LINGUIST List 16.1946

Fri Jun 24 2005

Calls: General Ling/U.S.A.; Syntax/Germany

Editor for this issue: Megan Zdrojkowski <>


        1.    Almitra Medina, Graduate Portuguese and Hispanic Symposium
        2.    Hans Broekhuis, Descriptive and Explanatory Adequacy in Linguistics

Message 1: Graduate Portuguese and Hispanic Symposium
Date: 22-Jun-2005
From: Almitra Medina <>
Subject: Graduate Portuguese and Hispanic Symposium

Full Title: Graduate Portuguese and Hispanic Symposium
Short Title: GRAPHSY

Date: 28-Oct-2005 - 29-Oct-2005
Location: Washington, DC, United States of America
Contact Person: Almitra Medina
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Portuguese; Spanish

Call Deadline: 01-Jul-2005

Meeting Description:

GRAPHSY is the first Symposium on Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Languages, Literature & Linguistics sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University. Its purpose is to give Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literature & Linguistics graduate students an opportunity to share their current work with other students and professionals in their fields.

Graduate Portuguese & Hispanic Symposium
GRAPHSY - 2005

GRAPHSY is the first Symposium on Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Languages, Literature & Linguistics sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University. GRAPHSY will be held on October 28-29, 2005 in Washington DC.

The purpose of GRAPHSY is to give Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literature & Linguistics graduate students an opportunity to share their current work with other students and professionals in their fields. Concurrent sessions will be offered in the areas mentioned above. Keynote Speakers, agenda, and sponsored activities will be announced.

The GRAPHSY review committee invites all interested graduate students to submit abstracts related to the focus of the symposium. Submission of creative writing is also encouraged.

The committee welcomes requests to form panels on a specific topic, author, or work. These requests will be considered based on general interest of symposium participants in the proposed topic.

Please submit by July 1, 2005:
- 250-300 word abstract in English, Spanish, or Portuguese
- Double spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point type

Indicate the following in the top left corner of the page:

Abstracts must be submitted by July 1, 2005 via e-mail to

The Symposium website is forthcoming; please check the Department of Spanish and Portuguese website at for further updates later in the summer.

Registration fee before September 7th: $30 (after 9/7 $40)

Message 2: Descriptive and Explanatory Adequacy in Linguistics
Date: 21-Jun-2005
From: Hans Broekhuis <>
Subject: Descriptive and Explanatory Adequacy in Linguistics

Full Title: Descriptive and Explanatory Adequacy in Linguistics
Short Title: DEAL

Date: 17-Dec-2005 - 19-Dec-2005
Location: Berlin, Germany
Contact Person: Hans Broekhuis
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories; Syntax

Call Deadline: 15-Sep-2007

Meeting Description:

This workshop addresses problems concerning descriptive and explanatory adequacy in linguistics, especially the Minimalist Program and Optimality Theory.

The current state of affairs in the minimalist program (MP) and optimality theory (OT) clearly illustrates the general tension between descriptive and explanatory adequacy. The description of the differences between the two frameworks in the next three paragraphs is somewhat coarse and oversimplified in order to highlight the general tendencies.

MP is a very austerely formulated theory, but this seems to go at the expense of descriptive adequacy: the empirical scope seems to be restricted to syntactic and semantic phenomena that involve or can be directly related to movement and features, and during the last decade much effort has been devoted to incorporating established insights of earlier phases of the theory. Although this endeavour has been successful to a certain extent, much still seems to be out of reach of the theory in its present formulation.

OT, on the other hand, can readily be applied to virtually any imaginable subfield of linguistics. It is widely accepted as the standard phonological theory, and proposals exist that extend its empirical domain to the fields of syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The explanatory adequacy of OT is limited, however, which is clearly related to the fact that OT only offers a general scheme for the formulation of grammars; it has a system of ranked violable constraints at its core, but OT grammars can be specified in various, sometimes even incompatible ways. A great advantage of this freedom is that OT has brought together researchers from various theoretical frameworks (such as GB, MP, LFG, HPSG, etc), but a drawback of this is that the body of work that could be referred to as OT-syntax lacks internal consistency, so that OT-syntax is still far from acquiring a reasonable degree of explanatory adequacy.

