Workshop: Historical Language Contact in English and beyond

Call for papers

The role of contact in the development of English has been acknowledged in various recent studies. As stated by Hundt & Schreier (2013), English has been “contact-derived from its very beginnings onwards” (see also Trudgill 2016, among others). For instance, multiple possible contact-induced changes in English resulting from contact with Celtic, Old Norse and Norman French have been at the center of discussions and debates over the last decade. In this respect, various analyses have been proposed with regard to the question of superstratal (in the case of Anglo-Saxons and Celts or Norman French and Middle English) or adstratal (in the case of Old English and Norse) relationships among the languages spoken in Britain. The substratal position of a language is related to restricted toponymic borrowing; adstratal positions may lead to the mixing of populations, language shift and even grammatical borrowing. Moreover, it is important to distinguish between the different types of historical (written or oral) language contact: for instance, in the case of Latin, the contact situation developed through a process of acquisition of a foreign language and was heavily affected by the dominant position of Latin as means of literary and spiritual communication (Timofeeva 2010).

Attempts to analyze changes in the history of English as the result of a transfer or borrowing from other languages focus on innovations in later English, including, among others:

  1. the periphrastic do, the progressive form, the it-cleft construction, and the Northern subject rule, with regard to the contact with Celtic (Poussa 1990; Poppe 2003; Ball 1991; Klemola 2013, among many others);

  2. the absolute construction (ablativus absolutus), the passive infinitive, and the nominativus and accusativus-cum-infinitivo constructions, with regard to the contact with Latin (Fischer 1991, 1994, 2013; Kohnen 2003; Nagucka 2003; Timofeeva 2010);

  3. the historical present tense, the use of second-person pronouns and the pragmatics of politeness, the post-posed adjectives, the wh-relatives, and the causative do, with regard to the contact with Norman French (Mustanoja 1960, Fischer 1992, 2004, 2006, among others);

  4. the northern/eastern Middle English present participle ending -ande, the reduction in case agreement, and the V2 syntax, with regard to the contact with Norse (cf. Emonds & Faarlund’s (2014) perspective – for the opposite view, cf. Bech & Walkden (2016)).

Contact-induced changes are prevalent in instances of full bilingualism and code-switching (Fischer 2013). In this respect, results from studies on bilingual language acquisition can lead to a new analysis of change: grammatical changes are likely to happen in instances of successive acquisition of bilingualism (Meisel 2011).

The idea of this workshop is to bring together scholars interested in the systematic study of historical language contact. The special focus of the workshop will be on contact-induced changes in the history of English. The aim of the workshop is to open new perspectives in the research of contact-induced changes in the history of English, particularly regarding explanations of changes that involve the role of bilingualism. The issues to be addressed include, among others:

The workshop will be part of the 23rd International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (ISTAL 23), organized by the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, to be held March 31-April 2, 2017, in Thessaloniki, Greece. Please send us (Alexander Bergs <>; Nikolaos Lavidas <>) a 300-word abstract of your paper no later than December 31, 2016.

Important dates

December 31, 2016: Deadline for submission of 300-word abstracts to the workshop conveners

January 10, 2017: Notification of acceptance by the workshop conveners

March 31-April 2, 2017: Historical Language Contact in English and beyond

Alexander Bergs (Universität Osnabrück) & Nikolaos Lavidas (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)




Ball, C.N. 1991. The Historical Development of the it-cleft. PhD Thesis. University of Pennsylvania.

Bech, K. & G. Walkden. 2016. English is (still) a West Germanic language. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 39.1: 65-100.

Emonds J.E. & J.T. Faarlund. 2014. English: The Language of the Vikings. Olomouc: Palacký University.

Fischer, O. 1991. The rise of the passive infinitive in English. In D. Kastovsky (ed.), Historical English Syntax, 141-188. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Fischer, O. 1992. Syntax. In N. Blake (ed.), The Cambridge History of the English Language, Vol. II: 1066-1474, 207-408. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fischer, O. 1994. The development of quasi-auxiliaries in English and changes in word order. Neophilologus 78: 137-164.

Fischer, O. 2004. Developments in the category adjective from Old to Middle English. Studies in English Medieval Language and Literature 19: 1-36.

Fischer, O. 2006. On the position of adjectives in Middle English. English Language and Linguistics 10.2: 253-288.

Fischer, O. 2013. The role of contact in English syntactic change in the Old and Middle English periods. In M. Hundt & D. Schreier (eds), English as a Contact Language, 18-40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hundt, M. & D. Schreier. 2013. Introduction: Nothing but a contact language... In D. Schreier & M. Hundt (eds), English as a Contact Language, 1-17. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Klemola, J. 2013. English as a contact language in the British Isles. In D. Schreier & M. Hundt (eds), English as a Contact Language, 75-87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kohnen, T. 2003. The influence of “latinate” constructions in Early Modern English: Orality and literacy as complementary forces. In D. Kastovsky & A. Mettinger (eds), Language Contact in the History of English, 171-194. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Meisel, J.M. 2011. Bilingual language acquisition and theories of diachronic change: Bilingualism as cause and effect of grammatical change. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 14.2: 121-145.

Mustanoja, T. 1960. A Middle English Syntax. Helsinki: Société Neophilologique.

Nagucka, R. 2003. Latin Prepositional Phrases and their Old English equivalents. In D. Kastovsky & A. Mettinger (eds), Language Contact in the History of English, 251-265. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Poppe, E. 2003. Progress on the Progressive? A report. In H. Tristram (ed.), Celtic Englishes III. Proceedings of the Third Potsdam Colloquium on Celtic Englishes, 65-84. Heidelberg: Winter.

Poussa, P. 1990. A contact-universals origin for periphrastic do, with special consideration of OE-Celtic contact. In S. Adamson et al. (eds), Papers from the 5th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, 407-434. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Timofeeva, O. 2010. Anglo-Latin bilingualism before 1066: Prospects and limitations. In A. Hall et al. (eds), Interfaces between Language and Culture in Medieval England: A Festschrift for Matti Kilpiö, 1-36. Leiden: Brill.

Trudgill, P. 2016. Contact-related processes of change in the early history of English. In M. Kytö & P. Pahta (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of English Historical Linguistics, 318-334. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.