Research axis n°1 : Language, Variation and Change

Area Manager and Contact: Delphine Pasques

The title, “Variation and Change in Linguistics” stems from its predecessor’s title, “Systems, Norms, and Usage: the Role of the Corpus”. Indeed, if Eugenio Coseriu is the father of the triad, “system, norm, and usage”, he is also a great linguistic theorist of variation as well as of the complementarity of the synchronic and diachronic approaches.

Linguistic variation can be studied synchronously from a sociocultural, stylistic, diamesic or even diatopic perspective.

This field of study, which has considerable international reach, lends itself perfectly to contrastive analysis and to a discussion of the languages CELISO represents. Even if the word “corpus” does not appear in the research area’s title, the role of the corpus is quite obviously central. Indeed, the work carried out here is based on a quantitative and qualitative approach; its purpose is to shed light on the diversity of usages and/or the coexistence among different usages to demonstrate how they differ in their relationship to the norm and in their relationship to each other.

For those interested in linguistic change, regardless of the language studied, linguistic evolutions can be foreseen as a short diachrony in modern language or as a long diachrony (even a very long one) or as a historical synchrony in order to illuminate a moment in the immediate past. Whether the issue is lexicalisation, grammaticalisation, or pragmaticalisation, corpora play a central role because it is by analysing them that the co-existence of the old and the new can be observed from decreasing to increasing usage.

Other than these two fields of study, variation and linguistic change, it is worth considering how the relationship between these two processes characterise locutors’ usage: can languages change without variation? Does variation lead to linguistic change? Does linguistic change first appear with variation “as others do”? In terms of methodology, it is important to determine which corpora best lend themselves to observing the coexistence of competing usages. In other words, are all types of discourse characterised by such coexistence or are some more subject to variation? Are there types of variation where competition can never be observed? Finally, there is scope for reflection regarding non-linguistic codes and usage in the context of a semiotic approach to variation with questions regarding variation and code diversification as well as the onset and/or disappearance of non-linguistic codes.

Taken together, these resolutely open research avenues work perfectly with contrastive analysis and, therefore, also foster dialogue among laboratory colleagues. Anyone who would like to collaborate scientifically, regardless of language or language family, is welcome to join us.