Monday, March 29, 2010

Conference: Understanding language: Forty years down the garden path

Organized by the university of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea

Conference site: Palacio Miramar - Donostia / San Sebastián

The conference takes as a starting point the famous garden path sentence The horse raced past the barn fell, appeared forty years ago in the seminal paper “The Cognitive Basis of Linguistics Structures” by Thomas G. Bever, one of the founders of the field of language processing. This meeting brings together some of the most outstanding researchers in the field, to discuss current frontiers in our understanding of language within cognitive science, and to assess the progress made during these four decades of research in language processing.


Monday, June 28th

9:00 Welcome and Presentation: Itziar Laka, Montserrat Sanz and Pello Salaburu

9:15-10:00 Mike Tanenhaus, University of Rochester
Introduction to the course. On the Cognitive Basis of Linguistic Structures: Themes that have endured.

SESSION 1. The crosslinguistic brain and language
Chair: Itziar Laka, University of the Basque Country

10:00-11:00 Jacques Mehler SISSA-ISAS CNS, Trieste, Italy.
Languages in the infant brain

11:00-12:00 Manuel Carreiras, Basque Center on Brain, Cognition and Language
Mechanisms of Agreement

12:00-12:30 BREAK

12:30-13:30 Inna Bornkessel, University of Mamberg, Germany
Neurotypology: Modelling cross-linguistic similarities and differences in the neurocognition of language comprehension

13:30-14:30 Yosef Grodzinsky McGuill University, USA
Changing perspectives on the functional role of some language regions in the brain

14:30-16:30 LUNCH

The Crosslinguistic Brain and Language
Theme discussant: Douglass Saddy
Participants: Tanenhaus, Mehler, Carreiras, Grodzinsky

Tuesday June 29th

SESSION 2. The evolution of language and language universals
Chair: Pello Salaburu, University of the Basque Country

10:00-11:00 Massimo Piattelli Palmarini, University of Arizona, USA
Comprehension, production and linearization in a new evolutionary perspective

11:00-12:00 Robert Berwick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Three Models for the Description of Language Complexity

12:00-12:30 BREAK

12:30-13:30 Douglass Saddy, University of Reading, UK
Measuring language universals in the brain

13:30-14:30 Thomas Bever, University of Arizona, USA
Where do Linguistic Universals come from?

14:30-16:30 LUNCH

The Evolution of Language and Language Universals
Theme discussant: Colin Phillips
Participants: Piatelli-Palmarini, Berwick, Saddy, Stabler and Bever.

Wednesday, June 30th

SESSION 3. The relations between language production and perception
Chair of the session: José Manuel Igoa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

9:00:10:00 Maryellen C. MacDonald, University of Wisconsin-Madison,USA
The Production Basis of Language Comprehension: Evidence from Relative Clauses

10:00-11:00 Gary Dell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Implicit learning in the language production system is revealed in speech errors

11:00-12:00 Luciano Fadiga, Italian Institute of Technology, U. Ferrara, Italy
From Action to Language: Evidence and Speculations

12:00-12:30 BREAK

12:30-13:30 William Idsardi, University of Maryland, USA
Statistical generalizations in language behaviors

13:30-14:30 Edward Gibson, Massachusetts Institute of technology, USA
Language above the word: Quantitative investigations of syntactic representations and processes

14:30-16:30 LUNCH

The Relations between Language Production and Perception
Theme discussant: Thomas Bever
Participants: MacDonald, Dell, Fadiga, Kotz, Gibson

Thursday, July 1st

SESSION 4. The garden path today - comprehension models
Chair: Montserrat Sanz

9:00-10:00 Sonia Kotz, Max Planck Institute for Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Germany
Syntactic ambiguities: from linguistic structure to brain correlates

10:00-11:00 Michael Tanenhaus University of Rochester, USA
On the mechanisms underlying real-time language comprehension

11:00-12:00 Gerry Altmann, University of York, UK
Anticipating the garden path: the horse raced past the barn ate the cake

12:00-12:30 BREAK

12:30-13:30 Edward Stabler UCLA, USA
Syntax, semantics and pragmatics in incremental interpretation

13:30-14:30 Colin Phillips, University of Maryland, USA
Grammatical Illusions: Where you see them, where you don't

14:30-16:30 LUNCH

The Garden Path Today- Comprehension Models
Theme discussant: Yosef Grodzinsky
Participants: Kotz, Tanenhaus, Altmann, Idsardi, Phillips

17:30-18:30 Conclusions and predictions for future research
Thomas Bever University of Arizona
Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, University of Arizona

Friday, March 26, 2010

Call for papers: Language as social coordination

Conference: Language as Social Coordination: An Evolutionary Perspective
Warsaw - September 16-18, 2010

[via Evolutionary Linguistics:]
The conference emphasizes the biological nature of language, underscoring its coordinative function. The aim of the conference is to 1) show continuity of natural language with other informational systems in biology; 2) show that language arises from and is crucial for human co-action.

