Nous accueillons à partir du 16 janvier 2018 le professeur Joshua T.Katz ( de l’Université de Princeton (USA) pour une série de quatre séminaires sur le thème « Marginal Linguistic Phenomena ». 

Ces séminaires se dérouleront les mardis 16, 23, 30 janvier et 06 février de 14h30 à 16h30 à l’Université Paris Diderot – bâtiment Olympe de Gouges – Place Paul Ricoeur – 75013 Paris – Salle 209.

In this series I will consider a number of marginal linguistic phenomena in languages from Ancient Greek to Modern French, paying attention to both synchronic and diachronic analysis and in particular to the combination of pleasures and pitfalls that historical reconstruction presents. Above all, my aim is to show that looking at the periphery, and doing so with an eye on philology and sociocultural circumstance as well as on the purely linguistic, can be a fruitful way to answer the two very different core questions “What is language?” and “What is a language?” The four seminars will be divided into two groups: “Marginal Categories” and “Marginal Approaches.” In addition, each of the seminars in the first group will consist of two parts.


Group I: Marginal Categories

Seminar 1: “(a) Introduction; (b) Unexpected Phonology” — Tuesday, 16 January 2018


Introduction to marginal linguistic phenomena; followed by the identification of a quasi- ideophone in Ancient Greek


(i) Mark Dingemanse’s blog ( and any of the works cited there; a good place to begin is Mark Dingemanse et al. “What Sound Symbolism can and cannot Do: Testing the Iconicity of Ideophones from Five Languages,” Language (2016) 92: e117–133.

(ii) JTK, “The Hymnic Long Alpha: Moúsas aeídō and Related Incipits in Archaic Greek Poetry,” in Stephanie W. Jamison, H. Craig Melchert & Brent Vine (eds.), Proceedings of the 24th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, Los Angeles, October 26th and 27th, 2012. Bremen: Hempen, 2013, pp. 87–101.

PDF : The Hymnic Long Alpha: Μούσας ἀείδω and Related Incipits in Archaic Greek Poetry

(iii) Hot off the press this month (!): John Haiman, Ideophones and the Evolution of Language (2018). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 


Seminar 2: “(a) Light Words; (b) Heavy Words” — Tuesday, 23 January 2018

General problems in the analysis and reconstruction of (mostly older Indo-European) pronouns and other ubiquitous “light” words with minimal phonological form and non-obvious internal morphology; followed by issues with the morphologically and semantically “heavy” category of pluperfect in Ancient Greek and elsewhere, as well as in reconstructed Proto-Indo- European


(i) JTK, “Archaische keltische Personalpronomina aus indogermanischer Sicht,” in Wolfgang Meid (ed.), Sprache und Kultur der Indogermanen: Akten der X. Fachtagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Innsbruck, 22.–28. September 1996. Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck, 1998, pp. 265–291.

PDF : Kingsnorth_Wake_beginning Kingsnorth_A Note on Language Hoban_Riddley Walker_beginning Hoban_Afterword Katz_GreekPluperfect Katz_PersonalPronomina

(ii) JTK, “The Origin of the Greek Pluperfect,” Die Sprache 46 (2006 [publ. 2008]): 1–37.

PDF : Katz_GreekPluperfect


Group II: Marginal Approaches


Seminar 3: “Exercises in Wile” — Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Wordplay as an unexpected avenue into fundamental linguistic issues, with an interactive workshop on exercises in English and French designed to demonstrate what happens when language is pushed to its limits

Reading: I do not wish anyone to read anything in advance of this seminar. Please bring scrap paper and a pen or pencil — and your sense of humor!

Seminar 4: “Construction and Reconstruction” — Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Constructed languages, examined from the perspective of someone who is primarily a recontructor and with special emphasis on a pair of English-based examples that have interesting diachronic and epistemological properties


(i) Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker, expanded ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998 [1980], beginning through p. 7.

PDF : Hoban_Riddley Walker_beginning

(ii) Hoban, “Afterword,” in Riddley Walker, pp. 223–227.

PDF : Hoban_Afterword

(iii) Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake: A Novel. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2015 [2014], beginning through p.15.

PDF : Kingsnorth_Wake_beginning

(iv) Kingsnorth, “A Note on Language,” in The Wake, pp. 353–356.

PDF : Kingsnorth_A Note on Language