General Linguistics
Welkom by Universiteit Stellenbosch

19th Diachronic Generative Syntax Conference


In 2017, DiGS will be making (more) history: for the first time in the conference's now more than a quarter century-long history, it will take place in Africa!

South Africa's Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Cape are proud to announce the 19th Diachronic Generative Syntax Conference (DiGS 19), which will take place in the fairest Cape 5-8 September 2017.

As has become traditional, the main conference will be preceded by a themed workshop. The theme of this workshop will be 'Language Variation and Change in Contact Situations'. Abstracts may be submitted to both the main conference and the workshop.


DiGS is an established international conference, first launched in 1990, which has, until now, alternated between venues in Europe and the Americas (see for an overview of DiGS's history). Taking place annually since 2008, with 2009 having produced the first foray beyond Europe and North America (to Brazil), the conference is now widely recognised as a privileged forum for the presentation of research on formal diachronic syntax, combining historical and more broadly comparative investigations of syntactic phenomena from a generative perspective.

DiGS 19 welcomes submissions on any topic in formal diachronic syntax, but especially encourages research that reports novel linguistic data and/or sheds light on the internal and external sources of language change and the courses that this change can and can't take. As always, our aim is, on the one hand, to harness diachrony to probe the properties of natural language, and, on the other, to contribute to our understanding of how those properties constrain language change.

Invited Speakers

Enoch Aboh (Amsterdam)
Charlotte Galves (Campinas)
David Lightfoot (Georgetown)
Pieter Muysken (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen/Stellenbosch)

Jenneke van der Wal (Harvard)

Call for papers

We invite abstracts for thirty-minute talks (followed by ten minutes of discussion) on any aspect of diachronic generative syntax. Given the location of the conference, we would particularly this year like to encourage research focusing on:

  • variation and both change and stability in African and other contact situations
  • variation and change in more extreme “poverty of the stimulus” situations (e.g. creolisation, home-sign and sign-language contexts)
  • language attrition
  • the impact of multilingualism – also including multilectalism – on language structure over time, including the ways in which having knowledge of both formal (and potentially prescriptively imposed) and informal (and potentially exclusively spoken) varieties may produce change.

Workshop: Language Variation and Change in Contact Situations

Invited speakers: Charlotte Galves (Campinas) and Pieter Muysken (Radboud Universiteit/Stellenbosch)

In addition to the main conference (which will also include a poster session), there will be a workshop focusing on the theme of variation and change in contact situations. This workshop will take place on 5 September, and we welcome papers focusing on any (synchronic or diachronic) contact-related topic. The workshop is intended as a venue both for primarily empirical and for more theoretically oriented papers. Topics of interest thus include, but are not limited to:

  • descriptions of un(der)studied contact varieties and of (apparently) contactinduced structures
  • linguistic situations where acquirers/speakers can be shown to have “gone beyond the input”
  • the aspects of syntax and language structure more generally that seem to be either particularly contact-sensitive or particularly contact-resistant (i.e. stable)
  • formally motivated discussion of what ‘convergence’ in language-contact situations means, and of the extent to which simplification plays a prominent role here
  • the role of L2 acquisition, code-switching, and other multilingualism-related phenomena in the shaping of contact varieties
  • the types of optionality observed in contact situations. Here we are, among other things, particularly interested both in contact scenarios where a prescriptively imposed standard is and where one isn’t in the picture.
  • attrition
  • contact modelling

Papers will be 20- or 30-minutes long (with 10 minutes for discussion in each case). Please indicate on your abstract (in the Header) if you have a preference for a 20- or 30-minute talk.

Abstract Guidelines

Abstracts for both the workshop and the DiGS main conference should not exceed two pages, with 2.5cm margins on all sides and a font size of 12pt. This includes data, references and diagrams.

Each author may submit no more than one single-authored and one co-authored abstract, or two co-authored ones. The workshop and the main conference “count” as one event in relation to this constraint, i.e. no more than 2 abstracts in total by a single author.
Abstracts must be anonymous and prospective presenters should submit their abstract in pdf to:

If you wish your abstract to be considered specifically either for the workshop or for the main conference, please indicate this in the Header of your abstract, and register the choice on EasyAbs when you submit. Abstracts lacking a specific Header indication will automatically be considered for both.

The deadline for submission is Friday 17 February 2017.

Notification of acceptance by Monday 20 March 2017.

Further information

For local (Cape-related) information, please contact Erin

For directly DiGS-related information, please contact Theresa

Organizing Committee

Theresa Biberauer (Cambridge/Stellenbosch)
Erin Pretorius (UWC)
Marie-Louise van Heukelum (Stellenbosch)
Kate Huddlestone (Stellenbosch)
Marcelyn Oostendorp (Stellenbosch)
Johan Oosthuizen (Stellenbosch)