Taking an evolutionary and comparative perspective, will draw attention to the kinds of social coordination that arise without (human-like) language, and that contribute to the background used by (and present in) linguistic communication. By so doing, it will be easier to appreciate the qualitatively different types of co-ordination that are specific to humans and language-dependent. The evolutionary perspective will help with coming to view language as a natural phenomenon, continuous with other 'informational' systems at various levels of biological organization, that serve not only vertical (inter-generational) transmission of structure but also horizontal coordination both within and between organisms.

Invited Speakers:
- John Collier, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
- Terrence Deacon, University of California at Berkeley
- Merlin Donald, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
- Don Favareau, National University of Singapore
- Carol Fowler, Haskins Laboratories, Yale University and University of Connecticut
- Bruno Galantucci, Yeshiva University
- Don Ross, University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Cape Town
- Colwyn Trevarthen, University of Edinburgh

Call for Papers (due April 30): here

Monday, March 22, 2010


Fourth North American Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information
June 20-26, 2010 - Bloomington, IN
now open for registration:

The call for participation reads:
"The North American Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI) is a summer school with classes in the interface between computer science, linguistics, and logic.

After previous editions at Stanford University, Indiana University, and UCLA, NASSLLI will return to Bloomington, Indiana, June 20–26, 2010. The summer school, loosely modeled on the long-running ESSLLI series in Europe, will consist of a number of courses and workshops, selected on the basis of the proposals. Courses and workshops meet for 90 or 120 minutes on each of five days, June 21–25, and there will be tutorials on June 20 and a day-long workshop on June 26. The instructors are prominent researchers who volunteer their time and energy to present basic work in their disciplines. Many are coming from Europe just to teach at NASSLLI.

NASSLLI courses are aimed at graduate students and advanced undergraduates in wide variety of fields. The instructors know that people will be attending from a wide range of disciplines, and they all are pleased to be associated with an interdisciplinary school. The courses will also appeal to post-docs and researchers in all of the relevant fields.

We hope to have 100-150 participants. In addition to classes in the daytime, the evenings will have social events and plenary lectures. Bloomington is a wonderful place to visit, known for arts, music, and ethnic restaurants. All of this is within 15 minutes walking from campus. We aim to make NASSLLI fun and exciting."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Call for papers: LSA 2011 Organized Session on Biolinguistics

In conjunction with the LSA Special Interest Group on Biolinguistics, we invite the submission of abstracts for a proposed Organized Session on Biolinguistics at the 2011 LSA Annual Meeting (Pittsburgh, January 6-9). The goal of biolinguistics is to explore theories of language that are biologically plausible as part of an effort to explain how the faculty of language arises ontogenetically and phylogenetically. We invite abstracts on any aspect of the biolinguistic enterprise, keeping in mind that the Special Interest Group on Biolinguistics was founded in part to “contribute to the field by helping to identify what makes biolinguistics ‘bio’ (and ‘linguistic’), initiate discussions on how it differs from previous models of generative grammar (and how it doesn’t), debate whether generative grammar is actually a prerequisite… and so on.”

Abstracts should be between 200-500 words and need not be anonymous. (The LSA reviews Organized Session proposals non-anonymously.) Please, no more than one single-authored and one joint-authored abstract per person. All participants are required to be LSA members. However, anyone may submit an abstract, so long as they join the LSA if they ultimately present.

We plan to have a symposium format, so if you are interested in being a discussant, please also let us know by April 15.

Abstracts are due April 15, 2010.

Please send abstracts, preferably in .PDF format, to:

Kleanthes Grohmann –

Bridget Samuels -

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Call for papers: NAPhC 6

Conference: 6th North American Phonology Conference
Montréal, April 30-May 2, 2010

Theme: A celebration of the 51st anniversary of the publication of The Sound Pattern of Russian.

Morris Halle's (1959) The Sound Pattern of Russian (SPR) proposes 6 formal conditions that a phonological theory should fulfill, paraphrased as follows:

Condition 1: Phonological representations consist of segments and boundaries.

Condition 2: The phonetic properties of segments are characterized by a set of binary distinctive features.

Condition 3: A phonological description of a language must provide a deterministic algorithm for mapping from an input representation (containing only phonological information) to an output representation.

