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LINGUIST List 17.1618

Mon May 29 2006

Calls: General Ling/Siegen, Germany

Editor for this issue: Kevin Burrows <kevinlinguistlist.org>

As a matter of policy, LINGUIST discourages the use of abbreviations or acronyms in conference announcements unless they are explained in the text. To post to LINGUIST, use our convenient web form at http://linguistlist.org/LL/posttolinguist.html.
        1.    Gerhard Jaeger, The Role of Variation in Language Evolution

Message 1: The Role of Variation in Language Evolution
Date: 26-May-2006
From: Gerhard Jaeger <Gerhard.Jaegeruni-bielefeld.de>
Subject: The Role of Variation in Language Evolution

Full Title: The Role of Variation in Language Evolution
Short Title: Evolution workshop, DGfS

Date: 28-Feb-2007 - 02-Mar-2007
Location: Siegen, Germany
Contact Person: Gerhard Jaeger
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site: http://wwwhomes.uni-bielefeld.de/gjaeger/dgfs2007/cfp.html

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Call Deadline: 06-Aug-2006

Meeting Description:

The workshop topic is the role of linguistic variation for the cultural evolution of language. It will bring together researchers from various areas (historical linguistics, creolistics, computational linguistics, ...) that are interested in the application of evolutionary concepts to natural language.

The workshop is part of the annual meeting of the DGfS (German Linguistic Society).


Workshop at the 29th annual meeting of the German Association for Linguistics (DGfS).

Siegen, 28 February - 2 March, 2007

Organized by Regine Eckardt (Göttingen) & Gerhard Jäger (Bielefeld)


It is a basic assumption of functional linguistics that the language system is the result of adaptation to the pressure of language usage. This has succinctly been expressed by Du Bois' (1987) dictum ''Languages code best what speakers do most.'' Formal linguists have largely remained skeptical towards the functional approach because of its teleological flavor. Prima facie, there is no causal mechanism linking the cognitively founded properties of the language system to the properties of language use.

This predicament is reminiscent to the issue of adaptation in biology, and it is well-known that evolutionary theory offers a non-teleological, causal explanation there. In the past ten years or so, various authors (Nowak, Hurford, Kirby, Croft, Haspelmath inter alia) have proposed to apply evolutionary concepts to language. Under this conception, variation is essential to establish the link between language usage and language system. Among extant theories of (cultural) language evolution, there is disagreement though about the precise nature of this link. Some authors (like Haspelmath) propose a quasi-Lamarckian view of language evolution. This means that variation itself is adaptive. There are also arguments for a quasi-Darwinian view whereas variation itself is non-adaptive (i.e. random, as far as the language system is concerned). Adaptation of the system to usage is achieved via a process of selection, because some linguistic variants are more apt to be acquired by infants and to be imitated by adults than others (cf. for instance Kirby 1999).


The workshop will explore the precise role of linguistic variation in language evolution. We invite submissions to the following (and related) topics:

- Empirical studies of language variation that are relevant for language evolution. This includes experimental psycholinguistic studies as well as corpus investigations
- Computer simulations of language evolution
- Formal and computational models of the micro-dynamics of language evolution, like stochastic, exemplar based or memory based approaches
- Studies of grammaticalization phenomena (and language change phenomena in general) that relate diachronic change to synchronic variation
- The role of variation in creolization
- Mathematical models of language evolution

Call for papers

Submissions are invited for 60-minutes presentations (45 minutes + 15 minutes discussion). Send your two-page abstract to Gerhard Jäger at the address below, either by email (in plain text or in PDF format) or as hard copy, to arrive no later than August 6, 2006. Notification of acceptance is by September 15, 2006

Important dates

May 25, 2006: first call for papers

June 15, 2006: second call for papers

August 6, 2006: deadline for submission

September 15, 2006: notification of acceptance

December 3, 2006: deadline for abstract to appear in the proceedings (half a page)

Februar 28 - March 2, 2007: Workshop


Gerhard Jäger
University of Bielefeld
Faculty of Linguistics and Literature
PF 10 01 31
33501 Bielefeld, Germany

Regine Eckardt
University of Göttingen
Department of English / Linguistics
Käte-Hamburger-Weg 3
37073 Göttingen, Germany

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