Symposium: Historical English Word-Formation

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

Organisers: Kerstin Majewski and Hans Sauer*

*Please note that despite the sudden and unexpected passing of Prof. Dr. Hans Sauer on 31 May, 2022, the symposium will take place.

Call for papers

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, our 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)?


Download the Call for Papers here.


General information

Abstracts of 250 words (bibliography excluded) should be sent to by 31 July 2022 (** extended deadline! **).

The symposium will take place at the Fachbibliothek Philologicum, Ludwigstr. 25, 80539 München. If this should not be possible, the conference will be held in a hybrid-format.


Registration & fees

The conference fee includes coffee, tea, and non-alcoholic beverages as well as snacks during the symposium.

  • Regular attendance: EUR 50,-
  • University students’ attendance: EUR 25,- (LMU students free)

Registration and payment methods will be announced in October/November 2022.


Important dates (** updated! **)


  • Deadline for abstract submissions (250 words): 31 July 2022
  • Notification of acceptance: 18 August 2022
  • Registration deadline: 30 January 2023
  • Symposium: 17–18 February 2023


Any questions about the event may be directed to Kerstin Majewski:


We look forward to welcoming you in Munich in February 2023.

Kerstin Majewski
and the organising committee


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.