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Subjects in Diachrony: Grammatical Change and the Expression of Subjects (GCES)

by admin last modified Nov 22, 2010 05:09 PM

Friday, Dec 3 – Saturday, Dec 4, 2010, University of Regensburg

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Please register now and book your accomodation soon

(Late registration fees apply after 25 Nov 2010)

For participants still in search of accomodation: We managed to reserve a couple of hostel/budget hotel rooms for you. If you have trouble finding accomodation, please contact us per Email immediately!  


Invited speakers

Elly van Gelderen (Arizona State University)
Anthony Kroch (University of Pennsylvania)
Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge)
David Willis (University of Cambridge)


Diachronic grammatical change affects verbal arguments through an interplay of various semantic and structural factors, leading to new alternations and structural patterns. In the realm of subject expressions, important documented changes include loss of pro-drop, alternations in thematic alignment, and the rise of various new passive and impersonal constructions. The notion of subject itself is, of course, a notoriously multi-faceted one, involving factors like referential relations, structural position, case, agreement, and thematic roles, the specifications of which certainly do not always harmonise. Precisely this state of affairs has often given rise to important and fascinating research questions, as e.g. in the case of null and expletive subjects, or of oblique/quirky subjects.

Research on grammatical change has made a considerable leap forward by the exploitation of annotated corpora. Not only has its empirical base become more accessible in general, but methodological progress has made feasible new, exciting research questions, especially involving quantitative distributions of linguistic features. Historical and diachronic corpora of an increasing number of languages are being constructed and annotated with syntactically relevant information in order to address these and related issues.

The conference aims at bringing together researchers working on diachronic change in the realm of subject expressions. Since corpus data are so vital for the field, we also invite researchers who have constructed historical and diachronic corpora which specifically include annotations for (some of) the above-mentioned factors, and thus expedite the treatment of subject-related issues.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Diachronic development of null subjects
  • Changes in subject expletives
  • Diachrony of oblique and quirky subjects
  • History of impersonal constructions
  • Development of diatheses affecting the external argument
  • Change in unaccusatives
  • History of subjects in root infinitives and modal constructions
  • Empirical methodology in diachronic syntax
  • Historical and diachronic corpora annotated for syntactic structure and syntactic relations

The conference will seek a comparative and typological view. Papers are given precedence which address grammatical change in a theoretically explicit way, aiming at an explanatory account, and/or demonstrate substantial methodological advancement.


Programme Committee


Roland Meyer (University of Regensburg)

Björn Hansen (University of Regensburg)


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