Collitz Professor: Joan Bybee, University of New Mexico

Event Date/Time: 
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 7:00pm
Event Details: 

Lecture Title: Lexical and grammatical factors in sound change: a usage-based approach

The question of whether grammatical or lexical factors can condition or block sound change has been discussed from many perspectives for more than a century without resolution. Here we consider studies of sound change in progress which show that words or phrases that are used frequently in the phonetic environment for change undergo the change before those whose use is less frequent in these contexts. Because words of different categories and with different structures also have different distributions, they may occur preferentially in certain phonetic environments. Thus apparent interference by grammatical and lexical factors can be explained by phonetic factors if we expand our notion of ‘phonetic environment’ to include frequency within the environment for change, which includes the segmental environment as well as factors that affect the degree of prominence a word receives in context.

Short Bio: 

Joan Bybee is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico. Her research focuses on theoretical issues in phonology, morphology, language universals and linguistic change. Her work utilizing large cross-linguistic databases, e.g. Morphology: A study of the relation between Meaning and Form (Benjamins, 1985), The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect and Modality in the Languages of the World (with Perkins and Pagliuca, University of Chicago Press, 1994), provide diachronic explanations for typological phenomena. Her books presenting a usage-based perspective on synchrony and diachrony include Phonology and Language Use (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and Frequency of Use and the Organization of language (Oxford University Press, 2007), Language, Usage and Cognition (Cambridge University Press, 2010). In 2015 Language Change appeared in the Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics Series. Professor Bybee served as the President of the Linguistic Society of America in 2004 and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo in 2005. She is a Fellow of the LSA and the Cognitive Science Society.

Link (URL) to profile page:



Language Origins







Mailing address (for sending posters): 

Joan Bybee Department of Linguistics MSC03 2130 1 University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001 USA


 Bybee CV 2016.doc

Phone number: 


Attendance timeframe: 

July 5 - August 1

Location : 
Jacob Science Building, Room 121