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Detailed content is available by clicking on the links in the tabs above. Current PhilSoc announcements are listed below.

Articles in the forthcoming issue of the Transactions (117.1)

D. M. GOLDSTEIN, Language change and linguistic theory: The case of archaic Indo-European conjunction; Jared S. KLEIN, Rigvedic nú : Configurational syntax, semantics, and poetics; Zeprina-Jaz AINSWORTH, The Veps illative: The applicability of an abstractive approach to an agglutinative language; Giovanna MAROTTA and Lucia TAMPONI, Omission of final -s in Latin inscriptions: Time and space; Ronald I. KIM, Old English cyme and the Proto-Indo-European aorist optative in Germanic; Svetlana KLEYNER, Changed in translation: Greek actives become Gothic passives; Margaret LAING and Roger LASS, Voiced or voiceless? Old English in Middle English sequences.

Published 6 February 2019

Next meeting

The next meeting of PhilSoc will take place on Saturday 7 March 2020 at Somerville College, Oxford. Prof. Louise Esher (CNRS, Toulouse) will speak on 'Analogical change and paradigmatic irregularities in Gascon'. The meeting will take place at 4.15. Tea will be served from 3.45.

Published 20 February 2020

Next meeting

The next meeting of PhilSoc will take place on Friday 7 February 2020 at SOAS University of London. Prof. Hendrik De Smet (Leuven) will speak on 'What predicts productivity? Theory meets individuals '. For an abstract of the talk, please see below.
The meeting will take place at 4.15 in the Brunei Gallery Building (opposite the Main Building) in Room B103. Tea will be served from 3.45.
All welcome! 

What predicts productivity? Theory meets individuals 

Because they involve individual-level cognitive processes, psychological explanations of linguistic phenomena are in principle testable against individual behaviour. The present study draws on patterns of individual variation in corpus data to test explanations of productivity. Linguistic patterns are predicted to become more productive with higher type frequencies and lower token frequencies. This is because the formation of abstract mental representations is encouraged by varied types but counteracted by automation of high-frequency types. The predictions are tested for English ‑ly and ‑ness-derivation, as used by 698 individual journalists in the New York Times Annotated Corpus and 171 members of Parliament in the Hansard Corpus. Linear regression is used to model individual variation in productivity, in relation to type and token frequency, as well as several other predictor variables. While the expected effects are observed, there is also robust evidence of an interaction effect between type and token frequency, indicating that productivity is highest for patterns with many types and not-too-infrequent tokens. This fits best with a view of entrenchment as both a conservative and creative force in language. Further, some variation remains irreducibly individual and is not explained by currently known predictors of productivity.

Published 22 January 2020

Glanville Price memorial note

Professor Glanville Price, a longstanding member of the Society and Council member 1973-79, 1984-87, passed away on 22 December 2019, aged 91. After posts at the universities of St. Andrews, Leeds and Stirling, in 1972 he returned to his native Wales as Professor of the Romance Languages at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (as that institution was then known) where he remained until retirement in 1995. He was best known for his work on French, especially A Comprehensive French Grammar (5th ed, 2003), but in addition he edited and contributed to numerous works on the Celtic languages including The Celtic Connection (1994) and Languages in Britain and Ireland (2000).  He also conceived and edited Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe (1998) and for many years co-edited The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies.

Published 12 January 2020

PhilSoc President awarded CBE

It is with great pride that we share the news that our President, Prof. Aditi Lahiri, has been awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours List. The award is ‘for services to the Study of Linguistics’.

Published 4 January 2020

Next meeting

The next meeting of PhilSoc will take place on Friday 10 January 2020 at SOAS University of London. Prof. Erich Round (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena; University of Queensland) will speak on 'Sound change and analogy in morphological paradigms: Why automated inference is on the horizon'. For an abstract of the talk, please see below.
The meeting will take place at 4.15 in the Brunei Gallery Building (opposite the Main Building) in Room B103. Tea will be served from 3.45.
All welcome!

