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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

PhilSoc announces new members of Council

The PhilSoc AGM held on 13 June 2020 saw the election of five new ordinary members of Council.

Five Council members stood down, namely, Prof. Karen CORRIGAN, Prof. Susan FITZMAURICE, Dr Seth MEHL, Prof. Patrick SIMS-WILLIAMS, and Dr Laura WRIGHT. The retiring members were thanked for their service, and their replacements were welcomed, namely, Dr Kate ALLAN, Prof. Jenny CHESHIRE, Dr Sam HELLMUTH, Prof. Martin MAIDEN, and Dr Ranjan SEN.

Published 28 July 2020

PhilSoc announces new President

The PhilSoc AGM held on 13 June 2020 saw the election of a new President.

After completing her three-year term of office, President Prof. Aditi LAHIRI stood down. She was thanked for her service and elected Vice President for life. The new President Prof. Susan FITZMAURICE was warmly welcomed.

Published 28 July 2020

The President's Lecture and AGM

The AGM of PhilSoc will be held remotely on Saturday 13 June at 4.00 p.m. BST, replacing the planned event at Newnham College (Cambridge). It will conclude with the President’s Lecture at 5.00 p.m. BST, scheduled as a separate remote event. Prof. Aditi Lahiri will speak on ‘Converging evidence for morpho-phonological pertinacity: diachrony and experimental psycholinguistics’. All welcome (including guests). Please register here.

Published 6 June 2020

Next meeting

The next meeting of PhilSoc, originally scheduled at SOAS University of London, will be held remotely using Zoom. It will take place on Friday 1 May 2020 at 4pm (BST). Prof. Jeff Good (University of Buffalo) will speak on ‘Modelling the development of the morphologically hybrid nature of the Bantu Final Vowels.
To register, please sign up here. You will need to have Zoom on your device and will be sent a link before the meeting.
All welcome!

Published 15 April 2020

In memoriam Sir John Lyons

The Philological Society regrets to advise members that Vice-President Sir John Lyons passed away on 12 March 2020 at the age of 87 after a long period of ill health. Lyons grew up in Stretford, Lancashire, and won a scholarship to Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1950 where he read Classics. After national service he returned to Cambridge in 1956 to begin his PhD in Linguistics under W. Sidney Allen, moving to a lectureship at SOAS in 1957 (the same year he joined PhilSoc) and completing his PhD under R. H. Robins on ‘Some lexical sub-systems in the language of Plato’. In 1960 he went to Indiana University to work on machine translation and gave his first courses on general linguistics. From 1961 to 1964 he taught at Christ’s College and from 1964 to 1984 he was Professor of Linguistics at the Universities of Edinburgh and Sussex. Between 1965 and 1969 he was the founding editor of the Journal of Linguistics. His 1999 paper, published in our Transactions Vol 97 (‘Diachrony and synchrony in twentieth-century linguistic semantics: old wine in new bottles?’), reflects on aspects of his intellectual history, noting “both the Philological Society and the London School played a crucial role in my intellectual development … in what, as far as linguistics is concerned, were my formative years”. 

John Lyons was a leading scholar in the field of semantics and pragmatics, and his textbooks Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics, Semantics (2 volumes), and Language, Meaning and Context are models of care, clarity and precision. He was a Fellow of the British Academy, the recipient of honorary degrees from UK and international universities, and in 1987 was knighted ‘for services to the study of linguistics’. In 2016, he was awarded the Neil and Saras Smith Medal for Linguistics by the British Academy ‘for his outstanding lifetime contribution to the field of linguistics’. After serving as Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, from 1985 he retired to France in 2000.

Prof. Peter Austin (SOAS University of London)

Published 17 March 2020

Professor Martin Durrell receives life achievement award

Congratulations to Prof. Emeritus Martin Durrell (Manchester), who was awarded the prize of the Director of the Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache for lifetime achievement in international German linguistics on 11 March 2020. It is a particular honour as the prize was awarded for the first time. Martin is a member of PhilSoc, who has served as treasurer and Council member. Institute Director Prof. Henning Lobin spoke very warmly and in detail about Martin's research achievements at the award ceremony, which took place during the annual conference of the institute. As Martin could not be present, research student Louis Cotgrove (Nottingham) received the prize on Martin's behalf.

Published 12 March 2020

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 in the Flora Anderson Hall at 4.15. Tea will be served in the Brittain Williams Room from 3.45. All welcome!

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