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The need to explore comparative methods is characteristic of the social sciences. Even more so than researchers in the “hard” sciences, researchers in the social sciences are often confronted with certain limitations with respect to their object of study, and therefore must expand their research beyond their own points of reference.

When approaching the topic of comparative methods and analysis in linguistics, one might first consider cross-linguistic comparison, which has given rise to several diverse areas of research, such as comparative linguistics, contrastive linguistics, and linguistic typology. Cross-linguistic comparison has informed certain principles that would not have been brought to light without looking to other languages. This is the case at all levels of linguistic description (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics).

However, comparative or contrastive approaches also come into play in several other fields of study in the language sciences:
  • While comparative studies between pathological subjects (aphasia, dyslexia, degenerative diseases, etc.) and non-pathological subjects are useful for clinical aims and objectives (diagnosis, description, and treatment of language pathologies), they also provide us with a better understanding of the cognitive aspects related to the development and use of language by healthy subjects.
  • Comparing speakers with respect to their first language, their social identity, or even the way that they speak one or several language(s), allows us to determine universals in the acquisition of language, and inversely, to identify determining factors in attrition phenomena.
  • Studies in language pedagogy have relied on contrastive analysis (between one's first language and a second language) since the mid-20th century. This is due to the fact that learning a first language involves the development of strategies and specific language patterns. Also, such studies allow us to observe certain language traits, positive or negative, that “cross over” from the first language into the second language. The question of multilingualism and plurilinguistic learning also falls into this set of issues.
  • The notion of norm is ubiquitous in the language sciences, as language is governed by normalisation rules. However, these rules, whether implicit or not, do not impede the creativity of speakers. The multitude of different usages that have been brought to light by using comparative approaches is the proof of this individuality.
  • In natural language processing, comparative approaches can be used in different areas of research: comparison of annotations to assess the difficulty of a task, comparison of reference annotation during evaluation, etc. Some applications, such as the detection of plagiarism, are directly based on the notion of comparison.
  • Corpus linguistics offers the necessary tools for wide-scale comparison between different corpora (aligned corpora of different languages, reference corpora vs. specialized corpora, etc.)
  • Comparison can also be used as an analytical tool at different levels of linguistic description, such as morphology, syntax, semantics, etc.

The purpose of JéTou 2011 was to bring together young researchers working in different disciplines within the language sciences around the common theme of comparative approaches. This topic, inherently cross-disciplinary, invites reflection on the question of method, which, while central to all research, is often neglected in scientific proceedings.

Types of presentations
Two types of submissions have been accepted: long articles (8 to 10 pages) and short articles (4 to 5 pages). Long articles were presented as oral presentations, while short articles were presented as posters.

The proceedings of the conference have been published in book form and are also available on the conference website.
Criteria for selection
Each submission has been evaluated by at least two specialists in the chosen field of study. Submissions have been considered based on the following criteria:

1. The importance and originality of the contribution
2. The accuracy of the scientific and technical content
3. The critical discussion of results, particularly with respect to other work in the field
4. The organisation and clarity of the writing
5. Conformity to the theme of the conference

© Lionel Fontan