Monday, October 31, 2011

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Call for papers: Complex sentences, types of embedding, & recursivity

Complex Sentences, Types of Embedding, and Recursivity

Invited Speakers: Uli Sauerland (ZAS, Berlin), Edwin Williams (Princeton), Jan-Wouter Zwart (Groningen)

Date: 05-Mar-2012 - 06-Mar-2012
Location: Konstanz, Germany
Contact Person: Andreas Trotzke
Meeting Email:

Call Deadline: 15-Nov-2011

Complex sentences have always been a matter of intense investigation in linguistics. Since complex syntax is clearly evidenced by sentential embedding and since embedding of one sentence in another is taken to signal recursivity of the grammar, the capacity of computing complex sentences is of central interest to the recent hypothesis that syntactic recursion is the defining property of natural language. In the light of more recent claims that complex syntax is not a universal property of all living languages, the issue of how to detect and define syntactic complexity has become a much debated topic in current linguistics.

This workshop deals with the variability, but also with the universality of complex sentences both from a synchronic and from a diachronic perspective. Specifically, are there living or dead languages that lack complex sentences, and what would the evidence consist of? Or can it be shown that sentence embedding is present even in the most controversial cases? These issues pertain to what types of embedding can be distinguished and what kind of basic procedures are underlying them. In particular, are there fundamentally different modes of embedding for clauses and other syntactic constituents? Is there a single criterion for clausal embedding, or does one need to distinguish different types such as sentences with or without a complementizer, nominalizations, different types of infinitives, etc.? Are recursive procedures a sine qua non for complex syntax, or do iterative rather than recursive mechanisms suffice to generate sentence-level embedding? What is the place of recursiv
ity in the grammar then?

The workshop also aims at connecting the issue of complex sentences to interdisciplinary domains of research. How much of a role has the computation of complex sentences played in human evolution? Specifically, has the capacity of sentence embedding been shaped by cultural constraints and thus evolved by some 'ratchet effect' assumed in theories of cultural evolution? Or is it more plausible to hypothesize slight genetic changes causing a 'great leap forward'?

Workshop Organizers: Andreas Trotzke, Josef Bayer & Antje Lahne

Call for Papers:
We invite submissions of anonymous abstracts for 40 minute talks including discussion. Submissions should not exceed one page, 12pt. single spaced, with an optional additional page for examples and references. Either PDF or Word format is accepted. Please upload your abstracts at by the deadline listed below. The submissions will be reviewed anonymously.

Important Dates:
Submission deadline: 15 November 2011
Notification: 1 December 2011
Workshop: 5-6 March 2012

Monday, October 3, 2011

Call for commentators/Conference: The Past & Future of UG

The Past & Future of Universal Grammar

Thursday, 15 December 2011 to Sunday, 18 December 2011


Grammar is universal in human populations, pathologies aside. A theory of grammar should thus be a universal theory in this sense. Yet it is widely contended today that it need not be the theory of Universal Grammar (UG), in the sense of its early generative formulations, which have taken UG to be a linguistically specific and species-specific biological endowment consisting of functionally arbitrary formal rules. Theories of universal grammar have also been formulated in a number of different ways in the past, with far from identical underlying axiomatic assumptions. Furthermore, the modern theory of UG itself is currently undergoing a significant reformulation, following the development of Minimalism. This conference aims to provide a forum for assessing and (re-)directing the course that research on universal grammar and the biological foundations of language should take over the coming years and decades, bringing together linguists, psychologists, philosophers, and biologists.

Full Description

Call for Commentators (due October 15, 2011)

We hope to offer a conference fee waiver plus financial help towards accommodation and/or travel costs to all commentators. The call for commentators will be released in August.


Thursday 15th December – arrival date and registration in Calman Learning Centre, accommodation in Durham Business School.

Public Lecture in Union Society
Tim Crow, University of Oxford: The speciation of modern Homo sapiens

Friday 16th December – Main conference in Calman Learning Centre, Science Site

Session 1: The past of UG
Wolfram Hinzen, Durham University: Three traditions of Universal Grammar
Elisabeth Leiss, University of Munich: Part-whole-relations in the Universal Grammar of the Modistae

Session 2: The future of UG
Guglielmo Cinque, University of Venice: In search of Universal Grammar: the hidden structure of natural language
Anders Holmberg, Newcastle University and Ian Roberts, University of Cambridge:Past and future approaches to linguistic variation

Session 3: No need for UG
Ewa Dabrowska, Northumbria University: What exactly is Universal Grammar, and who has seen it?
Nick Chater, Warwick Business School: Language is shaped by the brain; but not the reverse

Session 4: The evolution of grammar
Maggie Tallerman, Newcastle University: Is the syntax rubicon more of a mirage? A defence of pre-syntactic protolanguage
Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History: A context for the emergence of language

Public Lecture in Union Society
Tom Roeper, University of Massachusetts: The image of mind in the grammar of children

Session 5: The Grammaticalisation of the brain
Christopher Petkov, Newcastle University: T.B.C.
Nathalie Tzourio-Mazoyer, University of Bordeaux: Neural basis of the hemispheric specialization for language
Gavin Clowry, Newcastle University: Human specific aspects of cerebral cortex development

Session 6: Thinking without grammar
Wolfram Hinzen, Durham University: The grammar of thought
Tom Roeper, University of Massachusetts: The UG challenge of Interfaces
Rosemary Varley, Sheffield University: Reason without grammar
Jill de Villiers, Smith College: Which concepts need the human language faculty?

UG: the minimum workshop in Union Society
Hagit Borer, University of Southern California: T.B.C.
Halldor Sigurdsson, Lund University: T.B.C.
Daniel Seely, Eastern Michigan University: Maximising Minimal Merge
Michelle Sheehan, University of Cambridge: How much variation is PF-variation?