Thursday, December 20, 2012

CFP: Methods in Biolinguistics Workshop

Methods in Biolinguistics Workshop
at the LSA Summer Institute
Ann Arbor, MI - July 12, 2013

In conjunction with the LSA Special Interest Group on Biolinguistics, we invite the submission of abstracts for a workshop on methodology in biolinguistics, to be held on July 12, 2013 at the LSA Summer Institute at the University of Michigan.

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 both ontogenetically (over the course of an individual’s lifetime) and phylogenetically (on an evolutionary timescale). The LSA Special Interest Group on Biolinguistics, founded in 2009, seeks to explore these questions as well as to help the field of biolinguistics define itself by, as stated in the SIG description, “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.”

In this workshop, we will foster dialogue on biolinguistic methodology. This topic emerged as a topic of interest and concern during the roundtable discussion at the end of the Workshop on Biolinguistics Organized Session at the LSA Annual Meeting in Portland, January 2012. Specifically, we aim with this workshop to field presentations about how biolinguists (both practicing and aspiring ones) can contribute to interdisciplinary dialogue and be informed consumers of data and literature from fields such as genetics, archaeology, and evolutionary biology. We will also feature morning and afternoon roundtable discussions with the speakers.

Invited speakers:      Noam Chomsky, MIT (T.B.C.)
                                 Norbert Hornstein, University of Maryland

Abstracts for 30-minute oral presentations should be anonymous and between 200-500 words. Please, no more than one single-authored and one joint-authored abstract per person.

Abstracts are due March 1, 2013.
Please send abstracts, preferably in .PDF format, to both:
Kleanthes Grohmann –
Bridget Samuels –

Sunday, December 16, 2012

CFP: Ways to Protolanguage 3

Ways to Protolanguage 3
Call deadline: 1 March 2013
Event Dates: 25-26 May 2013
Event Location: Wrocław, Poland 
Event URL:

Plenary speakers

Prof. Robin Dunbar is an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist specialising in the study of primate behaviour. Particular interest has been generated by his hypothesis that language evolved as a substitute grooming mechanism (Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language) and Dunbar’s number hypothesis, whereby 150 constitutes the approximate cognitive limit on the number of individuals with whom a person can maintain stable relationships. He is currently the chair of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

Prof. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is a psychologist and primatologist, best known for her work with the bonobos Kazni and Panbanisha, investigating their linguistic and cognitive abilities through the use of lexigrams and computer-based keyboards. Originally based at Georgia State University’s Language Research Center), she now acts as the Executive Director and Head Scientist at Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa.  

Prof. Tomasz P. Krzeszowski
 is a cognitive linguist and a full professor at the University of Warsaw. A scholarship-holder of universities in Albany, New York and Oxford, he is also a member of Neophilological Committee and Linguistic Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Currently based in the School of English at the University of Social Sciences, Warsaw. He authored over seventy original publications home and abroad, including continuously reissued English teaching handbooks. 

Prof. Peter Gärdenfors represents cognitive science; his research interests include problems related to the evolution of thinking and language (Conceptual Spaces, How Homo Became Sapiens, The Dynamics of Knowledge). His proposals regarding intentionality and imitation have received considerable attention among language evolution researchers. He is Professor of cognitive science at the University of Lund, Sweden, and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Prof. Josep Call is a comparative psychologist specializing in the study of cognitive as well linguistic abilities of non-human great apes. He has authored more than a hundred research papers, mostly experimental studies on primate cognition. Since 1999 he has been based at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, where he is director of Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center.

Thematic scope

Ways to Protolanguage is a biennial conference organised by the Department of English, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Committee for Philology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Wroclaw Branch and Philological School of Higher Education in Wroclaw. One of the primary goals of this conference is bringing together researchers representing a variety of areas in order to gain a multidisciplinary perspective on the range of currently available evidence relevant to early language evolution. The focus of the conference is on the early stages of the emergence of symbolic, language-like communication in hominids. The conference will reflect the inherently interdisciplinary nature of research into the evolution of language. We invite papers from a wide range of subjects related to language evolution, including:

- anthropological linguistics,
- general evolutionary theory,
- evolutionary psychology,
- comparative psychology,
- pleistocene archaeology,
- palaeoanthropology,
- genetics of language disorders,
- cultural anthropology,
- speech physiology,
- contact linguistics,
- history of writing,
- gesture studies,
- neuroscience of language,
- computational modelling,
- primatology,
- animal cognition,
- animal communication.

