Call for Papers

Formulaic language is a topic of rising interest across researchers in diverse but related disciplines, such as anthropology, folkloristics, linguistics, philology and semiotics. Despite employing different methods and materials, their findings are often complementary or even convergent. On the other hand, a critical mass of open, interdisciplinary dialogue has yet to occur.  Formula: Units of Speech – ‘Words’ of Verbal Art aims to bring different approaches to the formula into dialogue, and especially to bridge the divide between formula research on unmarked spoken or written discourse and that on forms of verbal art such as oral poetry.

Approaches to the formula in the different fields have evolved to a great degree independently of one another.  At the same time, they seem to be moving toward convergence. Indeed, the rising approach in linguistics to a formulaic sequence as a morpheme-equivalent unit with a devoted entry in the mental lexicon can be seen as corresponding fully to the spreading approach to the formula in oral poetry as a vernacular ‘word’ of the registral lexicon corresponding to an integer of meaning.  The divide between these branches of research has developed from viewing oral poetry as distinct from language more generally, which has been bolstered by Classic Oral-Formulaic Theory’s definition of formula in terms of metrical positions of verse.  Although these views have been changing, increasingly looking at formulaic language in poetry as a universal linguistic phenomenon conditioned by a particular metrical or poetic form, the divide has persisted.

Opening discussion across the diverse and complementary approaches and research materials has become increasingly important. Researchers of verbal art can benefit from views on formulaic language from the perspective of a general linguistic phenomenon while researchers of the general linguistic phenomenon can benefit from perspectives gained through verbal art, in which the formal constraints of poetic forms can make features of how formulaic language works and varies more salient or even empirically demonstrable.

Opening dialogue across disciplines is always challenging.  To facilitate exchange, sufficient time is needed both to absorb new views and ideas and to negotiate across unfamiliar perspectives.  Formula is thus organized with a limited number of paper presentations, each of which is allotted a greater amount of time for open discussion.  Additional participants will also have the opportunity to present and discuss their work with poster presentations.

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Karl Reichl (University of Bonn)
  • Professor Alison Wray (Cardiff University)

We welcome proposals for papers and posters on topics including, but not limited to:

  • The operation of formulaic language in situated performance / language production
  • Semantics, indexicality and functions of formulas
  • Synchronic and/or diachronic variation and adaptation
  • Formulas across registers and languages
  • Cognitive aspects or implications of formulaic language
  • The symbiosis of language, meter and/or paralinguistic features
  • Equivalence and difference in formulaic language of verbal art and other discourse

If you are interested in participating in this event with a poster or paper presentation, please send a title and 500-word abstract along with your name, affiliation and link to your webpage to by 15 October 2016.  Please specify whether you prefer to participate with a paper or poster presentation, noting that the structure of the event significantly limits the number of paper presentations.  Papers should be planned for 20 min presentation to be followed by discussion.  Working texts will be required by 3 April 2017 for circulation among participants in advance.


We look forward to seeing you in Helsinki!