From: Anne-Marie Di Sciullo <di_sciullo.anne-marieuqam.ca>
Subject: The Language Design
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Full Title: The Language Design
Date: 27-May-2010 - 29-May-2010
Location: Montreal (Quebec), Canada
Contact Person: Anna Maria Di Sciullo
Meeting Email: di_sciullo.anne-marieuqam.ca
Web Site: http://www.biolinguistics.uqam.ca
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Other Specialty: Biolinguistics
Call Deadline: 15-Mar-2010
The last decade has seen advances in our understanding of the factors entering
into the human language design stemming from linguistic theory, biolinguistics,
and biophysics. This workshop brings together participants from a broad array of
disciplines to discuss topics that include the connection between linguistic
theory and genetics, evolutionary developmental biology and language variation,
computer science/information theory and the reduction of uncertainty/complexity.
Call for Papers
The questions raised in the workshop include, but are not restricted to the
Grammars: Recent works on Chomsky's hierarchy of formal grammars bring to the
fore issues that go back to the fifties on the sort of grammar/automata that
specifically describes/generates human language. Several questions arise,
including whether more than one sort of formal grammar is part of the language
design, perhaps distributed in different components (Idsardi), or possibly
available within narrow syntax itself (Lasnik). Recent human/animal comparative
studies on learnability raise similar questions (Fitch and Hauser, Friederici,
Jarvis, Mitra, Trevisan et al.). To what extent do such studies shed light on
the specificity of the human language? More questions arise regarding the
semantics of human language, the kinds of operators - if any - that derive the
interpretation, and whether the derivations are external to narrow syntax
(Hinzen, Pietrosky, Higginbotham).
Relations: Properties of relations such as symmetry, asymmetry and antisymmetry
have been shown to be relevant in the language design. Symmetry-breaking has
been proposed to drive the derivations (Moro) and the word-order differences
(SVO,VSO, ?) between languages (Jenkins); antisymmetry has been argued to be a
central property in syntax, as well as for linearization (Kayne), and asymmetry
has been claimed to be part of Merge (Chomsky, Zwart, Di Sciullo and Isac). We
know that properties of relations are used to describe the dynamics of
morphogenesis in biology (Montell), and to formulate laws of physics. Why should
these abstract properties of form participate in the language design? What is
the basis of their dynamics in human language?
Complexity: It is generally assumed, since Chomsky's three factors, that the
factors reducing derivational complexity are external to the language design.
They include mechanisms that reduce the search space and the choice points in
the derivations. Phases are part of the factors reducing derivational complexity
in narrow syntax (Uriagereka, Boeckx and Grohmann). Other complexity-reducing
factors include the mechanisms restricting the set of possible acquirable
grammars (Yang, Roeper, Fong), those that reduce the set of possible
interpretations for linguistic representations (Reinhart, Speas), and those that
come from limits imposed by perception and memory (Chomsky and Miller, Bever).
Are these computational constraints related to one another? Are there correlates
to complexity-reducing factors in biology or in physics?
Variation: Advances in our understanding of language variation since Principles
and Parameters have made it possible to derive observable differences between
languages from abstract properties of the grammar and phylogenetics (Longobardi
and Guardiano, Cavalli-Sforza). Recent findings in the dynamics of
morphogenesis, regulatory HOX genes (Ghering and Ikeo), and philogenetic
patterns of variance (Palmer, Lewontin) are interesting from a biolinguistic
perspective (Niyogi and Berwick, Di Sciullo). They point at the central role of
asymmetry in the dynamics of variation and change in the biological world. How
can our knowledge of variation and change in genetics and population biology
enhance our understanding of language diversity?
Genetics: From an evolutionary and comparative standpoint, FOXP2 has been
intensely analyzed as potentially shedding light on the unique characteristics
of the human species as well as on human origins. However, given FOXP2's
multifactorial neural influence and its role as part of the externalization
system for language, it would then seem speculative at this point to base strong
conclusions on such evidence (Piattelli-Palmarini, Uriagereka, Berwick). How do
advances in our understanding of SLI and other genetically endowed language
impairments, such as Williams-Beuren syndrome (Perovic and Wexler), as well as
advances in the study of brain-level mechanisms that support language (Peoppel,
Tanenhaus, Phillips), shed light on the language design?
The confirmed speakers are: Robert Berwick, Cedric Boeckx, Roberto De Almeida,
Anna Maria Di Sciullo, Sandiway Fong, Jason Ginsberg, Kleanthes Grohmann,
Wolfram Hinzen, James Higginbotham, William Idsardi, Dana Isac, Lyle Jenkins,
Howard Lasnik, Giuseppe Longobardi, Partha Mitra, Richard Palmer, Massimo
Piattelli-Palmarini, Paul Pietrosky, David Poeppel, Charles Reiss, Tom Roeper,
Margareth Speas,Ken Wexler.
We invite other scholars, as well as students to present papers or posters on
these topics. Abstracts should be sent in PDF or Word format to Stanca
Somesfalean (somesfalean.stancauqam.ca).They should not exceed one page, 12 pt
single spaced, with an optional additional page for examples and references.
Submissions should be anonymous. Contact details (name, affiliation and e-mail)
along with the title of the talk or poster should be included in the body of the
Deadline for submission of abstracts is March 15th 2010.
Notification of acceptance is April 15th 2010.
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