We invite presentations in English. However, papers in other languages are also welcome. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Publication changes for Biolinguistics journal

From the editors of Biolinguistics:

"Open access, the next step: Publication changes in BIOLINGUISTICS"

Over the past year or so we have received many excellent submissions, so much so that we found ourselves in an uncomfortable situation: We had to tell some authors that their accepted submissions would not come out until 2014. We felt that this was a departure from our ideal for the journal -- the dual promise of fast review and fast publication --, and that we had to do something about it. As a result, we have decided to follow the example of other Open Access, online-only journals, and publish accepted submissions as soon as they are accepted and properly formatted, instead of waiting to compile entire issues. This change will make it possible for us to publish more material and in a more speedy fashion. Beginning with volume 7 (2013), there will be no more issues; rather, each piece gets published when it's ready, with consecutive page numbering within each given annual volume.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Call for papers: GLOW workshop on biolinguistics

Workshop on Biolinguistics at GLOW 36
University of Lund - 2 April 2013
Abstracts due: November 15, 2012

Organizer: Anna Maria di Sciullo
Invited speakers: Robert Berwick, Charles Yang

This workshop addresses fundamental questions on the properties of the Language Faculty from a biolinguistic perspective, with a particular attention on how this perspective contributes to further understanding of linguistic phenomena with large empirical coverage.
The study of the relation between humans’ biology and the Language Faculty is central in Biolinguistics (Lenneberg 1967; Chomsky 1983, 2005; Jenkins 2000, 2004; Gallistel, 2009; Di Sciullo et al 2010; Berwick and Chomsky 2011; Di Sciullo and Boeckx 2011).
While theoretical hypotheses about this relation emerged in the generative enterprise since its beginnings, recent developments directly address the issue in terms of the properties of the ‘language organ’. Different hypotheses about the properties of the generative procedure giving rise to the discrete infinity of language are still under discussion, and their connection with biology is open to important cross-disciplinary work (Hauser, Chomsky and Fitch 2002; Piattelli-Palmarini and Uriagereka 2008; Larson 2011; Lasnik 2011, 2012; Arsenijević and Hinzen 2012).
Advances have been made in human-animal studies to differentiate human language from animal communication (Jarvis 2004; Fitch and Hauser 2004; Friederici 2009; Fitch 2010). Contributions from neuroscience also point to the exclusive properties of the human brain for language (Moro 2010; Friederici et al. 2011; Patel 2008, 2012). Studies of genetically based language impairments also contribute to the understanding of the properties of the language organ (Ross and Bever 2004; Bishop et al. 2005; Hancock and Bever 2012; Patel et al. 2008; Wexler 2003).
This workshop invites contributions showing how the theoretical and experimental works on the biological basis of language shed light on core linguistic phenomena.
The relation between language variation and biology is another important area of research in biolinguistics, as variation is a constant in the observable biological world, as it is in language variation and historical evolution (Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman 1981; Lewontin 2000). Theoretical approaches to language variation stemming from works on population genetics, and syntactic approaches to language phylogeny opened new horizons for the study of language variation, and more broadly for language development, including its development in the child (Bever 1981; Longobardi and Guardiano 2011; Niyogi 2006, Niyogi and Berwick 2009; Di Sciullo 2011, 2012, Biberauer, Holmberg and Roberts 2012). Recent works on the poverty of the stimulus bring additional arguments to the biological nature of language, and they address central issues related to deterministic/probabilistic theories of language learning and language variation (Berwick et al 2011; Yang 2002, 2008, 2011).
Other works address the question of why parameters emerge and why resetting of parameters occurs, and consider the role of external, environmental factors in language variation and change. This workshop invites contributions with large empirical coverage that address fundamental questions on language development and language variation and their technical instantiations as feature-valuing, symmetry-breaking, functional flexibility, as a distinctive instance of variation and development in the natural world.
The relation between Language as a computational procedure and principles reducing complexity has been part of the research agenda in the generative enterprise since the 1950’s. Framed within biolinguistics, the principles of efficient computation are natural laws affecting the properties of the operations and the derivations of the (Narrow) Language Faculty (Chomsky 2005, 2011). They apply to Merge (No Tampering Condition), as well as to the derivational procedure (minimal search, phases, Agree), to SM (Pronounce the Minimum, Chomsky 2011), and CI (Reference Set, Reinhart 2006; Local Economy, Fox 1999) interfaces. They reduce the specific properties of the Language Faculty, while they affect all aspects of the generative procedure.
Several questions arise regarding the properties of the so-called ‘third factor’ in language development, including the following:  How do the principles of efficient computation address classical computational notions of complexity, such as Kolmogorov’s 1965 definition, as well as novel notions of complexity? How are they related to natural laws? What is their relation with the Strong Minimalist Thesis? This workshop invites contributions with large empirical coverage that address fundamental questions on principles of efficient computation in the study of the biology of language.

