Meeting 2: Nijmegen, Netherlands

Relating synchronic and diachronic phonology

> See the detailed program

10-11th December, 2015. Location: Nijmegen, Netherlands.

The Phonological Theory Agora (PTA) aims at being a platform for debate on theoretical issues. We do so (among other things) by organizing yearly meetings where phonologists can meet to discuss recent advances as well as fundamental issues in the theory. We are not devoted to any specific theory in particular, but welcome contributions from any theoretical stance.


In May 2015, the Lublin event was about the relationship between computation and representation. The December venue is hooked on Going Romance 29 ( that takes place in Nijmegen from 10 to 12 December. In order to promote discussion, rather than professoral declamation, the conference format is standup-style: speakers make a claim and provide supporting argument (10 min.), which is then discussed by the floor (20 min.). Before this session, the theme is introduced by a tutorial that reports relevant facs and views. The topic discussed in Nijmegen is "Relating synchronic and diachronic phonology", and the tutorial will be delivered by Haike Jacobs.

Relating synchronic and diachronic phonology

How much is diachronic phonology reflected in the synchronic workings of phonological activity in the minds of native speakers? Is it always true that today's synchronic processes are tomorrow's diachronic processes? Does the distinction between diachronic and synchronic phonology make any sense given that what we call diachronic from our post-hoc position was synchronic in the speakers of intermediate stages? To what extent is work on phonological variation related to that on diachrony?

It seems quite obvious that diachronic phonology and synchronic phonology are about very different topics, as the relation between the phonology of a speaker of, say, the 10th century, and that of a speaker of the 21st century is clearly not that of an 'underlying' to a 'surface' form. When phonological processes age by implementing syntactic, morphological and lexical restrictions, where exactly is the point when they become mere facts about individual lexical entries, i.e. cease to be phonological and computational? At a given point in time, how do we distinguish between "dead" and "alive" phonological processes? How "abstract" ought lexical entries to be, i.e. how close or removed should they be from their diachronic ancestors? Are diachronic and synchronic analysis and explanation competing, and if so, how do we choose?

These and related questions will be relevant for the upcoming PTA event hooked on Going Romance in Nijmegen (December 10th-12th). The focus of the discussion along the "stand up and make a claim" formula is on the consequences of the existence of diachronic data/traditions/analyses for phonological theory. Submissions on any topic related to this issue are welcome.

These events are connected to the Going Romance conference and are organized at the same place.

Original format for an open discussion

  Day 1: December 10th Day 2: December 11th

Phonology Session Going Romance 29

10-12 : Tutorial delivered by Haike Jacobs (Radboub University, Nijmegen)

PM 14-17 : PhD students meeting

14-16 : Make a claim and defend it

16:30 : Business meeting


Submission of (short) one-page abstracts for claim-making standups is invited until October 31st, to be sent to pta(AT) Authors will be notified by November 15th.