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LINGUIST List 18.2638

Mon Sep 10 2007

Calls: Linguistic Theories,Syntax/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Ania Kubisz <anialinguistlist.org>


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        1.    Hans Broekhuis, Interface Theories


Message 1: Interface Theories
Date: 10-Sep-2007
From: Hans Broekhuis <Hans.Broekhuisuvt.nl>
Subject: Interface Theories
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Full Title: Interface Theories
Short Title: DEAL II

Date: 22-Feb-2008 - 23-Feb-2008
Location: Leiden, Netherlands
Contact Person: Hans Broekhuis
Meeting Email: dealuvt.nl
Web Site: http://let.uvt.nl/deal08/

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories; Syntax

Call Deadline: 15-Nov-2007

Meeting Description:
This workshop is a sequel to the workshop Descriptive and Explanatory
Adequacy in Linguistic Theory (DEAL) held in Berlin in December 2005. The
call for that workshop noted that current generative theories differ in the
restrictiveness of the generator. In Optimality Theory (OT) the generator
is rather unconstrained and consists of linguistic operations subject to
"very general considerations of structural well-formedness" (McCarthy and
Prince 1993), whereas the proponents of the Minimalist Program (MP)
normally maintain that the operations of the generator are highly
restricted. This difference between OT and MP is also reflected in the
claims that are normally made about the output of the generator. In OT, it
is normally maintained that the generator creates a candidate set that is
very large (even infinite), whereas in MP, it is normally claimed that the
resulting reference set is small, in many cases perhaps restricted to a
single candidate. Important is, however, that many proponents of MP accept
the idea that the generator may overgenerate and that we must assume some
additional means to filter out the unwanted structures from the reference
set. In this workshop we focus on the filtering devices that are or can be
used.

Interface theories: the filtering of the output of the generator (DEAL II)

Strengths and weaknesses of OT:
The greatest strength of OT is that it provides a general format for the
filtering devices: it postulates an evaluator that consists of a
language-specific ranking of universal constraints. The selection of the
optimal candidate proceeds in the following way (the formulation is an
adaptation form Archangeli (1997):

The evaluator finds the candidate that best satisfies the ranked
constraints, such that:
a. violation of a lower ranked constraint is tolerated in order to satisfy
a higher ranked constraint, and;
b. ties by violation or by satisfaction of a higher ranked constraint are
resolved by a lower ranked constraint.

A weaker side of the concrete OT syntax proposals is that there does not
seem to be a generally accepted view on the syntactic constraints that are
needed, which has led to a proliferation of postulated constraints. This
results in a state of affairs which is reminiscent to that of early
generative grammar. What is clearly needed therefore is a restrictive
theory of the postulated universal constraint set CON.

Strengths and weaknesses of MP:
The greatest strength of MP is that it provides a restrictive theory of the
generator. The properties of the operations that are part of the postulated
universal computational system of human languages are well-known, and have
been applied in analyses of a wide range of phenomena. The weaker part of
MP is, however, that there is no explicit theory of the postulated
filtering device (which has been referred to at several stages as global
conditions, bare output conditions and interface conditions). A recent
idea, exploited by e.g. Chomsky (1995; 2001) and Sabel (2005) is that the
filtering device consists of ''Effect-on-Output conditions'' that may
select a less economical candidate from the reference set provided that the
additional operation has some effect on the output. This idea has hardly
been worked out, and there is no generally accepted view on whether this
effect on the output must be of a phonological nature (word order), as in
Chomsky (1995:294) and Sabel (2005), a semantic nature, as in Chomsky
(2001), or that it can be either of a phonological or a semantic nature.

A similarity between the filtering devices of OT and MP:
Observe that OT and MP are similar in that the filtering component is
essentially language-specific. In OT this follows from the fact that the
constraint ranking differs from language to language, and in MP from the
fact that the ''Effect on Output'' conditions themselves are parametrized
in the sense that some languages have them whereas others do not. Note
that, of course, one may also deny the existence of a filtering component,
but this will necessarily lead to a theory in which also the autonomy of
syntax is denied by making it sensitive to semantic and phonological
considerations, and in which the generator is no longer universal but to a
certain extent language-specific.

A communal challenge for OT and MP:
The discussion above makes clear that OT and MP face a similar challenge,
namely, determining how the filtering device can be made sensitive to the
phonological and semantic properties of the optimal candidate. Furthermore,
it can be asked whether it suffices to take recourse to these phonological
and semantic properties, or whether it is necessary to postulate
constraints/conditions of a different nature as well (for example
morphology and pragmatics, or language particular constraints).
Another aspect of this challenge for OT and MP is the nature of the
interaction between the modules of the grammar. If the filter component
contains constraints from different modules (e.g., semantics and
phonology), how do they interact, what happens in the case of conflicting
requirements? Are such conflicts resolved in terms of prioritization, as in
OT, or in another way, for instance as some kind of compromise between the
competing forces? If there is prioritization, are the modules ranked
relative to each other as a whole or do particular constraints from
different modules intermingle? Furthermore, shall the interface be
conceived as unidirectional or bidirectional (as in bidirectional OT)?

A convergence of OT and MP:
Given the fact that OT and MP face this similar challenge, one might
actually hope that the two theories may contribute to each other by
highlighting ideas which are beyond the scope of research of the
alternative approach, and perhaps even converge to a certain degree (see
Broekhuis, 2006, for a discussion of this possibility). Although this
workshops aims at bringing together contributions that may shed more light
any of the issues related to the filtering component in OT and the
minimalist program, we especially welcome papers that address this issue of
the relation between OT and MP.

Practical information:
The workshop is organized by the Linguistics departments of the University
of Tilburg (the Netherlands) and the University of Bielefeld (Germany).
More information can be found on our website: http://let.uvt.nl/deal08/.
The workshop will be held in February 2008, 22-23, at the University of
Leiden. The workshop consists of 14 talks of fifty minutes each (including
a 10 minutes discussion). Four of these talks will be given by the
following keynote speakers:

1. Cedric Boeckx (University of Harvard)
2. Jairo Nunes (Universidade de São Paulo)
3. Vieri Samek-Lodovici (University College London); still to be confirmed
4. Ellen Woolford (University of Massachusetts)

Abstracts are solicited for the remaining 10 slots. Submitted abstracts
will be reviewed anonymously. Please keep to the following instructions
concerning your abstract:

- Submission is only possible in electronic form, preferably in pdf-format
but we also accept .rtf, .doc, or plain text files.
- Send one copy that includes your name and affiliation, and one anonymous
copy.
- Abstracts may not exceed two pages of text with an at least one-inch
margin on all four sides.
- Abstracts must employ a font not smaller than 12 point.
- Each page may include a maximum of 50 lines of text.
- Abstracts may include an extra page for references (not examples).
- Abstract should be sent to DEALuvt.nl
- Abstract should be received by November 15, 2007.
- Notices of acceptance will be sent out before December 1, 2007.


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