Monday, August 6, 2012

ICREA International Symposium on BIolinguistics

ICREA International Symposium on Biolinguistics
October 1-3, 2012
Barcelona, Spain

The meeting, sponsored by the Catalan Institute for Advanced Studies (ICREA), and organized by Cedric Boeckx, will take place at the Aula Magna of the Universitat de Barcelona (historic building).  The meeting, open to the public (no registration fee required), will provide an interdisciplinary forum focused on the biological foundations of the human capacity for language. It will bring together eminent scholars in cognitive science, ethology, genetics, neuroscience, comparative psychology, theoretical linguistics, philosophy of mind, paleoneurology, robotics, paleogenomics, and more. Here is an alphabetical list of invited participants:

-Albert Bastardas (U. Barcelona, ICREA Academia program)
-Luca Bonatti (ICREA/U. Pompeu Fabra)
-Emiliano Bruner (CENIEH, Burgos)
-Ruth de Diego Balaguer (ICREA/U. Barcelona)
-Tecumseh Fitch (U. Vienna)
-Koji Fujita (U. Kyoto)
-Judit Gervain (CNRS, U. Paris Descartes)
-Toni Gomila (U. Balearic Islands)
-Kleanthes Grohmann (U. Cyprus)
-Simon Kirby (U. Edinburgh)
-Carles Lalueza-Fox (U. Pompeu Fabra)
-Kazuo Okanoya (U. Tokyo)
-Christophe Pallier (CNRS/INSERM-CEA, Paris)
-Antoni Rodriguez-Fornells (ICREA/U. Barcelona)
-Joana Rossello (U. Barcelona)
-Douglas Saddy (U. Reading)
-Wendy Sandler (U. Haifa)
-Ricard Sole (ICREA/U. Pompeu Fabra; Santa Fe Institute)
-Luc Steels (ICREA/U. Pompeu Fabra)
-Sonja Vernes (Max Planck, Nijmegen)
-Charles Yang (U. Pennsylvania)

In addition to these invited talks, members of the Barcelona Biolinguistics Inititative and their collaborators will present posters featuring their recent works.

A complete program will be available next month.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Origin of Language session at ICL 19

Origin of Language & Human Cognition
ICL 19 - Geneva, July 22-27, 2013
Call for papers: due Sept 1, 2012

This parallel session will be structured around five major issues that arise in the domain of the evolution of language. Abstracts are solicited which address one or more of the following issues:

1. The relevance of the distinction between I-language and E-languages for the question of language evolution. Chomsky introduced a major distinction between I-language (the inner, psychological, knowledge of grammar) and E-languages (the public languages, such as English, French, Italian, Japanese, etc.). E-languages are public by contrast with I-language, which is private. This may mean that there are not one, but two evolutionary stories to be told, one relevant to the evolution of I-language and one relevant to the evolution of E-languages. Additionally, the evolutionary processes involved might be different, e.g., one could be biological while the other one could be cultural. However, the distinction between I-language and E-languages has been largely ignored in the literature on language evolution.

2. The specificity of language(s) as compared to other animal communication systems. Hockett is famous (and widely quoted in most works on language evolution) for having proposed (see Hockett 1960) a list of thirteen essential features of language that supposedly sets it apart from other animal communication systems. However, it has been claimed (see Fitch 2009) that, though the set as a whole is specific to human language, each feature can be found in some animal communication system or other. A major question, given that the whole set seems specific to human language, is whether it is complete and what implications the fact that each feature could be shared with other species has for the field of language evolution.

3. Evolution of language: biological or cultural. When Pinker and Bloom revived the field of language evolution in 1990, their approach was firmly biological. However, nowadays, "social" accounts, emphasizing cultural rather than biological evolution, seem prominent. An important question is whether such social scenarios can entirely do away with biological approaches, given that they seem to rest on notions such as "cooperation", usually understood as "altruistic" in the biological sense (i.e., benefiting to the addressee, but detrimental to the agent). How exactly biological and cultural evolutions interact in such social accounts is a major question.

4. Cognitive vs. social scenarios. While cultural evolution views are squarely social, they nevertheless tend to sneak in some cognition: for instance, Dunbar's defense of his social account, based on the prevalence of gossip in pub conversations, seems to ignore the fact that gossip is contentful and hence necessitates fairly important cognitive (e.g., conceptual) abilities. On the other hand, biological evolution views could be either social (in line with the so-called Machivellian hypothesis on cognition) or cognitive. Disentangling cognitive from social issues, or at least articulating them precisely seems fairly urgent.

