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Conference Information

Full Title: Towards a Theory of Syntactic Variation

Short Title: TTSV13
Location: Bilbao, Spain
Start Date: 05-Jun-2013 - 07-Jun-2013
Contact: Beatriz Fernández
Meeting Email: click here to access email
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Meeting Description: The language research groups Basdisyn (Basque Dialect Syntax) and The Bilingual Mind co-organize an International Workshop entitled Towards a Theory of Syntactic Variation. The workshop will take place in Bilbao, The Basque Country, June 5-7, 2013. The goal of the workshop is to provide a forum of discussion on different approaches to the nature of syntactic variation and its place in linguistic theory.

The Principles and Parameters model of grammar (Chomsky, 1981, henceforth P&P) conceived of syntactic variation as a systematic phenomenon resulting from combinations of a finite set of discrete parameters of binary values, such as the pro-drop parameter or the head parameter, among others. The interplay between invariant principles and experience-dependent parameters has been argued to be a central distinguishing feature of the language faculty. However, there is currently no prevailing view on the nature of syntactic variation both inside and outside generative linguistics. On the one hand, some authors outside generative grammar hold the view that linguistic traits are not discrete properties, but at best constitute statistically based generalizations, and that individual languages offer radically different answers to communicative needs of shared intentionality, so that there is no possible general theory of variation in syntax (e.g. Evans and Levinson 2009). On the other hand, and within generative linguistics, the success of the P&P model in accounting for cross-linguistic variation patterns of human grammars has been subject of much criticism (Newmeyer 2004, 2005, 2006, Boeckx 2011). Syntactic variation has thus become a key aspect of the debate in current linguistics regarding the very nature of human language and the ultimate source of its diversity. Following on the wake of the P&P model, new concepts such as macro and micro parameters have been proposed (Baker 2003, 2008, Kayne 2000, 2005), which take different views on how to account for systematic aspects of syntactic variation. The Kaynean view, tightly related to what Baker (2008) calls the Borer/Chomsky conjecture, attributes syntactic variation to differences in the features of functional lexical items. Roberts and Holmberg (2005, 2010) provide a new perspective into a parameter-based theory that attempts to reconcile micro and macro variation in syntax. Other observations drastically distant from parameter-based theories have been also made (Boeckx 2010, 2011).

The status of syntactic variation is undergoing profound rethinking in contemporary generative syntax, with alternative proposals to the classical P&P model. This Workshop aims at gathering and discussing different views on the nature of syntactic variation in language and will be of much interest to syntactic researchers, graduate students, and more in general, to all those interested in linguistic variation and linguistic theory.
Linguistic Subfield: Syntax
LL Issue: 24.1147

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