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Conference on Comparative Diachronic Syntax

University of Leiden Centre for Linguistics (ULCL), 29-30 August 2003


Description of Conference Topic

In the synchronic study of syntax, the comparative approach has been highly successful in uncovering insights into the nature of syntactic principles and the variation that they allow. In fact, it may not be an overstatement to say that modern syntax is to a large extent based on comparative work. It is certainly true that any analysis of language-specific data will not be considered successful if it cannot be made responsive to data from other languages. 

In the diachronic study of syntax, the role of cross-linguistic comparative concerns is somewhat less clear. While diachronic investigation focusing on typology and grammaticalisation has produced an important body of comparative work, it is sometimes rough-grained and often neglects issues of syntactic structure. Diachronic study from other perspectives, while it may be more fine-grained and structure-conscious, tends to ignore questions of cross-linguistic comparison. 

It therefore appears that there is still a need to explore the implications of a principled comparative stance to historical syntactic change. This conference hopes to stimulate discussion of the possibilities and problems that such a stance would create, with reference to specific case histories or more general issues in the study of syntactic change. Among the questions to be addressed are the following:

  • what can a comparative perspective contribute to our understanding of some specific syntactic change or set of changes in a language?
  • what is the exact contribution that models of comparative synchronic syntax can make to the study of diachrony?
  • are there types of diachronic syntactic phenomena that may be particularly well or ill suited to comparative analysis?
  • does comparative diachronic analyis place special demands on the kinds of data that are required?


Christa de Jager
Wim van der Wurff


The keynote address will be given by Theresa Biberauer and Ian Roberts (University of Cambridge). For the programme of the conference, click here.


Practical information

  • Dates: Friday 29 August and Saturday 30 August 2003 
  • Programme: from 9.15 till 18.15 on both days 
  • Conference site: Faculty of Arts, Room 148 of Main Building (also known as Building 1175 or LAK Building), University of Leiden, Cleveringaplaats 1, Leiden 
  • Conference fee: € 20 (this will cover abstracts, tea, coffee, and drinks on Friday), to be paid at registration on the first day of the conference 
  • For information on accommodation in Leiden, see the list of hotels; for details on how to reach Leiden and the conference site, click here; in the map of the Leiden linguistics area, the conference building is number 32; in the route description to the linguistics department, it is the building called “the big white building ("Centraal Faciliteitengebouw", building number 1175).”

Contact address

To register for the conference, contact:

Conference on Comparative Diachronic Syntax 
Dr. Wim van der Wurff 
Department of English 
P.O. Box 9515 
NL-2300 RA  Leiden 
The Netherlands

e-mail: w.a.van.der.wurff@let.leidenuniv.nl



Editor: Jeroen van de Weijer
Tel. 31-71-527 2101; E-mail
Last update:
08/07/03 14:56