The comparative method is one of the greatest methodological achievements in the history of linguistics. And yet, despite its relatively precise formulation, we do not have an automated implementation of it, and consequently we face a very long wait to know more about the inferable history of language families around the globe. One may well ask why. As it happens, in a mathematical PhD thesis from 2010, Alexandre Bouchard-Côté demonstrated why, by showing that even the inference of sound change was computationally infeasible. Bouchard-Côté pointed to two impediments: (1) a factorial explosion in the difficulty of the computational task, and (2) a paucity of evidence when the data consists of a short list of basic vocabulary. However, recent progress in computational statistics provides reason to believe that impediment (1) may be overcome for at least some models of linguistic change. Impediment (2) might be alleviated by allowing the algorithms to look at richer sources of data (as we humans do), such as inflectional paradigms. And so, in this talk I discuss the prospects for trying to automate a core aspect of the comparative method: the inference of sound change and analogy in paradigms, with an emphasis on analogy. I discuss what is already known about analogy; what it might entail to model that knowledge explicitly; the role to be played by mathematical models of language change; and what research questions the exercise might realistically help us to ask.

Published 15 December 2019

Frank Palmer memorial note

We regret to advise members that Philological Society Vice President Professor Frank Palmer passed away on 1st November, aged 97. Prof. Palmer was a distinguished UK linguist who established the Reading Department of Linguistic Science, after teaching at SOAS in London and at Bangor. He carried out important descriptive research on Ethiopian languages, and his seminal work on mood and modality was highly influential, with his CUP textbook on the topics being widely used internationally. For further information about his life and work, see Keith Brown and Vivien Law 2002: "Linguistics in Britain: Personal Histories", Wiley-Blackwell (PhilSoc Publication 36). Requiescat in pace.

Published 6 November 2019

Next meeting

The next meeting of PhilSoc will take place at the University of Glasgow on Friday 15 November. Postgraduate researchers E. Jamieson (Edinburgh)Eleanor Smith (Dundee) and Julia Moreno (Glasgow) will make presentations on The Socio­linguis­tics of Scotland, followed by a round table discussion chaired by Prof. Jennifer Smith (University of Glasgow). The meeting will take place in the Sir Alexander Stone Building, 16 University Gardens (Room 204), at 4.15. Refreshments will be served from 3.45. 

Published 20 October 2019

Next meeting + presentation of the RH Robins Prize

The next meeting of PhilSoc will take place on Friday 18 October 2019 at SOAS University of London. Prof. Philomen Probert (Oxford) will speak on 'Ancient Greek enclitics: some new light from ancient grammarians'. The meeting will take place at 4.15 in T108 at 21-22 Russell Square (on the actual square, not the Main SOAS Building).
At the start of the meeting, the 10th RH Robins Prize will be presented to the joint winners Mari Aigro (Tartu) and Laura Arnold (Edinburgh).
Tea will be served from 3.45.

Published 6 October 2019

PhilSoc announces new members of Council

The PhilSoc AGM held on 15 June 2019 saw the election of six new ordinary members of Council.

Six Council members stood down, namely, Prof. Bas AARTS, Prof. Cécile De CAT, Prof. David DENISON, Dr Melanie GREEN, Prof. Nicola McLELLAND, and Prof. Janet WATSON. The retiring members were thanked for their service, and their replacements were welcomed, namely, Prof. Susan FITZMAURICE, Dr Robin MEYER, Dr Simon PULLEYN, Dr Justyna ROBINSON, Prof. Louise SYLVESTER, and Dr Sam WOLFE.

Published 27 July 2019

AGM and lecture on English grammar in honour of Lord Quirk

The AGM of PhilSoc will be held in Murray Edwards College, Cambridge (CB3 0DF, Buckingham House Seminar Room), on Saturday 15 June at 4.15 (tea from 3.45, Buckingham House Foyer), followed by a lecture in honour of Lord Quirk. The lecture will be given by Prof. Bas Aarts (UCL) on ‘Oblique predicative constructions in English’. For an abstract of the lecture, click here.

All welcome (including guests).

Published 21 May 2019

Why language learning opens the mind: old prejudices, trendy myths, and new research

This year's Anna Morpurgo Davies Lecture will take place on Friday 10 May at the British Academy (London). Prof. Antonella Sorace, University of Edinburgh, will speak on 'Why language learning opens the mind: old prejudices, trendy myths, and new research'. The lecture will take place at 4.15 with a drinks reception afterwards. For an abstract of the lecture, please click here or see the British Academy website. Please book your free ticket here.

Published 23 April 2019