small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

Small languages big ideas

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

General information


Zürich offers a broad spectrum of Germanic philologies. Apart from English and German, Dutch and Scandinavian studies are each offered as individual study tracks, and, furthermore, Frisian, Luxemburgish, Afrikaans, and Germanic dialects and contact languages are part of the Comparative Germanic Linguistics study track.


What is the intrinsic value of these smaller languages and varieties, and their respective linguistics for the general and comparative linguistics field? In this colloquium, we will introduce several linguistic disciplines as seen from different smaller Germanic languages and exchange knowledge as well as opinions on the value of the study of these languages to linguistic theory.

The motivation stems from the fact that these well-established but sometimes lesser-known philologies of smaller Germanic languages and dialects promise as much theoretical insight as those of bigger languages (such as English) or smaller, exotic languages (Pacific, Native American, etc.) that do not have the same in-depth descriptive tradition as ‘local’ Germanic languages. This may not be a contested opinion necessarily, but it is however a good idea that well-described and data-rich linguistic systems such ase these are brought back into the focus of general linguistics and linguistic theory.

Six plenary talks will be held by experts on different Germanic languages who will focus on one or more languages, but who are also skilled in the study of several other overlapping philologies, hence stimulating discussion rather than parallel one-way knowledge transfer. These plenary speakers are:

Wannie Carstens (North-West University Potchefstroom),

- Leonie Cornips (Maastricht University & Meertens Instituut Amsterdam)

Antje Dammel (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)

Hans-Olav Enger (University of Oslo),

Jarich Hoekstra (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel),

- Mark Louden (University of Wisconsin-Madison).

Further presentations will be held in an open call session, for which young researchers are encouraged to apply (see Call for Abstracts below).

The colloquium will end with a round table discussion amongst the plenary speakers and the young researchers.


The programme encompasses three half days. The first half-day (Thursday afternoon April 4th, 2019) will be allotted to four of the six plenary talks with room for discussion. The second half-day (Friday morning April 5th, 2019) sees the two further plenary talks and the first parallel open call sessions, the last half-day (Friday afternoon) consists of the second parallel open call sessions and an intensive round table discussion session. The round table panel consist of the invited speakers and will link all previous sessions and establish common grounds and discuss problems in the ‘small philology vs. theoretical linguistics’ debate. See the Programme below.

The colloquium will be held in English. Staff, students and all other interested parties are kindly invited.

The organisers cover a range of Germanic varieties in Zürich research and teaching: Prof. Dr. Elvira Glaser (Chair Germanic Philology), Dr. Chris De Wulf (Dutch Studies), Dr. des. Kevin Müller (Nordistic Studies) and Jonas Keller, MA (English Department).

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)


Location: RAA-G-01, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zürich

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

13:30    Arrival and coffee

14:00    Opening

Welcome word by Her Excellency the Dutch Ambassador Ms. A. Luwema 

14:15    Loss of inflection in North Germanic adjectives – or is it?

(Hans-Olav Enger – University of Oslo, in cooperation with Helen Sims-Williams)

15:00    Luxembourgish (full title to be decided)

(Antje Dammel – Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)

15:45    Coffee break

16:15    The complementizer system of Modern West Frisian

(Jarich Hoekstra – Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel)

17:00    Pennsylvania Dutch in the 21st Century

(Mark Louden – University of Wisconsin-Madison)

17:45    Preliminary final words of the day

18:15    Reception

Friday, April 5th, 2019

08:30    Arrival with coffee

09:00    Welcome word

09:15    The loss of grammatical gender in Afrikaans - simplification in action

(Wannie Carstens – North-West University Potchefstroom)

10:00    Habitual do+infinitive construction in Heerlen Dutch:

how actors breach syntactic restrictions through language play

(Leonie Cornips – Maastricht University & Meertens Instituut Amsterdam)

10:45    Coffee break

11:15    Parallel open call sessions part 1

12:15    Lunch break

14:00    Parallel open call sessions part 2

15:45    Coffee break

16:15    Round table discussion

17:30    Conclusions and closing words

18:00    Dinner with active participants

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

Call for Abstracts

We want to encourage all junior researcher from Switzerland and abroad to send in their abstract! See details below.

