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Published on Monday, June 24, 2019


The e-journal Lexis Journal in English Lexicology – will publish its 16th issue in 2020. It will be guest-edited by Chris Smith (Université de Caen) and Sylvie Hancil (Université de Rouen) and will deal with “diachronic lexical semantics”. This topic will naturally include issues of lexicogrammatical nature and the interface between lexicon and grammar, i.e. questions of grammaticalisation and lexicalisation of forms.



Lexical semantics is a field of semantics dealing with the study of meaning in words and expressions. The diachronic perspective allows for the study of meaning through time, and therefore holds the additional benefit of considering lexical meaning as being subject to change rather than being purely conventional. The timescale of diachronic study can naturally span as little as a few decades or, alternatively, can cover several centuries. As far as the semantic approach is concerned, it is of course understood that all approaches to meaning are equally acceptable and interesting, and that includes cognitive semantics, componential feature-based semantics, structuralist semantics and other approaches as can be found in the overview of semantic theories in Geeraerts [2009].

This edition welcomes papers of exploratory descriptive, or theoretical nature. Both onomasiological and semasiological approaches may be used, and potentially combined, for this edition, which purports to provide an overview of research in a field which is growing rapidly.

Papers may focus on how to identify instances of semantic change, which methods and techniques can be used to detect change reliably, and how to assess change both quantitatively and qualitatively (see Allan & Robinson [2012]).

Naturally, the question of the motivation behind semantic change will be a key aspect. In particular, it will be worth identifying and distinguishing occurrences of so-called natural change such as metaphor and metonymy from change which is viewed as irregular or sporadic (see Blank [1999], Traugott et Dasher [2005], Koch [1999], [2012]). Discussions regarding the relative prominence of metaphorical and metonymical change will be welcome, and in particular any papers addressing formal issues, such as the following. How do metaphor and metonymy relate to one another (see Koch [1999], [2012], Kovecses & Radden [1998]) and is one more essential, or systematic, than the other ? Can either metonymy or metaphor account for other types of less systematic, less frequent, sporadic change such as sound symbolic change? (For issues of semantic change see Koch [1999], and for issues of phonosymbolic change see Smith [2016]). Another question worth pondering is how essential mechanisms of lexical semantic change such as metonymy and metaphor relate to grammaticalisation (Traugott & Dasher [2005]), and what is the relation between major mechanisms of semantic change with analogical or sporadic change in the lexicon (see Joseph [1998], Miller [2014])?

These questions lead to the essential issue of propagation of change, methods for quantifying patterns of change, and assessing the importance or regularity of trajectories of change, as with the theory of S-curve propagation (Blythe & Croft [2012]).

The morphosemantic aspect of change is another interesting avenue of research for this issue of diachronic lexical change. This issue will welcome papers focusing on morphology-related semantic change in the lexicon such as patterns of neologisms over time, or semantic change in loan words (Durkin [2014], Smith [2018]. This may include any studies covering the relation between morphological structure and semantic behaviour over time, such as specialisation of meaning, restriction of meaning in derivatives, or compounds, or other word formation types.

On a pragmatic level, papers may consider the reasons behind semantic change. Expressive strategies, or X-phemistic communication cues may be at stake, such as the X-phemism treadmill which acounts for the cyclical renewing of expressive connotations around taboo topics, such as gender or sex-related issues.

Finally, issues of methodology may be addressed, such as the type of data selected for study, based on corpora or on historical lexicographic material such as the Oxford EnglishDictionary. Multiple types of corpus analysis are possible, such as investigations into change based on a particular period, or based on a specific genre, a specific type of discourse, or a type of register. For instance, semantic change has been shown to be faster in non-standard English, especially slang, than in standard English : there is much evidence of higher concentrations of phonosymbolism in slang for instance, and the proportion of obsolete words is also higher in slang, indicating a faster turnover rate, i.e. more accelerated change. Many diachronic corpora are now available, such as the Penn Corpus, the Helsinki Corpus, Early English Books Online, providing opportunities to compare and assess the methods for investigating semantic change in different corpora.

How to submit

Please clearly indicate the title of the paper and include an abstract of no more than 5,000 characters as well as a list of relevant key-words and references. All abstract and paper submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed (double-blind peer reviewing) by an international scientific committee composed of specialists in their fields. Papers will be written preferably in English or occasionally in French. Manuscripts may be rejected, accepted subject to revision, or accepted as such. There is no limit to the number of pages.Abstracts and articles will be sent via email to lexis@univ-lyon3.fr


  • June 2019: call for papers
  • January 31th 2020: deadline for sending in abstracts to Lexis
  • March 2020: Evaluation Committee’s decisions notified to authors
  • June 30th 2020: deadline for sending in papers (Guidelines for submitting articles: https://journals.openedition.org/lexis/1000)
  • July and August 2020: proofreading of papers by the Evaluation committee
  • September and October 2020: authors’ corrections
  • October 31st 2020: deadline for sending in final versions of papers


Allan Kathryn & Robinson Justinya (eds.), 2012, Current Methods in Historical Semantics, Berlin/ Boston: de Gruyter.

Blank Andreas & Koch Peter (eds.), 1999, Historical semantics and cognition, Berlin/ Boston: de Gruyter.

Blythe Richard A. & Croft William, 2012, “S-curves and the propagation of language change”,Language, vol 88: 2, 269-304.

Croft William, 2000, Explaining language change: an Evolutionary approach, Berlin/ Boston: de Gruyter.

Joseph Brian D., 1998, The Linguistics of Marginality: the Centrality of the Periphery.

Joseph Brian D. & Janda Richard D. (eds.), 2003, The Handbook of Historical linguistics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Durkin Philip, 2014, Borrowed words: a History of Loanwords in English, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Geeraerts Dirk, 2009, Theories of Lexical Semantics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Koch Peter, 1999, “Frame and Contiguity: On the cognitive bases of metonymy and certains types of word formation”, in Radden Günther & Panther Klaus-Uwe (eds.), Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 139-169.

Koch Peter, 2012, “The Pervasiveness of Contiguity and Metonymy in Language Change”, inAllan Kathryn & Robinson Justyna A. (eds.), Current Methods in Historical Semantics, Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter, 259-312.

Kovecses Zoltan & Radden Günther, 1998, “Metonymy, Developing a Cognitive Linguistic View”, Cognitive Linguistics (includes Cognitive Linguistic Bibliography), Volume 9, Issue 1, 37-78.

Miller Gary D., 2014, Lexicogenesis, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smith Chris A., 2016, “Tracking semantic change in fl- monomorphemes in the Oxford English Dictionary”, Journal of Historical Linguistics, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 165-200.

Smith Chris A., 2018,Where do new words like boobage, flamage, ownage come from?Tracking the history of ‑age words from 1100 to 2000 in the OED3”, Lexis [Online], 12 | 2018, Online since 14 December 2018: http://journals.openedition.org/lexis/2167 

Traugott Elisabeth & Dasher Richard, 2005, Regularity in Semantic change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


  • Friday, January 31, 2020


  • diachronic, diachronique, semantic, semantique change, grammaticalization, lexicalization, metaphor, metonymy


  • Denis Jamet
    courriel : denis [dot] jamet [at] univ-lyon3 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Denis Jamet
    courriel : denis [dot] jamet [at] univ-lyon3 [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Diachronic lexical semantics », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 24, 2019, https://calenda.org/640815

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