Condition 4: The phonology must interface with other modules of grammar, such as syntax.

Condition 5: In phonological representations the number of specified features is consistently reduced to a minimum compatible with satisfying Conditions (3) and (4).

Condition 6: Morphological boundaries have to be eliminated or converted by the phonology.

These six conditions serve as the theme of this year's NAPhC. We invite papers (on any and all languages--not just Russian!) that address issues raised by these conditions and other aspects of SPR. Are these conditions met by current models? Has their acceptance or rejection been sufficiently justified? For example, do Halle's arguments for binarity still hold? Are other arguments available for binarity? Have models that evaluate alignment of, say, syllables and morphemes justified the rejection of Condition 6?

Call for papers (due March 29, 2010) here.

Conference: Language as an evolutionary system

Conference: Language as an evolutionary system: a multidisciplinary approach
Edinburgh, July 12-13, 2010

These two days of talks and discussion will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to discuss the value of applying evolutionary thinking to the cultural evolution of language as well as the commonalities and differences between various existing applications.

Presentations by: Bill Croft, Tom Griffiths, Alex Mesoudi, Russell Gray, Kenny Smith, Gerhard Jaeger, Monica Tamariz, & Simon Kirby

Conference: PLM 2010 - Competing explanations of language change & variation

Conference: 41st Poznań Linguistic Meeting

Thematic discussion session: Competing explanations of language change and variation

Gniezno, September 23-26, 2010

Plenary: Nikolaus Ritt (Vienna), “Agents or Vehicles? The role of speakers in directing linguistic evolution”

As competing explanations are the leitmotif of PLM 2010, this session will be devoted to explanatory challenges in theories of language change. The discussion workshop will concentrate on the role of linguistic variation and other factors in competing proposals concerning the mechanisms of language change. The focal event of the session will be the plenary talk by Nikolaus Ritt, followed by six oral presentations. We shall welcome abstracts of presentations dealing with the following topics and questions:

  • Why does language change happen at all?
  • Does language change have a direction? Are there “historical laws” governing its progress?
  • Synchronic variation and diachronic change: how are they interrelated?
  • How can we account for the observed tempo of language change and the scale of variation in speech communities?
  • Functional explanations of language change, their adequacy and predictive power.
  • Evolutionary approaches to language change: replication, competition and selection as explanatory notions.
  • Is language a tool designed and controlled by its human users, or does it have a life of its own?
  • Should we expect linguistic structures to be rational?

Call for papers (due March 31, 2010): here

New evolutionary ling site

Check out the new blog at, which so far has some information on upcoming conferences related to the evolution of language. (I am about to post the info which we haven't already mentioned here.) There is also a forum and information about a reading group starting up in Tokyo. The site is being maintained by Luke McCrohon and Pontus Stenetorp of the University of Tokyo. The introduction on the blog reads:

This site is being built to help facilitate the collaborative study of all aspects of Linguistic Evolution. We take this to include not only the study of the biological evolution of the Language faculty, but also the cultural evolution of languages, and the bio-cultural co-evolution of Language as a combined system.

Research in this area cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries and so will require the collaboration of researchers of from many diverse backgrounds. It is this research we hope to support and so we welcome researchers from all disciplines to to join us on this site. Please feel free to contribute to the comments, on the forums, and join us in person at the events we are planning on organizing.

This site is still is still under development, so please either subscribe to the RSS feed or check back later as we hope to make regular updates over the next few months. In addition to details about the site, we will also be posting information about various events of interest to evolutionary linguistics researchers as we receive them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Call for papers: Workshop on Computational Neurolinguistics

Conference: Workshop on Computational Neurolinguistics (at NAACL)
Los Angeles - June 5-6, 2010

The first Workshop on Computational Neurolinguistics will be held at NAACL next June in Los Angeles. We welcome submissions on the computational treatment of any aspect of language, that either make use of neural recordings or of biologically realistic neuronal models. To encourage submissions from the broadest community, the organisers are releasing two neural activity datasets, fMRI and EEG, described below. Submissions should be made through the NAACL submission system, with a new extended deadline of March 10th, 2010.

Call for papers (due March 10, 2010): here.

Recently in the headlines

Here's a roundup of some recent bioling-related news items from around the web:

Monday, March 1, 2010

MIT Press Journals Podcasts

I recently became aware of the MIT Press Journals Podcasts page, which has four episodes available so far. (Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the type of podcast that can be subscribed to directly via iTunes.) Of particular interest to biolinguists is Episode 3, a discussion between Jay Keyser and Noam Chomsky. The audio (MP3) is here and the transcript (PDF) is here.