LINGUIST List 13.2467

Fri Sep 27 2002

Calls: Semantics, Phase Theory

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>

As a matter of policy, LINGUIST discourages the use of abbreviations or acronyms in conference announcements unless they are explained in the text.


  1. Martina Faller, Cross-linguistic Data and Theories of Meaning
  2. Martha McGinnis, Call for abstracts: MIT Workshop on Phases

Message 1: Cross-linguistic Data and Theories of Meaning

Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 15:44:11 +0200
From: Martina Faller <>
Subject: Cross-linguistic Data and Theories of Meaning

Workshop Announcement and First Call for Papers


May 18-20th, 2003

Linguistics Department, University of Nijmegen, and MPI for
Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Invited Speakers:

Emmon Bach
Stephen Crain
Dirk Geeraerts
David Gil
Manfred Krifka
Stephen Levinson
Lisa Matthewson
Anna Wierzbicka

Committee: Pieter Muysken (Chair), J├╝rgen Bohnemeyer, Martina Faller,
Veerle Van Geenhoven, Cliff Goddard, Simon Musgrave, Rob van der Sandt

The success of recent endeavours such as the meetings on the theme of
the Semantics of Under-represented Languages in the Americas (SULA at the
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, April 2001) shows that there is
considerable interest amongst semanticists, and indeed amongst linguists
generally, in the problems which arise in confronting semantic theories
with data from less-studied languages (Matthewson 2001). A central
problem in this research programme is that, in most cases, the linguist
will not be a native speaker of the language. We intend that this
meeting will concentrate on the conceptual and methodological problems
of studying semantics under these conditions.

It is generally accepted that languages have the same extensional
expressive power in the sense that any language can adequately describe
the physical world. In studying cross-linguistic semantics, the question
of interest is whether the extensional equivalence of languages also
requires intensional equivalence. Some scholars take a universalist
perspective and assume intensional equivalency (Barwise and Cooper 1981,
Bittner 1994, Keenan and Stavi 1986), whereas others take a relativist
perspective and start from the assumption that languages are to a large
degree not intensionally equivalent (e.g. Whorf 1941, Grace 1987). In
both the universalist and the relativist research tradition, recent
research indicates that there is genuine semantic variation across
languages, but that this variation is constrained by universal
principles (Bach et al. 1995, Bohnemeyer in press, Chierchia 1998,
Gumperz and Levinson 1996, Pederson et al. 1998, Wierzbicka 1996,
Wilkins & Hill 1995). These findings are not only relevant for
cross-linguistic semantics, but also for language acquisition research
(Bowerman 1996).

One set of questions which we would like to see addressed arise from
this: What sort of arguments can be made for either a universalist or a
relativist position? If we take the perspective that this is an issue
of 'more or less' rather than 'yes or no,' what aspects of
meaning are universal, and what aspects are open to variation? Will the
answers to these questions require a reconceptualization of what
semantics is and how it is structured? What are the consequences for the
learnability of languages?

Further questions arise with respect to the nature of universals of
meaning, if they exist. Are they conceptual units, a vocabulary, or a
combinatory system, a syntax, or both? And where do they fit into the
language system? Are universals of meaning situated in semantics alone
(as Wierzbicka seems to argue), or are they situated in pragmatics (as
argued by Levinson 1999), or in both sub-systems? Or are universals of
meaning completely outside the linguistic system, a possibility at least
acknowledged by Gil (1991).

Methodological questions must also be considered. Even the most ardent
universalist would allow that some aspects of meaning cannot be
transferred from one language to another, or can easily be distorted in
the process. What techniques should the researcher therefore use in
order to ensure that such distortion is minimized? Can the dependence of
the data collection process on language be reduced, either by using
non-linguistic stimuli to elicit linguistic data (see e.g. Pederson et
al. 1998), or by using linguistic data to elicit non-linguistic
reponses. To what extent are techniques used in research on child
 language and large-scale corpora helpful for cross-linguistic semantic
research? Is a metalanguage necessary for interpreting data, and if so,
how should it be formulated: in a logical language, or in a natural
language (Goddard and Wierzbicka (eds) 1994, 2002)?

We invite abstracts for papers which deal with the broad issues raised
above, as well as for contributions which deal with specific problems
encountered in cross-linguistic semantic study and the techniques used
to attempt to solve such problems.

