In the framework of the project “Le Diasema,” the Department of Classical and Oriental Studies of the University of Liège (in collaboration with the research center in linguistics) organizes a series of lectures entitled “Diasema talks”. The talks of this series deal with the following thematic areas:

  • Semantic maps: methodological issues (including visualization techniques and tools)
  • Semantic maps and diachrony
    1. How to integrate information about diachrony (beyond oriented vectors)?
    2. How to exploit synchronic material to produce meaningful inferences about diachrony?
    3. How to account for contact-induced semantic changes with semantic maps?

  • Lexical semantic maps


Semantic maps, for synchronic and diachronic typology – Slides of the lecture
Salle Lumière (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)

The talk will introduce the concept of the semantic map and show its usefulness for both synchrony and diachrony. Illustrations will include expressions of modality and indefiniteness, impersonal constructions and scalar additive makers (as expressed by English ‘even’). The talk will show the strengths of the idea but it will not shy away from its weaknesses either.

Lexico-semantic networks on various levels of resolution – Slides of the lecture
Salle Lumière (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)
4-5:30 PM

In this talk, I discuss two different approaches to the investigation of lexico-semantic associations by way of semantic networks.

One approach is broad-scale comparative and relies on large lexical databases which contain translational equivalents for predefined meaning labels  in a large number of languages. This approach is introduced on the basis of the online resource CLICS (List et al. 2014). CLICS facilitates such research by providing a unified search engine and visualization options of patterns of lexico-semantic association which are present in large lexical databases but which cannot easily be extracted from these databases themselves.

On the other hand, I discuss a different approach that, being restricted to a single language family, is less broad in scope, but instead goes more into depth by paying attention to the linguistic history of that family as well as culture-specific conceptualizations. Using the example of the semantic field of major internal organs  of the torso (i.e. the ‘heart’, the ‘stomach’, the ‘kidney’, the ‘liver’, and the ‘lungs’) in the Quechuan language family, I show how engagement with such perspectives allows for a considerably richer understanding of lexical organization in synchrony and diachrony than linguistic data alone could provide.

I conclude that to access and understand different aspects of lexico-semantic associations, we need different and complementary study designs at various levels of resolution.


List, Johann-Mattis, Thomas Mayer, Anselm Terhalle, and Matthias Urban. 2014. CLICS:  Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications. Marburg: Forschungszentrum Deutscher Sprachatlas.

Urban, Matthias. Under review. Quechua terms for internal organs of the torso: synchronic, diachronic, and typological perspectives.

CLICS 2.0: Towards an enhanced handling of cross-linguistic colexification patterns – Slides of the lecture 
Salle Lumière (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)
4-5:30 PM

The Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications (CLICS), has established a computer-assisted framework for the interactive representation of cross-linguistic colexifications patterns. In its current form, CLICS has proven to be a useful tool for various kinds of investigations into cross-linguistic semantic associations, ranging from studies on semantic change, patterns of conceptualization, or linguistic paleontology. But CLICS has also been criticized for obvious shortcomings, ranging from the underlying data-basis, which still contains many errors, up to the limits of cross-linguistic colexification studies in general. In the talk, I will give an introduction into the current status of CLICS, the major ideas underlying the collection and analysis of the data, as well as new approaches which are currently being developed and investigated in my project. In this way, I hope that I can give not only an overview on the current state of the database, but also provide a glimpse on what can be expected of the upcoming version which is currently being prepared and will hopefully appear in late 2017.

Areal typology of lexicon-semantics – Slides of the lecture
R100 (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)

Morpho-syntactic and phonological features are regularly used by linguists to establish the existence of linguistic areas and construct areally based typologies. By contrast, lexico-semantic phenomena have, with a few exceptions (e.g. Matisoff 2004, Enfield 2003, Smith-Stark 1994), received remarkably little attention from areal linguistics and areal typology, and little is known about the geographical variation they display. The talk will advance the discussion on lexico-semantic phenomena showing parallels across languages and how these similarities may be described and accounted for – by universal tendencies, genetic relations among the languages, their contacts and/or their common extra-linguistic surrounding.

