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Linguistics and its historical forms of organization and production

(Paris, 24-26 January 2019)


This conference is an occasion for celebrating the 40th anniversary of the SHESL (Société d’histoire et d’épistémologie des sciences du langage) and the associated journal HEL (Histoire Epistémologie Langage), as well as the 35 years of existence of the HTL research group (Histoire des théories linguistiques). It is open to all scholars who have an interest in the history, sociology and philosophy of the language sciences.



Scientific inquiry may justifiably be seen as a practice ruled by specific epistemic criteria (hypothesis-testing and empirical adequacy). It may also be viewed as involving forms of organization which reflect institutional and didactic traditions, theoretical affinities, paths of transmission, and various social, political or even religious concerns. From this point of view, we are confronted with the multifarious forms of organization of linguistic research, description and prescription, and with the attendant diversity in scientific production.

Forms of organization and forms of production may deviate more or less from the beaten tracks of what academic research today regards as bona fide structures and theoretical work. Apart from the universities, one may think for instance of learned societies (international, national or more local), religious congregations, more or less enduring and organized intellectual circles, networks, schools of various guises, linguistic institutes, academies, etc.; and of their productions, in the form of descriptive and more or less theoretical studies, translations and glosses, manifestos, instructions (for collecting “data” or for the purpose of setting a descriptive framework), memoirs, bulletins, missionary grammars, terminological prescriptions, pedagogical textbooks and dictionaries. Beyond structures laid out by academic institutions, forms of organization may involve more or less stabilized theory groups and networks, and schools of various guises; at stake here is the description of these “invisible colleges”, of their historical motivations and goals, of factors inducing in actors a sense of belonging and of the strategies employed in securing a place in academia. The very broad understanding of “forms of organization” proposed in this call leaves considerable latitude in the ways forms of linguistic organization and production can be considered; in particular, it does not restrict the purview to sociological approaches, although proposals in this direction are of course welcome.

In brief, the conference committee invites proposals which will bear on the ways in which linguistic inquiry has organized itself, or, in other words, the various modes in which individuals involved in linguistic research, description and prescription have coalesced into groups, schools, “paradigms” (if this Kuhnian notion is applicable in linguistics or not), research programs, and institutions of various sorts.

The following more specific topics may be broached (the list is not intended to be exhaustive):

-The constitution of intellectual circles and networks (including from a sociological standpoint)

-The role of religious congregations and their history

-The constitution of modern university disciplines (e.g. the institutionalization of linguistic research in 19th century Germany)

-The role of learned societies and their history

-The notion of “school” (e.g. the Geneva or Prague school of structuralism)

-The constitution of linguistics as a self-standing discipline in the academic world

-The notions of paradigm and research program in linguistics

-The characterization of products related to linguistic activity (e.g. grammars), insofar as they are representative of a school, institution, etc.


Place and date:

Paris, 24-26 January 2019.




Please send your abstracts (around 500 words, + bibliography and keywords) to

Deadline for submission: 30 June 2018

Notification of acceptance: beginning of September 2018

Registration fees: 50 €  (35 € for the students, and )

Free for the members of the SHESL


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