Each presentation will be allotted 30 minutes including time for
discussion. Abstracts should not exceed one page and should be
anonymous; they can be sent electronically or in paper format.
Electronic submission should preferrably be in pdf format, but we will
also accept Word and Postscript documents. Please include your name,
affiliation, and contact information in the email message to which the
abstract is attached. If sending as paper copy, please include your
name, affiliation, and contact information on a separate sheet. Please
specify in the subject line or on the envelope: Abstract for
``Cross-linguistic data and theories of meaning"

Deadline for abstract submission: November 17th, 2002
Notification of acceptance: January 17th, 2003

Please send your submissions to:

Edith Sjoerdsma
Max Planck Instititute for Psycholinguistics
Postbus 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Note that this is address is ONLY for submission of abstracts.

ALL enquiries should be directed to:

Martina Faller (
Simon Musgrave (



Bach, Emmon, Eloise Jelinek, Angelika Kratzer and Barbara H. Partee
(1995). Quantification in Natural Languages, 2 vols. Dordrecht: Kluwer
Academic Publishers.
Barwise, Jon & Robin Cooper (1981) Generalized Quantifiers and Natural
Language. Linguistics and Philosophy 4: 159-219
Bittner, Maria 1994. Cross-Linguistic Semantics. Linguistics and
Philosophy 17:53-108.
Bohnemeyer, J. (in press). The unique vector constraint: The impact of
direction changes on the linguistic segmentation of motion events. in E.
van der Zee and J. Slack eds., Representing direction in language and
space. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bowerman, M. (1996). The origins of children's spatial semantic
categories: Cognitive vs. linguistic determinants. In J. Gumperz & S. C.
Levinson (1996), 145-176.
Chierchia, Gennaro (1998). Reference to Kinds across Languages. Natural
Language Semantics 6: 339-405.
Gil, David (1991) "Aristotle Goes to Arizona, And Finds a Language
without And", in D. Zaefferer ed., Semantic Universals and Universal
Semantics, 96-130. Berlin: Foris Press.
Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka (eds). 1994. Semantic and Lexical
Universals Amsterdam: John Benjamins
Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka (eds). 2002. Meaning and Universal
Grammar: Theory and Empirical Findings (Vols 1 and 2.) Amsterdam: John
Grace, George (1987) The Linguistic Construction of Reality London:
Croom Helm
Gumperz, John J. & Stephen C. Levinson (1996). Rethinking linguistic
relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Keenan, Edward L. & Jonathan Stavi (1986) A Semantic Characterization of
Natural Language Determiners. Linguistics and Philosophy 9:253-326
Levinson, Stephen C. (1999) H.P.Grice on location on Rossel Island.
Proceedings of the Berkeley Lingusitic Society 25:210-224
Matthewson, Lisa (2001). Quantification and the Nature of
Crosslinguistic Variation. Natural Language Semantics 9: 145-189
Pederson, E., Danziger, E., Wilkins, D., Levinson, S., Kita, S., & G.
Senft (1998). Semantic typology and spatial conceptualization. Language
Talmy, Leonard (2000). Toward a Cognitive Semantics. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: MIT Press
Whorf, Benjamin Lee (1941) The relation of habitual thought and behavior
in language. In Carroll, John B. (1956) Language, Thought And Reality:
Selected Writings Of Benjamin Lee Whorf . Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Wierzbicka, Anna (1996) Semantics: Primes and Universals. Oxford: Oxford
University Press
Wilkins, D. P., and D. Hill. (1995). When GO means COME. Cognitive
Linguistics 6: 209-259.

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Message 2: Call for abstracts: MIT Workshop on Phases

Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 15:50:28 -0600
From: Martha McGinnis <>
Subject: Call for abstracts: MIT Workshop on Phases

Abstracts are invited for an Independent Activities Period (IAP) 
Workshop on Phases at MIT, January 17-18, 2003. This workshop will 
provide an opportunity for linguists working on Phase Theory to 
present and discuss their work in an informal setting. Any empirical 
applications of Phase Theory are of interest: syntactic, semantic, 
morphological, or phonological. Presentations will include invited 
talks and abstract submissions.

Abstract submissions are for 20-minute presentations, to be followed 
by 10 minutes of discussion. Abstracts must be no more than one 
page, with an additional page for examples and references, if needed. 
Please use 12 point font in a 6.5" x 9" text window, or equivalent 
(corresponding to 1" margins on letter-sized paper). Please send 
abstracts by e-mail to Martha McGinnis ( as a 
Word or PDF attachment, or as plain text in the body of the message. 
The deadline for receipt of abstracts is October 25, 2002.

Martha McGinnis, Norvin Richards, and Alec Marantz
Workshop Organizers
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