5. Biolinguistics. Biolinguistics is a lively field (as shown by the existence of a dedicated ejournal), concerned with the biological underpinnings of language, from brain circuits to evolution, thus covering all fields of linguistics (phonology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics) and looking further towards psycho- and neurolinguistics. It is also concerned with the development of language and with its neuro-developmental as well as neuropsychological deficits.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Call for papers: Workshop on Advances in Biolinguistics

Workshop: Advances in Biolinguistics 

Date: 22-Jul-2013 - 27-Jul-2013 
Location: Geneva, Switzerland 
Contact Person: Anna Maria Di Sciullo

This workshop focuses on advances on the understanding of the biological basis of language (Lenneberg 1967, Jenkins 2000, 2004, Chomsky 2002, 2005, 2011, Piattelli-Palmarini et al. 2009, Larson et al 2010, Di Sciullo et al. 2010, Di Sciullo and Boeckx 2011). The workshop invites discussions where specific biolinguistic hypotheses are substantiated by theoretical linguistics evidence, empirical data and biological/natural world evidence. The workshop includes the following thematic sessions: 

1. Language and biology 
2. Language typology and language universals 
3. The effects of natural laws 

Session 1: Language and biology, addresses the question of how studies in language and genetics, language and the brain contribute to our understanding of the nature of syntax, morphology, the lexicon, and their interfaces with the other cognitive systems. 

Session 2: Language typology and language universals, considers how biolinguistic studies on language evolution and variation shed new light on language typology, and the study of language universals. The questions raised in this session are the following: how is variation and change in the natural world related to language variation and change, and how the biolinguistic perspective may lead to new approaches to language typology and universals. 

Session 3: The effects of natural laws, discusses recent proposals on the effect of natural laws, such as prominence, symmetry breaking, reaction-diffusion, preservation of shape etc. on language derivations and representations, on language variation and evolution, and on language acquisition. How do these laws interact with natural language? 

The invited speakers are Lyle Jenkins, Angela Friederici, and Giuseppe Longobardi.

See the workshop website for the call for papers (abstracts due 15 July 2012).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Videos from Evolang 9

Videos of the plenary lectures from the recent Evolang9 conference in Kyoto are now available online at: 

The videos of the Kyoto Conference on Biolinguistics are also now available at:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Call for papers: Neurobiology of Language Conference

Neurobiology of Language Conference
San Sebastian, Spain, October 25-27, 2012
Abstracts due June 25, 2012
Further info:

Keynote Sessions

Barbara K. Finlay

Beyond columns and areas: developmental gradients and regionalization of the neocortex and their likely consequences for functional organization.

Barb Finlay is a Professor of Psychology, Cornell University. Professor Finlay holds the William R. Kenan Chair of Psychology and is co-Editor of Brain and Behavioral Sciences. Finlay is an expert on the evolution and development of sensory systems and the cerebral cortex.

Nikos K. Logothetis

In vivo Connectivity: Paramagnetic Tracers, Electrical Stimulation &   Neural-Event Triggered fMRI

Nikos Logothetis is the Director of the Department of Cognitive Processes at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tubingen, Germany. Logothetis is well known for his studies of the physiological mechanisms underlying visual perception and object recognition as well as his more recent work on measurements of how the functional magnetic resonance imaging signal relate to neural activity. Logothetis will talk to us on:

Panel Discussions

Nina F. Dronkers vs Julius Fridriksson

What is the role of the insula in speech and language?

Nina Dronkers is the Director of the Center for Aphasia and Related Disorders, and Adjunct Professor of Neurology and Language, U.C. Davis, California. Dronkers is an expert in the Aphasia and more generally the cerebral localization of language.
Julius Fridriksson is a Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of South Carolina, and Director of the Aphasia Laboratory, UNC. Fridriksson is well known for his work in aphasia – neuroimaging and treatment.

Matthew Lambon Ralph vs Jeffrey R. Binder

Role of Angular Gyrus in Semantic Processing

Matt Lambon Ralph is a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Associate Vice-President Research, University of Manchester, U.K. His lab uses neuropsychology, computational modeling, TMS, and functional neuroimaging to investigage semantic memory, language, recovery, rehabilitation, and neuroplasticity.
Jeffrey Binder, M.D. is a Professor of Neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Director of the Language Imaging Laboratory. Professor Binder has made important contributions on the neural basis of language (esp. speech and word recognition) and is the incoming president of SNL.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Call for papers: From Grooming to Speaking

From Grooming to Speaking 

Date: 10-Sep-2012 - 11-Sep-2012 
Location: Lisbon, Portugal 
Contact Person: Nathalie Gontier
Web Site: 

Call Deadline: 30-Jun-2012 

Meeting Description:

The Centre for Philosophy of Science of the Faculty of Science of the Portuguese University of Lisbon is organizing a 2-day international colloquium entitled 'From Grooming to Speaking: Recent Trends in social Primatology and Human Ethology', on September 10-11, 2012. 

