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Special Issue on Inferences in interaction and language change



Although the concept of inference is of central relevance to studies on conversation and diachrony, these disciplines tackle the problems posed by the notion of inferences from very different angles using different methodologies. 

Inferences are assumed to play a prominent role in semantic change in that semantic change frequently results from the conventionalization of conversational implicatures, or presupposition accommodation. A crucial problem for such theories of semantic change is that due to the monological character of most historical texts, inferences are usually only modeled from either the speaker’s or the hearer’s perspective. As a result, the notion of context often remains schematic. However, a full understanding of semantic change requires a context-sensitive model that includes both the speaker and the hearer. Conversation and interaction studies have been working heavily towards such a model, a fact from which diachronic studies could profit.

Many studies in conversation and interaction focus on the fact that both speaker and interlocutor(s) are involved in the dialogical management of inferences. The central advantage of such synchronic studies is that they permit investigation of the actual mechanisms through which inferences are dealt with in the actions of the participants. However, scholars in the study of conversation and interaction also face several problems that have been worked on extensively in historical linguistics. Just to mention three of these problems: The inferences under investigation are located on different but interdependent levels (action, syntax, semantics,...), with no coherent model yet available. Variation in the data concerning the interactional function of linguistic structures may be due to layering and diachronic processes. Longer, more monological contributions to discourse, but also ‘deviant cases’ in which actual conversational moves of a pattern are ‘missing’, are notoriously difficult to handle, although they may rely on the same inferential processes. Interactional linguistics can also profit from historical linguistics in that diachronic changes may offer evidence for interactional processes not easily observable in synchrony. 

The special issue brings together experts from both disciplines, demonstrating how the two lines of research can benefit from each other. We aim at establishing a consensus regarding the relevance of the notion of inference in language use and language change and consequently, help refining current theories of language use and language change and specifically, their interplay. In summary, the central aims of the special issue are threefold: 

  1. To carve out different domains in which inferences are relevant for a linguistic analysis for both interaction and language change
  2. To discuss the benefits and limitations of currently available methods for the analysis of inferences
  3. To contribute to the development of a contextualized model of the roles of speaker and interlocutor in the synchronic and diachronic emergence of meaning


Oliver Ehmer
Malte Rosemeyer



Authors are kindly invited to register at our paper processing system at: http://www.editorialmanager.com/opli/ and submit their contribution. 

Every manuscript should be clearly marked as intended for this special issue. All papers will  be subject to the Open Linguistics’ high standards, quick, fair and comprehensive peer-review procedure. Instructions for authors are available here.In case of any questions, please contact the Guest Editors (malte.rosemeyer@romanistik.uni-freiburg.de) or the Managing Editor (katarzyna.grzegorek@degruyteropen.com). 

As an author of Open Linguistics you will benefit from:

  • transparent, comprehensive and fast peer review managed by our esteemed Guest Editor;
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  • no publication fees;
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The deadline is May 15th, 2017