The study of lexical phenomena is of course well-established in research on language contact. Areal lexico-semantics (Ameka & Wilkins 1996, Koptjevskaja-Tamm & Liljegren 2017), by contrast, is concerned not with the way words move from language to language, but with the diffusion of semantic features across language boundaries in a geographical area. In the talk we will primarily focus on the general organization of a lexical field, polysemy (colexification) patterns and lexical motivation, collocational patterns etc., keeping in mind that areal lexico-semantics is a potentially vast field, spanning the convergence of individual lexemes, through the structuring of entire semantic domains to the organization of complete lexicons.

Graph-based approaches to sentence semantics and language comparison – (Slides of the talk)
Grand Physique (Place du 20-Août, 7, Bât. A1, aile des Jésuites, 1st floor – 4000 Liège)

In this talk I will discuss ways of fruitfully using graphs (in a mathematical sense) for the representation of meaning/distribution, and language comparison based on meaning/distribution. Starting with a brief review of theory-driven comparative work on function words (focus particles, impersonals) I will propose a way of using graphs for the exploratory analysis of adverbs of immediate posteriority such as ‘immediately’ in both contrastive linguistics and translation studies. At a more general level, I will address the relationship between graph-based and distance-based methods of representing meaning/distribution in the analysis of function words (cf. also Georgakopoulos & Polis 2018).

  • Georgakopoulos, T. & S. Polis (2018). The semantics map model. State of the art and future avenues for linguistics research. Language and Linguistics Compass.

March 13, 2018 (5-6:30PM)

Salle Lumière (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)

  • Typology and lexicon: starting points.

Lexical typology is a relatively new domain of linguistic research, since lexicon has always been treated as a periphery of the theoretically significant linguistic data.  Therefore, this type of cross-linguistic studies requires special attention to the theoretical framework, methodological issues and general assumptions about the structure of the lexicon. My talk focuses on the main claims the existing approaches make about the analysis of lexical systems (some of which are not unproblematic).  Special attention is being paid to Moscow Lexical Typology group tradition, which is based on the deep semantic description of each lexical domain.

March 14, 2018 (11AM-12:30PM)

Salle Philo 1 (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)

  • “Frame approach” to cross-linguistic studies of lexicon
  • The talk gives a brief overview of lexical semantic projects of cross-linguistic research in different semantic domains conducted by the members of Moscow Lexical Typology group. Among them are aqua-motion field, domains of rotation, going down, quality words (as SHARP, HEAVY, FULL, OLD, etc.),  pain terms  and others. Each type of data will illustrate a new point of what is called “frame approach” and is used in MLexT as a basis for the contrastive study of lexicon.

Room: Salle Philo 1 (Place du 20-Août, 7, 2nd floor – 4000 Liège)

  • DO/GIVE coexpression: synchronic and diachronic 
    aspects Abstract

Room: A2/5/16 (Place du 20-Août, 7, 5th floor – 4000, Liege)

  • The Future in theory and history

The Future constitutes one of the most celebrated grammatical categories in linguistic literature, especially since the re-introduction of the notion of grammaticalization in studies of language change, as it provided researchers with various ‘prototypical’ examples of the phenomenon (cf. e.g. Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca, 1994). Despite numerous investigations into both the specific histories of future-referring constructions and cross-linguistic data, which have resulted in important generalizations with regard to the diachronic tendencies of such constructions, questions still remain concerning some of their well-observed properties on the diachronic and the synchronic level too, such as:

  1. What causes the propensity of future-referring constructions to change?
  2. Why are future-referring constructions prime candidates (at least among TAM constructions) for transfer in language contact situations (cf. Matras, 2007)?
  3. What kind of inter-relationships develop in situations of ‘layering’, i.e. when multiple future-referring constructions co-exist?

The current presentation aims to offer preliminary answers to those questions. It argues that the propensity to change should be attributed to the particular semantics of the Future, which render it susceptible to ‘rhetorical devaluation’ (Dahl, 2001) and to a process that could be regarded as a ‘grammaticalization cycle’.  Moreover, it will discuss the possible nature of the inter-relationship between future-referring constructions on the basis of diachronic data from the history of Greek (Markopoulos, 2008), and suggest ways to incorporate it into the overall architecture of grammar.