Plenary talks will be given by: 

Johan Bolhuis 
Augusta Gaspar 
Nathalie Gontier 
Mary Lee Jensvold 
Simone Pika 
Tim Racine 
Jordan Zlatev 
More tba 

Organizing Committee: 

Nathalie Gontier (chair), Dutch Free University of Brussels, Belgium 
Olga Pombo, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Lisbon, Portugal

Call for Papers: 

Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2012. 

We call for primatologists, ethologists, anthropologists, sociobiologists, evolutionary, cognitive and comparative psychologists, biolinguists, evolutionary linguists, bio-ethicists, philosophers and historians of science, to provide talks on: 

(1) Historical reviews on the introduction and use of primate studies to acquire knowledge on the origin and evolution of communication and language 

- The rise of comparative psychology, ethology, primatology, sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary linguistics, and evolutionary anthropology 
- Cross-fostering experiments, experiments that had as goal to learn non-human primates to talk or sign, or to learn artificial languages such as Yerkes 
- The shifts from behaviorism and instructionism to cognitivism and selectionism 
- The nature/culture debate 
- The innate/acquired debate 
- The continuity/discontinuity debate 

(2) Methodologies of primate communication and language research 

- Which research methodologies combine and diversify ethologists, primatologists, sociobiologists, anthropologists, evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary linguists? (ASL and Yerkes experiments; instructionist, behavioral versus selectionist, adaptationist approaches; the use and disuse of Tinbergen's 4 questions in ethology; how to study ultimate and proximate causes of behavior) 
- Did classic ethology and comparative psychology, with its focus on instructionist and behaviorist methodologies, fail? Did the cognitive turn succeed in providing answers there were behaviorism failed? And is selection theory able to provide answers to questions neither ethologists nor cognitivists could? 
- Which methodologies are used to study (human) primate verbal and non-verbal communication strategies in wild, captive, and natural settings (how are experiments set up, how are biases controlled, how is data collected and interpreted, how are theories formed)? 
- How do ontogenetic studies of normal and pathological behavior lend insight into phylogeny (what aspects of development enable or disable scientists to draw inferences on human evolution, what's the rationale behind comparative research, how do pathologies lend insight, either into normal development, or into the evolutionary past of hominins)? 
- How do the primate and ethological research methodologies differ from, relate to, or complement genetic and neurological research? 

(3) Theories on primate communication and the evolution of language 

- Gestural versus vocal origin theories (grooming as gossip theories, mirror neurons, non-verbal communication theories (including facial expressions, pointing and gestural research), co-verbal gesturing theories, signing theories, mimesis, imitation) 
- Evolutionary theories on language as a social communication device 
- Theory of Mind versus embodiment theory, in human and non-human primates 
- Theories on learning (conditioning, observational learning, imitation) 
- Theories on cultural transmission (chimpanzee, bonobo and human cultures) 
- Which theoretical frameworks and evolutionary mechanisms enable adequate explanations on language evolution (natural selection, drift, systems theory, the Baldwin and ratchet effect, co-evolutionary theories, dual inheritance theories) 

(4) Ethical issues in social primatology and human ethology 

- Policy and guidelines on (human) primate studies in the wild, under captivity, or under experimental conditions 
- Animal rights (e.g. if non-human primates have ToM, do we need to attribute them legal rights, does the concept of 'legal person' apply to non-human primates) 
- The role and responsibility of researchers 

Much more than provide a platform for the dissemination of new research results, the conference organizers will give preference to reflexive talks that deal with theoretical, methodological and ethical issues of primate research and ethology, and how the latter fields provide insight into human language evolution. 


A selection of talks will be published in an anthology for the Springer Book Series 'Interdisciplinary Evolution Research'. Editors-in-chief of the series are Nathalie Gontier and Olga Pombo. 

Submission guidelines can be found at: 

Scientific Committee: 

Luc Faucher, UQAM, Candada 
Nathalie Gontier, Free University of Brussels, Belgium (chair) 
David Leavens, University of Sussex, UK 
Robert Lickliter, Florida International University, US 
Mark Nelissen, University of Antwerp, Belgium 
James Steele, University College London, UK 
Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History, NY 
Natalie Uomini, University of Liverpool, UK 
Arie Verhagen, University of Leiden, the Netherlands