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Thursday, October 10 • 5:30pm - 7:00pm
D'Arcy: Language history, language synchrony, and kids these days

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Language history, language synchrony, and kids these days
Synchronic language is simultaneously a reflection of history and a window to future directions of change. In this talk I explore the relation between diachrony, synchrony, and futurity. Language change unfolds constantly, instantiated “over a series of synchronic states which constitute a succession of present moments” (Joseph & Janda 2003:86), and Labov (1975, 1989, 1994) has consistently argued against the Saussurian separation of diachronic and synchronic linguistics. In enabling scrutiny in short-term increments, apparent time arguably ranks among the most important methodological advances of twentieth-century linguistics (cf. Chambers 2003:164; see also Cukor-Avila and Bailey 2013:240). However, it is a powerful lens, not a wholesale replacement for the careful study of linguistic structure and usage beyond a single synchronic time slice. Current states of language do not emerge context free. They represent ongoing and continuous change and development, leaving both footprints from earlier stages across synchronic practice as well as indicators of possible future states. The result is variation that is constrained by diachronic factors and entails the distribution of older and newer layers across contextual factors in ways that reflect their route into the language. At the same time, the grammatical system is regularly being renewed and reorganized as children participate in ongoing advancement of linguistic change. Following Romaine (1982), I take the position that the development of a viable theory of language change is critically dependent on the ability to link past and present, including active directions of change. Drawing on a series of case studies, I aim to showcase the analytical, empirical, and theoretical gains that are possible when the diachronic and the synchronic are harnessed and subsequently coupled with evidence from child language modelling and incrementation.


Alexandra D'Arcy

University of Victoria

Thursday October 10, 2019 5:30pm - 7:00pm PDT
EMU Ballroom