Content of the open call sessions

We expect 20-minute presentations from junior researchers that discuss research in one or more smaller Germanic language(s), regional language(s), contact language(s) or dialect(s) from a general or comparative perspective, linking it to linguistic theory, be it from a synchronous or diachronous perspective.


Send in your abstract (maximum of 2000 characters, including spaces and interpunction) as a PDF document. You can choose to immediately register (regardless of acceptance of your abstract) or to send in your abstract and await acceptance before completing registration. The third option is to attend the congress without being an active participant.

The deadline for sending in your abstracts is February 15th, 2019

Selection procedure

The criteria for selecting the presentations for the open call sessions are:

- fit to the theme,

- addition to a broad scope of different Germanic varieties discussed,

- gender balance.

You will hear back whether your presentation has been accepted by February 22th, 2019.


Don’t forget to register for the congress, whether you plan to present or not. You will find the Registration form below. The deadline for registering is March 1st, 2019.

Further practical information

The congress organisation does not offer any reimbursement of expenses for travel or hotels. However, the congress is free of charge to encourage as many people as possible to attend, including those who will not be active participants. We do offer a luncheon and dinner on the second day for all active participants and a reception ('Apéro riche') with the possibility to mingle to all participants, active or not. It is therefore important to register (both active participants and other attendees), to ensure comestibles and seating facilities.

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

Registration options

Please follow the registration procedure below:

You may choose to register to attend the congress without presenting, or to send in an abstract and apply to present in our open call sessions. In the latter case, please have your abstract handy as a pdf to upload it and fill in the 'Theme' box in the form.

Registration form

* marked fields are compulsary

Personal details
Title or theme of your abstract
Any extra information, e.g. second author/presenter
Upload your abstract containing no more than 2000 characters as a PDF document
Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)


We are grateful for the support from our partners:

Swiss National Science Foundation

UZH Graduate Campus

Logo SNF
Logo GRC
Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

Getting around in Zürich

To find the best means of public transport for your trips within the city of Zürich, click here to open the online timetable of the Zürich public transport provider. Fill in your current location in field A (“from”), and your destination in field B (“to”). Both A and B can be either the names of public transport stops or street addresses. Then press “search connections” and choose one. 

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

Arrival from the airport

Map Airport

To travel to the city center from the airport, there are different options, that are all included if you buy a ticket that is valid in zones 110+121 of the Zürich metropolitan area.


Leave the airport building at level 1 (ground level), see map above.

Tram line 10 runs every 7,5 or 15 minutes directly from the airport to Zürich's main train station Hauptbahnhof in the city center via Glattpark, Oerlikon and Irchel.

Tram line 12 runs every 15 minutes from the airport to Stettbach station, providing additional connections to the airport region and other parts of the city.


Go to level 02 (underground), see map above.

S2 (platform 1) and S16 (platform 3) run directly from the airport to Zurich's main train station Hauptbahnhof in the city center via Oerlikon. For more information and the timetable click here.

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)

​​​​​​​Getting to the conference

To reach the conference venue from downtown Zürich you can take several tram lines or walk up. Please consult this google map for the locations of public transport stops near your hotel or the station and the conference venue. It is located at Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zürich. This is our primary location for the plenary sessions and part of the parallell open call sessions. The rest of the open call sessions take part at our secondary location at the Schönberggasse 9, 8001 Zürich. (You will be escorted there at the start of the parallel open call sessions.)

Both our primary and secondary locations are wheelchair accessible. We advise, however, to get in touch with the organisers beforehand if you have a physical disability, so we can provide the necessary assistance. 

You can check out the facilities in both locations (in German):

primary location

secondary location

Small languages, big ideas (Zürich, 4-5 April 2019)