As has become customary over the last 10 years, the main conference of DiGS24 will be preceded by a one-day thematic workshop. Following up on an earlier pre-DiGS workshop in 2017, in 2023 we will revisit the theme of language contact, in particular in the domain of syntactic change.

Date: July 4, 2023
Place: Paris, France
Invited speaker: Metin Bağrıaçık (Boğaziçi University)

Description of the workshop

Although it is generally accepted that language contact is a major cause of language change, there is no theoretical consensus about the status of contact-induced grammar change, especially where syntactic change is concerned. On the one hand, whereas functional and typologically-oriented studies on language change have widely explored the role of contact in all domains of the grammar (see, among many others, Thomason & Kaufmann 1988; Kroch & Taylor 1997; Winford 2005; Mufwene 2008; Kuteva 2017; Matras 2020; Roberts 2021: ch. 5), it is often difficult to make a strong empirical case for language contact as the primary cause of a particular instance of change, and relatedly, to evaluate the validity of alternative, language-internal explanations (for one particular case study, see Bağrıaçık & Danckaert 2022). Similarly, whereas theoretical modeling of phonological change through language contact has been overall successful (see most notably Van Coetsem 1988), there are but a few formal studies of contact-induced syntactic change (see Lucas 2012 and Aboh 2015). The picture that emerges is one where contact-induced syntactic change is an elusive notion which resists formalization. As a result, as of yet, there is no integrated formal theory of syntactic change through language contact.

Conversely, the last two decades have witnessed a strong interest in the generative community in a number of specialized topics related to contact-induced syntactic change, such as the grammar of heritage languages (Polinsky 2018), code switching/code mixing (Muysken 2000), bilingualism (Kupisch & Polinsky 2022), L2-acquisition (Walkden & Breitbarth 2019) and creole studies (DeGraff 1999; Aboh & DeGraff 2017). The leading question of the workshop ‘Formal Approaches to Language Contact’ is to explore how recent advances in the above-mentioned research areas can be integrated into a more general formal theory of contact-induced syntactic change. Specific issues that could be addressed at the workshop include the following:

We invite abstracts for 30 minute presentations (followed by 10 minutes of questions) on any of these issues, with a particular focus on theoretical modeling of contact-induced syntactic change. Abstracts should be no longer than two pages A4, with minimally 1-inch margins. Submissions are restricted to one per (co)-author. Further information will in due time be published on the conference website

The language of the conference is English.

Abstracts are to be submitted in pdf-format via the EasyAbs system, at

Submission deadline: February 10, 2023 (23.59 GMT+1)

Notification of acceptance: March 10, 2023