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LINGUIST List 19.479

Mon Feb 11 2008

Confs: Anthropological Ling,Cognitive Science, Neuroling/Germany

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        1.    Dietmar Zaefferer, Human Universals as Constraints on Language Diversity

Message 1: Human Universals as Constraints on Language Diversity
Date: 11-Feb-2008
From: Dietmar Zaefferer <zaeffererlmu.de>
Subject: Human Universals as Constraints on Language Diversity
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Human Universals as Constraints on Language Diversity
Short Title: DGfS 2008 - AG 2

Date: 27-Feb-2008 - 29-Feb-2008
Location: Bamberg, Germany
Contact: Dietmar Zaefferer
Contact Email: zaeffererlmu.de

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics; Cognitive Science;
Neurolinguistics; Philosophy of Language

Meeting Description:

Workshop on the foundations of language comparison: Human universals as
constraints on language diversity (to be held as part of the 30th annual meeting
of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS), Bamberg, Germany,
27-29 February 2008)


Language comparison presupposes comparability, and this in turn presupposes the
common denominator of definitional universals. The idea of this workshop is to
look both within and beyond the field of linguistics to find out about the
underpinnings of linguistic universals, both of the definitional variety (What
makes the cluster of phenomena defined by the notion of language coherent?) as
well as and especially of the empirical kind (Which non-definitional features
cluster around the definitional properties and why?). To do this it is necessary
to determine the place of linguistic universals among the human universals
(Brown 1991). Since the latter concern both the human body with its brain and
mind, and the cultures and societies it lives in (Enfield and Levinson 2006),
contributions have been invited from all relevant fields: biology, neuroscience,
cognitive science, anthropology, sociology, philosophy and last, but not least,
linguistics. Chomsky (2004) is certainly right in assuming that genetic
endowment, experience, and language independent principles of efficient
computation contribute to language development in the individual, but it is
rather controversial (a) what the genetic endowment consists of, (b) how these
factors interact in the individual, and (c) how the individual mind participates
in the shared, i.e. distributed and collective, mind. Handedness is certainly
part of our genetic endowment, and so Krifka's (2006) proposal that it might
motivate the universal availability of topic-comment structuring is an excellent
example of the kind of phenomena this workshop is intended to collect and relate
to one another. Cultural constraints on grammar as discussed by Everett
(2005)are another case in point. The workshop will draw together contributions
from different fields to document the state of the knowledge in this domain and
instigate progress towards a more and more complete picture of the ways human
universals shape human language.

Topics include, but are not restricted to:

- Biological underpinnings of the human language faculty
- Somato-biological underpinnings of the sensorimotor system
- Somato-biological underpinnings of the conceptual-intentional system
- Neuro-biological basis of human language production
- Neuro-biological basis of human language comprehension
- Social cognition as prerequisite for language use
- Social cognition and ontological universals
- Universals of deixis and the ecological nature of language use
- Anthropological universals and their lexical reflexes
- Social universals and universals of linguistic interaction


Brown, Donald E. (1991): Human universals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Chomsky, Noam (2004): Biolinguistics and the Human Capacity. Lecture MTA
Budapest, May 17.

Enfield, N. J. / Stephen C. Levinson (eds.) (2006): Roots of human sociality:
culture, cognition, and interaction. Oxford: Berg.

Everett, Daniel L. (2005): Cultural constraints on grammar and cognition in
Pirahã. In: Current Anthropology 46: 621-46.

Krifka, Manfred (2006): Functional similarities between bimanual coordination
and topic / comment structure. In: Ishihara, S. / Schmitz, M. / Schwarz, A.
(eds.): Interdisciplinary Studies on Information Structure 08, Potsdam.

The updated program with abstracts and all relevant information is to be found here:



Wednesday, 27.02.2008

David Poeppel and Dietmar Zaefferer: Welcome

Dietmar Zaefferer: Definitional and empirical features of human and language

Christoph Antweiler: The many determinants of human universals

Peter J. Richerson: Patterns of human conflict and cooperation: Language and
linguistic diversity


Rainer Dietrich, Werner Sommer, Chung Shan Kao: The influence of syntactic
structures on the time course of microplanning. A crosslinguistic experiment

Adriana Hanulíková, James M. McQueen, and Holger Mitterer: The differing role of
consonants and vowels in word recognition. A universal principle?

Michael Ullman: Variability and redundancy in the neurocognition of language

End of session

Thursday, 28.02.2008

Andrew Nevins: Invariant properties of human grammatical systems

Joana Rosselló: Duality of patterning in the architecture of language: a

Ljiljana Progovac: The Core Universal and Language Evolution

Wolfram Hinzen, Boban Arsenijevic: Recursion as an epiphenomenon


Hedde Zeijlstra: Parameters are epiphenomena of grammatical architecture

Jeffrey Lidz: The abstract nature of syntactic inference in language acquisition

End of session

Friday, 29.02.2008

Asifa Majid: Constraints on Event Semantics across Languages

Friedemann Pulvermüller: Brain constraints on language universals: On the neural
basis of phonological and semantic categories

David Poeppel: Linguistics and the future of the neurosciences


Thomas G. Bever: The universal and the individual in language

End of session

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