lingua francas emerged to serve particular purposes in different geographic regions or were imposed through conquest and settlement (Ostler 2005: 323-516). And translation proliferated at the seams of such cultural encounters, undertaken for different reasons by a diverse demographic that included missionaries, scientists, traders, aristocrats, emigrés, refugees and renegades (Burke 2007: 11-16). Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

Query: Boas on Alternating Sounds

What secondary literature exists on the historical context and significance of Franz Boas’ (1889) essay “On alternating sounds” or on his approach to phonology more generally? Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Queries and discussion

CALL FOR PAPERS: I° National Conference of History of linguistic and semiotic thought, Rome (17-18 September 2018)


I° National Conference of History of linguistic and semiotic thought

State of the art and case studies

Organized by CISPELS – Rome, Department of Philosophy, at Villa Mirafiori, 17-18 September 2018

The first National Conference of the CISPELS (Inter-society coordination for the history of linguistic and semiotic thought) will be held in Rome (17-18 september 2018) hosted by “Sapienza” University of Rome, Department of Philosophy (chairs of Philosophy of Language and the Laboratorio di Storia delle idee linguistiche).After three years of shared activities, punctuated by the annual Summer Schools in Stresa (III edition 16-20.7.2018), and with the intention of merging the organization of Ichols XV (Milan, 2020), the first CISPELS conference is aimed to:

Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

Grant proposals: Language Acts and Worldmaking

The deadline for this round of funding is midnight on 27th May 20.

Application form available here

Languages Memory is the theme for the first Language Acts and Worldmaking conference, due to be held in Bush House, London, 13-14 June 2018. We would like to extend these ideas to our latest call for small grants proposals. Through both the conference and our small grants scheme we want to enliven our awareness of the ways in which languages are experienced, practised, taught and researched. We will reflect upon the place of language learning and engage with the material and historical force of languages in the world. We are looking for proposals that relate to these issues, thinking across the six research strands of our project. Possible themes for you to explore are: Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Jobs and funding

Panel proposal: Linguistics as a Go-Between

Panel proposal for The Making of the Humanities VII, Amsterdam, 15-17 November 2018.

For the upcoming 7th The Making of the Humanities Conference, to be held in Amsterdam from November 15-17 2018 (link) I am contemplating to submit a panel session under the title “Linguistics as a Go-Between”. The theme of this session will be the interaction of linguistics with other fields of study. While perhaps all academic disciplines have at some point exchanged theories, concepts, metaphors, methods, instruments, etc. with other (proto-) disciplines in the course of their existence, the extent to which this epistemic transfer has occurred with respect to the study of language appears to be exceptional. This has of course not gone unnoticed in the historiography of linguistics, and many cases of the interaction of linguistics with for example biology, anthropology, psychology, chemistry, information science and of course the humanistic disciplines such as philology, history, etc. have been documented. Yet, the vast majority of these studies remain ‘isolated’, in the sense that they are not compared to other case studies of epistemic transfer with the aim to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon itself. In this respect a general picture of the history of linguistics is thus lacking. Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Conferences and workshops

Recent publications in the history and philosophy of linguistics, April 2018

Below is a list of some monographs and collected volumes in the history and philosophy of linguistics that have appeared recently. Read more ›

Posted in Announcements, Publications

Some reflections on the uses and abuses of theory in linguistic thought

Jon Orman

My purpose in this piece is to offer a few brief thoughts on a series of questions with which I have become increasingly interested in recent months. Linguistics, it seems to me, is awash with theories and theoretical work of various sorts, yet it is not all that often that one comes across any critical scrutiny of the theoretical enterprise itself. The basic question motivating my discussion can be put thus: why theorise language? In other words, what motivates the theoretical enterprise in relation to language and what sustains it? This sets in train a series of further questions. Why is there apparently such faith, amongst language scholars at least, in theory? What does theory contribute to our understanding of a human phenomenon? Is it genuine, previously unavailable knowledge or simply a different and perhaps also professionally advantageous way of talking about it? Are theoretical enterprises generated and propelled by genuine intellectual puzzles or anomalies that challenge our settled conception of the world or more by particular ambitions? Or is it the case that where language is concerned theory tends instead to generate merely its own internal puzzles – academic questions in the most pejorative sense of the word? This raises the issue of how, why and by whom particular theories of language come to be valued, which in turn potentially prompts questions which take on a more sceptical tone such as ‘is it possible to theorise language without somehow giving a distorted view or misrepresenting it?’ or even ‘what do we lose sight of by submitting language to theoretical treatment?’ Read more ›

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Posted in Article, Linguistics, Philosophy