LINGUIST List 14.220

Tue Jan 21 2003

Confs: Explaining Linguistic Universals

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  1. jcgood, Explaining Linguistic Universals, CA USA

Message 1: Explaining Linguistic Universals, CA USA

Date: Mon, 20 Jan 2003 18:25:48 +0000
From: jcgood <>
Subject: Explaining Linguistic Universals, CA USA

Explaining Linguistic Universals: Historical Convergence and Universal

Short Title: Explaining Universals
Location: Berkeley, CA, USA
Date: 07-Mar-2003 - 08-Mar-2003 
Web Site:
Contact Person: Jeff Good
Meeting Email:
Linguistic Subfield(s): General Linguistics 

Meeting Description: 

The workshop will be held on March 7-8, 2003 at UC Berkeley.

All speakers have been invited. Anyone is welcome to attend.

This workshop has been sponsored by the Townsend Center for the
Humanities, the Deans of Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Graduate
Division at UC Berkeley, and the Department of Linguistics at UC
Berkeley. This workshop is part of the fiftieth anniversary
celebration of the Berkeley department of linguistics. Explaining
Linguistic Universals: Historical Convergence and Universal Grammar

University of California, Berkeley

March 7, 2003 in 3335 Dwinelle Hall 
March 8, 2003 in 370 Dwinelle Hall

While it is undeniably true that the distinction between synchrony and
diachrony in linguistic theory is a valid one, it is less clear what
the consequences of this distinction should be for research programs
seeking to explain typological universals. Broadly speaking, it is
possible to identify three basic approaches to this issue.

Many linguists working within generative frameworks have taken a
position where aspects of Universal Grammar are used as the primary
device to explain universals. Diachronic change, in these research
programs, has been explained primarily by appealing to some particular
aspect of Universal Grammar, such as markedness. Examples of work of
this sort can be found in Kiparsky (1968, 1995, et alia), among many

A second approach to this issue takes essentially the opposite
stance--diachronic change is seen as the primary determinant of
universal linguistic patterns. Work like Greenberg (1966) and Anderson
(1976) is sympathetic to this idea. The work of Bybee (1985, 1998, et
alia) goes a step further by using diachronic evidence to motivate a
particular synchronic structure of grammar. Similarly, the recent work
of Blevins and Garrett (1998, in press) develops a well-articulated,
diachronically-based framework for the explanation of phonological

A third type of approach treats synchrony and diachrony as two
different observable effects of one basic grammatical
architecture. Haspelmath (1999) offers an example of such work. Within
his framework, functional considerations, like economy, shape both the
synchrony and diachrony of grammar. A comparable attitude--not couched
in a functionalist conception of language use--can be found in Hyman

The aim of this workshop is to contrast these three approaches to
explaining linguistic universals, with a focus on research that
explicitly attempts to explain both synchronic and diachronic
data. Evidence bearing on the stengths and weaknesses of these
approaches will come both from a range of language families as well as
different areas of grammar.

Invited Speakers:
Adam Albright, University of California, Santa Cruz 
Juliette Blevins, University of California, Berkeley 
Joan Bybee, University of New Mexico 
Andrew Garrett, University of California, Berkeley 
Alice Harris, Vanderbilt University/SUNY at Stony Brook 
Martin Haspelmath, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig 
Paul Kiparsky, Stanford University 
Anthony Kroch, University of Pennsylvania 
John Whitman, Cornell University

For further information please go to: or contact Jeff
Good (
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