The 20th Diachronic Generative Syntax Conference

18-21 June 2018, University of York



The 20th Diachronic Generative Syntax conference (DiGS20) will be hosted at the University of York, on 18-21 June 2018.

DiGS20 welcomes submissions on any topic in formal diachronic syntax, but especially encourages research that presents novel historical syntactic data and/or sheds light on the internal and external sources of language variation and change, and the paths that syntactic change follows.

Invited speakers

More on DiGS and its history

Workshop on Syntax and Reconstruction

As has become traditional, the main conference will be preceded by a themed workshop; in 2018, the theme will be Syntax and Reconstruction. The workshop will focus on reconstruction of the syntax of protolanguages as well as reconstruction of language relatedness through syntactic properties.

Invited speaker

Important dates

  • Workshop: 18 June 2018
  • Main conference: 19-21 June 2018
  • Abstract submission deadline: 8 January 2018
  • Notification of acceptance: 28 February  2018
  • Early-bird registration deadline: 15 April 2018


Organizing Committee: Claire Childs, Shin-Sook Kim, Giuseppe Longobardi, Dimitris Michelioudakis, Susan Pintzuk, Nina Radkevich, Ann Taylor, Eva Zehentner

Call for papers

Call for papers

Abstracts are invited for 30-minute presentations (followed by 10  minutes of discussion) on any aspect of diachronic syntax, and/or the theme of the workshop, Syntax and Reconstruction

Abstracts must not exceed 2 pages in length, including examples and references, with 2.5 cm margins on all sides and a 12pt font.

Submission is limited to one single-authored and one co-authored abstract per author, or two co-authored abstracts, whether it is for the main conference or for the workshop, or both.

Abstracts must be anonymous.

Please indicate in the header of the abstract if you wish to be considered only for the workshop or only for the main conference. In the absence of any indication in the header, the abstract will be considered for both.

Organizing Committee: Claire Childs, Shin-Sook Kim, Giuseppe Longobardi, Dimitris Michelioudakis, Susan Pintzuk, Nina Radkevich, Ann Taylor, Eva Zehentner

If you have questions or comments, please contact


Workshop on Syntax and Reconstruction

18 June 2018, University of York

The reconstruction of otherwise unknown events of the past is the most genuine way of increasing the body of historical knowledge. Demonstrating that generative syntax can contribute to this endeavour provides a strong argument for the generative approach to the study of language.

A debate has arisen since Roberts (1998) about the possibility of using generative concepts as a tool for comparative reconstruction of ancestral syntactic states of unattested protolanguages (Lightfoot 2002a, 2002b, Campbell & Harris 2002). More recent attempts to apply a minimalist framework to syntactic reconstruction include Willis (2011) for Celtic and Walkden (2014) for Germanic, while Emonds and Faarlund’s 2014 use of syntactic characteristics to propose a novel account of the ancestry of Middle English has provoked a lively exchange of ideas in the literature. Since Longobardi (2003), attempts have been made to use parametric generative syntax in an additional way: to comparatively reconstruct phylogenetic relations among languages (see e.g. Longobardi et al. 2013 on a syntactic phylogeny of Indo-European; Guardiano et al. 2016 on phylogenies of Southern Italo-Romance and a sample of Modern Greek dialects).

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Comparative or internal reconstruction of unattested syntactic stages
  • General methodological issues in syntactic reconstruction
  • Diagnosing shared innovations and retentions, homoplastic patterns and back-mutation processes
  • Syntactic reconstruction, UG and typology
  • The contribution of syntax to phylogenetic reconstruction compared to other domains
  • New computational approaches to reconstruction and phylogenetic syntax


  • Campbell, L. & Harris, A. C. 2002. Syntactic reconstruction and demythologizing 'Myths and the prehistory of grammars'. Journal of Linguistics 38, 599–618.
  • Emonds, J. E. & Faarlund, J. T. 2014. English: The Language of the Vikings. Olomouc: Palacký University.
  • Guardiano, C., Michelioudakis, D., Ceolin, A., Irimia, M., Longobardi, G., Radkevich, N., Silvestri, G. & Sitaridou, I. 2016. South by Southeast. A syntactic approach to Greek and Romance microvariation. L'Italia Dialettale, 77, 95-166.
  • Lightfoot, D. W. 2002a. Myths and the prehistory of grammars. Journal of Linguistics 38, 113–36.
  • Lightfoot, D. W. 2002b. More myths. Journal of Linguistics, 38, 619-626.
  • Longobardi, G. 2003. Methods in parametric linguistics and cognitive history. Linguistic Variation Yearbook, 3(1), 101-138.
  • Longobardi, G., Guardiano, C., Silvestri, G., Boattini, A. & Ceolin, A. 2013. Toward a syntactic phylogeny of modern Indo-European languages. Journal of Historical Linguistics, 3(1), 122-152.
  • Roberts, I. G. 1998. Review of Harris & Campbell. Romance Philology 51, 363-370.
  • Walkden, G. 2014. Syntactic Reconstruction and Proto-Germanic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Willis, D. 2011. Reconstructing last week's weather: Syntactic reconstruction and Brythonic free relatives. Journal of Linguistics 47, 407–46.