Indefinites between Theory and Language Change

Workshop organized as part of the Annual Conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS) "Sprachkonzil: Theorie und Experiment" to be held at the University of Konstanz, Germany February, 24. - 26., 2016


Chiara Gianollo (University of Cologne), Klaus von Heusinger (University of Cologne), Svetlana Petrova (University of Wuppertal)

Invited speakers:

  • Maria Aloni, University of Amsterdam
  • Ljudmila Geist, University of Stuttgart

Scientific committee:

  • Maria Aloni
  • Theresa Biberauer
  • Cornelia Ebert
  • Ljudmila Geist
  • Anastasia Giannakidou
  • Tania Ionin
  • Agnes Jäger
  • Hans Kamp
  • Edgar Onea
  • Ian Roberts
  • Roberto Zamparelli

Meeting description

Language users employ indefinites, pronouns (someone, anything, whatever) and different types of noun phrases (a book, a certain student, some time, any teacher) to encode (non-)referentiality, but also other crucial properties, such as degree of identifiability, speaker-hearer knowledge status, discourse saliency. Recent typological and theoretical studies have uncovered a wealth of variation in this domain, on various grammatical levels (morpho-syntax, semantics, pragmatics). The emerging picture needs to be complemented by a comparative evaluation of the observed diachronic patterns. Research on the history of indefinite articles and some classes of indefinite pronouns in individual languages has advanced substantially. We face scenarios that challenge well-known models of development and therefore need a broader cross-linguistic perspective on evolutionary tendencies, also encompassing non-Indo-European languages. A more fine-grained study of the diachronic clines involving indefinites may shed light on some of their intriguing synchronic properties (morpho-syntactic complexity, multifunctionality, context dependence), and on the way systems of indefinites are structured (complementarity, blocking). The investigation further promises to disclose more general conclusions on the systematic nature of change affecting functional elements of the lexicon. We therefore invite contributions from linguists of various persuasions, reconciling in-depth theoretical analysis with comparative and diachronic evidence.


Workshop Program PDF

Wednesday, Feb 24

Time Speaker Title
14:00-15:00 Maria Aloni Indefinites as fossils
15:00-16:00 Urtzi Etxeberria & Anastasia Giannakidou Anti-specificity and the role of number: the case of Spanish algún/algunos
Coffee break
16:30-17:30 Irene Franco, Olga Kellert, Guido Mensching & Cecilia Poletto On (negative) indefinites in Old Italian
17:30-18:30 Remus Gergel Another route towards epistemic indefinites: A case for VERUM?

Thursday, Feb 25

Time Speaker Title
9:00-10:00 Ljudmila Geist From indefinite NP to bare NP: why does the indefinite article disappear?
10:00-11:00 Patrick G. Grosz Scalar epistemic indefinites: a case study of weiß Gott w- in Present Day German
Coffee break
11:30-12:00 Ricardo Etxepare From correlative protases to existential pronouns in Basque
12:00-12:30 Amel Kallel & Pierre Larrivée Strong polarity contexts and evolution of n-words
12:30-13:00 Moreno Mitrović Indefinite polarisation and its scalar origin: evidence from Japonic

Friday, Feb 26

Time Speaker Title
11:30-12:00 Rosemarie Lühr Konstruktionen mit Indefinita in altindogermanischen Sprachen
12:00-12:30 Andrei Sideltsev Relative and indefinite pronouns: synchrony and diachrony. The case of Hittite
12:30-13:00 Silvia Luraghi Partitive case markers and indefiniteness: a diachronic survey
13:00-14:00 Discussion