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Conference Information

Full Title: Variation and Syntax: Where Are We Now, and Where Do We Go Next?

Location: Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Start Date: 06-Jul-2013 - 07-Jul-2013
Contact: Jeffrey Parrott
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: Variation and Syntax: Where Are We Now, and Where Do We Go Next?

Co-organized by Alan Munn, Michigan State University & Jeffrey Keith Parrott, University of Copenhagen
Supported by National Science Foundation BCS-1265444

July 6-7, 2013
2013 LSA Linguistic Institute
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This workshop responds to the growing interest in reconciling the study of sociolinguistic variation with syntactic theory. These vital subfields of scientific inquiry into human language have been estranged virtually since their inception, with longstanding disputes centered on fundamental methodological and theoretical issues. Rigorous investigation of the entire body of phenomena that comprise syntactic variation requires a complementary fusion of sociolinguistic fieldwork methods, variationist statistical analysis, and adapted syntactic elicitation and experimentation techniques. However, recent work has demonstrated that variationist empirical methods are indeed well suited for investigating variable phenomena of relevance to syntactic theorizing, and furthermore that independently motivated models of syntax and morphology have become sufficiently articulated that plausible formal mechanisms of intra- and inter-individual variation can be proposed.

The workshop thus has dual objectives. The first is to develop explicit strategies for evaluating competing theories of variation and syntax, which requires synthesizing current knowledge, enumerating areas of consensus, and resolving recalcitrant disputes. For example, one influential approach holds that syntactic variation should be analyzed as ‘multiple grammars’; another that variation reduces to syntactic configurations; while still other accounts have located variable mechanisms in features of lexical primitives or the interfaces of grammatical architecture. Theoretical insights should preferably generate empirically testable predictions about the relationship between intra- and inter-individual variability.

The second objective is to stimulate collaborative research beyond the conventional domains of either variationist sociolinguistics or theoretical syntax. For instance, recent work has begun to explore the application of both refined syntactic theoretical concepts and modified variationist empirical methods to the study of second- or first-language acquisition, multi-lingualism or -dialectalism, language/dialect attrition or death, heritage languages or dialects, language processing, social cognition, language evolution, and other emerging topics involving syntactic variation. This raises challenges to the program of building a cross-disciplinary approach, while increasing the prospects for a broader view of the fundamental issues and hence unification of an even greater scope.

To such ends, this workshop brings some of the most prominent scholars on syntactic variation from Europe and North America together with students and young researchers at the 2013 Linguistic Society of America Linguistic Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, an ideal venue for intense cross-disciplinary interaction. The six prominent linguists listed below have agreed to give plenary talks and panel commentary at the workshop, which will also feature ten 30-minute talks, as well as plenty of time allotted for general discussion.

David Adger, Queen Mary, University of London
Leonie Cornips, Meertens Institute, Amsterdam
Bill Haddican, Queens College, City University of New York
Cristina Schmitt, Michigan State University
Jennifer Smith, University of Glasgow
Sali Tagliamonte, University of Toronto
Linguistic Subfield: Linguistic Theories; Language Acquisition; Morphology; Sociolinguistics; Syntax
LL Issue: 24.2061

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