our words make worlds

New Worlds for Old Words Colloquium cfp

The Language Acts and Worldmaking Loaded Meanings research strand invites proposals for 'New Worlds for Old Words: the impact of cultured borrowing on the Romance languages and English', a colloquium taking place at King's College London, 23-24 September 2019.

The study of cultured borrowings represents what is probably the single most important cultural contact observable in the languages of western Europe, that between the vernaculars and the most widely used languages of European antiquity, Latin and Greek.  The Romance languages are of particular interest in this respect since not only do they derive popularly from Latin but they later borrow Latin words (and Greek words either directly or through Latin) by a ‘learnèd’ route.  Yet within Romance historical linguistics, attention has most often focussed on the history of ‘popular’ words (those directly inherited from the parent Latin), first, because of their interest for the reconstruction of phonetic changes and, secondly, because of a general perception that borrowings, especially borrowings introduced through the agency of an elite social sector, are a diversion from the language’s natural development.

A re-evaluation of this situation is extremely timely.  The extent and impact of cultured influence on the linguistic structure of the western European languages, especially the Romance languages, has been severely underestimated, and certainly merits further investigation.  It is responsible not only for a certain convergence among the western Romance languages but also for some commonality of lexis between Romance languages and languages of other families, especially English.  There is also a growing awareness of the Ausbau (‘elaborated’) status of modern standardised languages, an important aspect of which in the case of western Europe is precisely the use of cultured sources for the refining of linguistic expression as the erstwhile vernaculars were developed into full vehicles of learning and culture.

Papers (normally 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes discussion) are invited on original research related to any aspect of the above. The working languages of the colloquium are English, French and Spanish.  Abstracts, which should be in one of the working languages and be of no more than 500 words inclusive of references, should be sent to bozena.wislocka_breit@kcl.ac.uk by 30 April 2019.  They should include the name, affiliation and email of the author.  Acceptances will be notified by email by 30 May 2019.

Confirmed keynote speakers

Steven Dworkin, University of Michigan

Gloria Claveria, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Ingmar Söhrmann, Göteborgs Universitet

Santiago del Rey Quesada, Universidad de Sevilla