LINGUIST List 9.1212

Wed Sep 2 1998

Calls: GLOW colloquium: Universals

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>

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  1. glow99, GLOW colloquium 1999

Message 1: GLOW colloquium 1999

Date: Tue, 18 Aug 98 10:40:28 +0000
From: glow99 <>
Subject: GLOW colloquium 1999

Below you find the call for papers for the GLOW colloquium to be held in Berlin
in 1999.
The calls for the workshops in Potsdam will follow soon.
More information can be found on the GLOW homepage
from August 21 on.

Call for Papers: Universals

The search for universals has always been at the center of interest in
generative linguistics. Fundamental claims about universal properties
of language are what we build into the very architecture of the theory
of UG: primitives (features etc.), combinatorial operations (Merge),
the operation 'Move', interfaces with extralinguistic systems (LF,
PF), etc. Alongside such formal universals, we also seek substantive
universals in inventories, markedness patterns, feature hierarchies
etc. Such facts may reflect properties of UG itself or derive from
extralinguistic sources. Recent growth in crosslinguistic study opens
new opportunities for extending the empirical base, confirming or
challenging old generalizations and establishing new ones. At the
same time, recent theoretical developments in both phonology and
syntax lead to important questions concerning the formal and/or
substantive nature of universals in language, and the quest for the
exact sources of variation between languages.

In phonology, universals have typically been assumed to exist in many
different subcomponents, e.g. features, prosodic constituents. Only in
recent years, with the emergence of output-based evaluation systems,
has the focus of interest in universals shifted to the study of
constraints and their interaction. Hence new questions arise: are all
constraints universal in the sense that they are constitutive of
grammar? Should we conceive of constraints as being exhaustive and
ordered? Are there universals that constraint orderings have to obey?
Are there different domains (i.e. lexical and postlexical level) where
constraints apply? Are there language- specific constraints?

Syntactic theory in the early 80's assumed principles common to all
languages to interact with various types of 'macro-parameters': one
deep property from which several other properties derive
(e.g. pro-drop parameter). Later, variation was attributed to
'micro-parameters'. Now, with the emergence of Minimalism and
Optimality, basic issues like what constitutes a universal principle /
constraint, and what constitutes a parameter, need to be
re-addressed. Is there a universal inventory of functional
heads/features? As to the autonomy of, or the division of labour
between syntax and morphology: is parametrized variation confined to
inflectional systems? Is syntactic variation restricted to the choice
of overt or zero realization of a given feature? If all movement takes
place in a single cycle, does variation reduce to the presence of
affixes or the lack thereof? Are there universal constraints in
morpho-syntax? Moreover, in recent years it has been argued that
thematic relations are features. What are their characteristics? Do
these have a universal inventory? Could they be parametrized? Many
typological-descriptive generalizations await theoretical integration
- e.g. Greenbergian 'universals' of word order patterns,
cross-categorial harmony effects, etc. In this respect, Kayne's
proposal for a universal ordering merely shifts the burden from phrase
structure to movement . A guiding heuristic of generative grammar has
been that parsimonious (redundancy-free) theories are to be preferred;
but Minimalism goes further in suggesting that economy is built into
UG itself. To what extent can the hypothesis that UG principles
instantiate notions of economy be upheld?

In studying UG, we take the external systems with which it interfaces
to be invariant in linguistically significant senses across
individuals and languages. Thus we posit universal interpretation
mechanisms (and uniformity across languages at LF), 'universal
phonetics' (invariant articulatory / perceptual mechanisms), a
universal parser, etc.; so that variation is confined to grammars, in
particular phonology/morphology and aspects of the lexicon. Yet
properties of external systems may have far-reaching consequences for
our view of UG. As we learn more about them, universals attributed to
UG may have to be reassigned. What if UG-compatible grammars determine
languages that cannot exist because they are unuseable (unparseable;
unlearnable; etc)? Are there universal patterns in the acquisition
process, in parsing strategies, etc., that can be brought to bear?

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