Chaire Internationale 2017 : Le Labex accueille le professeur Susanne Michaelis - Université de Leipzig (Allemagne)

  Professor Susanne Michaelis from University of Leipzig (Germany) is the next invited professor of the Labex EFL.

   You will find hereafter the detail of her lectures that will take place in June 2017 :




Venue : INALCO - 65 rue des grands moulins 75013 Paris - Salle 3.15

Creole languages and linguistic typology

Lecture 1 - The Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures: Creoles are diverse 
Friday 09/06, 2-4pm

In this lecture, I will show that the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures (Michaelis & Maurer & Haspelmath & Huber (eds.), OUP 2013, makes possible rigorous comparison of a large number of creoles with other creoles, and with non-creoles world-wide. For a long time, comparative creolists have been biased towards the analysis and comparison of one sub-group of creoles, namely Atlantic creoles. At the same time they have prematurely generalized from this narrow historical group to creoles in general. It is now time to get non-Atlantic creoles (South Asian, Southeast Asian, Australian, and Pacific creoles) systematically into the picture of what/how creoles may look like. We will see that creoles are much more diverse than we thought before APiCS.

Lecture 2 - Division of labor between substrates and lexifiers 
Friday 16/06, 2-4pm

I start out from the observation that creole languages differ in a great number of grammatical features from one another. Some creoles have obligatory subject pronouns, others do not; some creoles mark the possessor in noun phrases, others do not; some creoles have double-object constructions, others have indirect-object constructions, and so on. But when rigorously comparing a large number of these contact languages with each other (as in the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures,, a striking picture emerges: the structural variation is far from random, instead we notice that when it comes to the inheritance of grammatical features, there is a clear division of labor between the contributing languages, the substrate languages and the lexifier languages. Lexifier languages pass on the main word order patterns (besides the bulk of the lexicon), whereas substrate languages pass on grammatical features relating to valency and tense, aspect, and mood (TAM) categories (and phonological patterns). I propose that this is because in the process of language shift, the creole creators systematically imitate valency patterns and TAM distinctions from their main languages into the nascent creoles, whereas they adopt major word order patterns from the lexifier languages. As creole languages arise in sociolinguistic contexts with many second-language speakers, extra clarity of the intended meaning becomes essential. Therefore, creoles show an extremely rich array of innovative refunctionalization and grammaticalization of erstwhile lexifier material to express the abstract meanings of the substrate languages (e.g. English one > indefinite article wan in Sranan; French avec 'with' > dative marker ek in Mauritian Creole; Portuguese ‘already’ > perfective marker dja in Batavia Creole).

Lecture 3 - Creoles are alike : Analyticization 
Friday 23/06, 2-4pm

Since the early 19th century, linguists have sometimes tried to understand language change from a broader perspective, as affecting the entire character of a language. Since A.W. von Schlegel (1818),  it has been commonplace to say that Latin is a synthetic language, while the Romance languages are (more) analytic, i.e. make more use of auxiliary words and periphrastic constructions of various kinds. However, the newly developed analytic constructions may again turn into fused patterns, as in the well-known case of the Romance future tense (e.g. Spanish cantar-é ‘I will sing’ from cantare habeo), a phenomenon that we call “anasynthesis”. In this lecture, I address three major points regarding this broad picture:

     (i) I discuss the basic question of how to distinguish analytic and synthetic patterns in the first place, noting that the distinction if understood synchronically rests on the concept of “(auxiliary) word”, which is not well-defined except in a trivial orthographic sense. But there is no question that a diachronic process of “analyticizing” or “refunctionalizing” is widespread and is involved in a substantial number of salient grammatical innovations.

     (ii) I highlight the strongly analyticizing developments in creole languages, based on examples from the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures (2013). Compared to other Romance varieties, especially of course the standard varieties, all creoles show drastic loss of inflectional markers, their replacement by new function items, and/or the development of novel function items, mostly from earlier lexical roots.

     (iii) I propose an explanation of these developments on the basis of the contact history of these languages, invoking general principles of contact-induced grammatical change, and I ask whether similar differences can be found within some of the major language families (e.g. with French being more analytic than Spanish, or Bulgarian more analytic than Russian), or even within the major languages (with some vernacular varieties being more analytic than the standard varieties).

Lecture 4 - Coding asymetries: Creoles confirm universal trends 
Friday 30/06, 2-4pm

In this lecture, I will look at two grammatical oppositions, (i) dependent vs. independent person forms and (ii) motion-to vs. motion-from constructions.

It seems to be a robust empirical observation that independent possessive person forms (such as English mine, yours, hers, or French le mien, le tien, le sien) are always longer than (or at least as long as) the corresponding adnominal possessive person forms (such as English my, your, her, or French mon, ton, son). The same is true for motion-from constructions when compared to motion-to constructions (such as English I came from Paris vs. I went to Paris, French Je retourne de Paris vs. Je vais à Paris vs). Since adnominal possessive forms (and motion-to constructions) are also much more frequent in discourse than independent forms (and motion-from constructions), this universal can be subsumed under the grammatical form–frequency correspondence principle (Haspelmath et al. 2014, and related work). In other words, the fact that independent possessive forms (and motion-from markers) are longer can be seen as a functional response to the need to highlight rarer, less predictable forms.

One question is how such form-frequency correspondences come about. Pidgin and creole languages generally show accelerated grammatical change and are thus an interesting area where pathways of change leading to coding asymmetries (longer independent possessive forms and motion-from markers) can be studied. In this lecture, I first note that data from high-contact languages, such as pidgins and creoles, support the universal claim. I will then focus on analyzing the diverse diachronic pathways which lead to longer independent possessive forms and motion-from markers. We will see that there are indeed multiple pathways, but they all lead to a similar outcome of the expected coding asymmetries, which supports the functional account.