Call for papers

Symposium: Historical English Word-Formation

17-18 February 2023
Fachbibliothek Philologicum: Ludwigstraße 25, 80539 München

Organiser: Kerstin Majewski (

Call for papers

(please note that the call for papers has ended)

In its development from Old English to today, the English vocabulary underwent a radical restructuring due to an enormous influx of (complex) lexemes from Latin, Anglo-Norman, French, Greek, and other languages. Even though historical linguistics has traced and investigated many aspects of the complex mechanisms of language contact involved in all levels of language, studies on historical word-formation are comparatively rare (cf., e.g., Kastovsky 1968 and 2007; Faiß 1992; Sauer 1992; Ciszek 2008; Fisiak/Bator 2013; see also further below). For this reason, the 2023 symposium at Munich University focuses on English word-formation from the earliest texts to the Late Modern English period. We invite studies in Old, Middle, and/or Early and Late Modern English with a specifically historical perspective, working with different theoretical and methodological approaches – functional, semantic, socio-pragmatic, sociolinguistic, cognitive, computational, etc. Contributions may address questions such as:

  • Which new insights into the frequency and productivity as well as the rules and restrictions of word-formation units and patterns are gained from studying historical sources? For instance, how, why, and when do native (Germanic) and non-native (Romance) elements, patterns, and levels of word-formation compete or overlap (e.g., Middle English hybrid-formations with a Germanic base and a Romance affix such as know-able vs. borrowed, stem-based forms such as charit-able; or derivational affixes like fore- vs. ante- , -ness vs. -ity; cf., e.g., Säily 2018).
  • How and why do phrasal and prepositional verbs and other multi-word lexical items emerge (cf., e.g., Thim 2012; Rodríguez-Puente 2019) and what is their relation to inherited and borrowed vocabulary?
  • Which roles do regional, social, and medial factors as well as text-types and genres play in historical English word-formation (cf., e.g., Terasawa 1994; Gardner 2014; Säily 2014)?
  • Which current approaches and methodologies applied to Modern English word-formation research can be made fruitful for investigating past language stages (cf. Lloyd 2011; Müller et al. 2015–2016)?
  • How have electronic (historical) corpora and the Digital Humanities enhanced the study of Old, Middle, and/or Early Modern English word-formation (cf., e.g., Dalton-Puffer 1996; Markus et al. 2012)

Works cited

Ciszek, Ewa. 2008. Word Derivation in Early Middle English. Frankfurt: Lang.
Dalton-Puffer, Christiane. 1996. The French Influence on Middle English Morphology: A Corpus-Based Study on Derivation. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter Mouton.
Faiß, Klaus. 1992. English Historical Morphology and Word-Formation: Loss versus Enrichment. Trier: WVT.
Fisiak, Jacek and Magdalena Bator (eds). 2013. Historical English Word-Formation and Semantics. Berlin: Lang.
Gardner, Anne-Christine. 2014. Derivation in Middle English: Regional and Text Type Variation. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique.
Kastovsky, Dieter. 1968. Old English Deverbal Substantives Derived by Means of a Zero Morpheme. Esslingen: Langer.
Kastovsky, Dieter. 2007. “Middle English Word-Formation: A List of Desiderata”. Studies in Middle English Forms and Meanings. Ed. Gabriella Mazzon. Frankfurt a. M.: Lang. 41–56.
Lloyd, Cynthia. 2011. Semantics and Word Formation: The Semantic Development of Five French Suffixes in Middle English. Oxford: Lang.
Markus, Manfred, Yoko Iyeiri, Reinhard Heuberger and Emil Chamson (eds.). 2012. Middle and Modern English Corpus Linguistics: A Multi-Dimensional Approach. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Müller, Peter O., Ingeborg Ohnheiser, Susan Olsen and Franz Rainer (eds.). 2015–2016. Word-Formation: An International Handbook of the Languages of Europe. 5 Vols. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
Rodríguez-Puente, Paula. 2019. The English Phrasal Verb, 1650–Present: History, Stylistic Drifts, and Lexicalisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Säily, Tanja. 2014. Sociolinguistic Variation in English Derivational Productivity: Studies and Methods in Diachronic Corpus Linguistics. Helsinki: Société Néophilologique.
Säily, Tanja. 2018. “Change or Variation? Productivity of the Suffixes -ness and -ity”. Patterns of Change in 18th-Century English: A Sociolinguistic Approach. Eds. Terttu Nevalainen, Minna Palander-Collin and Tanja Säily. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 197–218.
Sauer, Hans. 1992. Nominalkomposita im Frühmittelenglischen: Mit Ausblicken auf die Geschichte der englischen Nominalkomposition. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Terasawa, Jun. 1994. Nominal Compounds in Old English: A Metrical Approach. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger.
Thim, Stefan. 2012. Phrasal Verbs: The English Verb-Particle Construction and its History. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.