The prototype structure of concept drift

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)

Linguistic diachronic semantics as developed in Cognitive Linguistics has highlighted the relevance of prototype effects in changes of lexical meaning. The views recently put forward by historians on the structure and evolution of historical concepts (viz. Kuukkanen’s seminal work) resemble linguistic prototype theory, but the similarity has not been made explicit, nor has it been systematically explored. The goal of this project is to: 1) document the theoretical relationship (similarities and differences) between historians’ accounts of the structure of political and social concepts and linguistic prototype theory; 2) apply and evaluate tools developed for linguistic diachronic semantics in the service of humanities questions about conceptual change; 3) recommend best practice and/or adaptations for using methods based on linguistic prototype theory for humanities research questions. The linguistic focus of the project will be decided depending on the candidate’s background.

Further information about the project, the position and how to apply is available here.

Further information can also be obtained by contacting the supervisor, Prof. Dirk Speelman (