The problem concerning explanatory adequacy is actually enlarged by the fact that there is no clear consensus about what constitutes the core of OT-syntax, the universal set of constraints CON. Contrary to what seems to be the case in OT-phonology, there is no well-established and widely accepted set of substantive syntactic constraints. There is even disagreement on the general format of these constraints: whereas in phonology most constraints are assumed to be either faithfulness or markedness constraints, this is not clearly true for OT-syntax. This, in its turn, is related to the question what forms the input of the OT-syntax. Many possibilities come to mind: a numeration, a pre-established phrase marker, a semantic representation, etc.

Many researchers construe MP and OT not only as competing but also as incompatible theories. Since OT is not committed to a particular representational formalism, this is by no means obviously the case: it could well be imaginable that current MP could be reformulated in OT-terms. This might actually solve one major problem for current OT-syntax since it would restrict the syntactic constraints such that they can only be phrased in terms of (the outputs of) the operations of the generator, which under this scenario would be the computational system CHL, and the legibility conditions imposed by LF and PF. Further, it is clear that MP and OT-syntax in their present formulation focus on different aspects of the grammar: whereas the former is mainly concerned with the derivation of structure, the latter evaluates the syntactic representations created by the generator. Of course, MP acknowledges that the output structures must be evaluated by interface/bare output conditions, but an explicit formulation of these conditions is still not provided. Within OT-syntax it is sometimes acknowledged that conditions are needed on the generator, but so far explicit proposals are lacking. It is conceivable, therefore, that MP and OT are actually complementary theories, which can cancel each other's weaknesses. Of course, incorporating insights from MP into OT, or vice versa, can be obtained in a variety of ways. The questions whether this is desirable, and, if so, in which way this must be obtained are largely empirical in nature.

In this workshop we want to address questions that involve the descriptive and explanatory adequacy of MP and OT, and the relation between the two frameworks. Below we provide some of the questions that could be addressed in this conference. Of course, this set of questions is not exhaustive. The way these questions are formulated is certainly biased, and expresses our belief that the insights of MP and OT can profitably be combined into a more comprehensive theory. Of course, contributions that contest this belief and argue for the primacy of one of the two frameworks are also welcome at this workshop. It goes without saying that the questions below are just a random subset of the set of questions that can be addressed in this workshop.

The minimalist program

- Empirical scope. So far the empirical scope of MP seems to be restricted to syntactic phenomena involving or directly relatable to movement. Is this an inherent restriction of MP? If not, how can MP be extended in order to also cover cases that cannot be related to movement. If so, how should the facts that MP cannot account for be addressed?

- Computational system. In the earliest studies within the MP, it was claimed that CHL is universal and that differences in the output should be attributed exclusively to the morpho-syntactic features in the lexicon: language variation is due to the set of strength/epp-features in the lexicon. In general practice, the effect of these features is that each numeration leads to a single converging syntactic representation. Although the universality of the CHL is still maintained, the claim that the locus of language variation is the lexicon is not. In recent work, it is assumed that the output of CHL is evaluated by the interpretative component INT, which seems to consist of a set of language-specific filters. This implies that CHL overgenerates, and that the selection of the acceptable structure is actually due to the evaluation of the output of CHL. This raises the question whether we still need to postulate lexical strength/epp-features or whether they can actually be assumed to be part of INT.

- Interface/bare output conditions. What are the interface conditions, and how should they be formulated? In which way are they applied to the structures created by CHL? What is the relation of the interface/bare output conditions to the filters of the interpretative component INT? More specifically, is INT part of the semantic bare output conditions? If so, is there also a phonological interpretative component?

Optimality Theory

- Input. It is not a priori clear what the input of the OT-generator is. Is it a numeration of the sort proposed in MP, or is it some other object like a semantic or some prefabricated syntactic representation. If the latter, what is the origin of these representations?

- Generator. Although it is generally acknowledged that the generator has certain properties that affect the candidate set, studies in OT normally do not explicitly address this. Furthermore, these properties normally do not play a role in the explanations for the empirical data. Nevertheless, a fully elaborated theory should make clear what operations the generator consists of, and what effects these operations have on the output of the system. In principle, enrichment of the generator may reduce the candidate sets, which in its turn may void the need of certain constraints and would shift part of the explanatory power to the generator. Is there anything in OT that would block such a move? Is such a move desirable? May such a move contribute to making the theory explanatorily adequate?

- Evaluator. Focus in OT-syntax seems to be on descriptive adequacy, and since the constraints are crucial in obtaining that, it is not surprising that the set of proposed constraints is growing abundantly. In a sense OT-syntax resembles early TG-theory, where the focus was on formulating and discovering the properties of the newly introduced means of transformations. However, if we can learn something from the history of generative grammar, it is that we can only achieve explanatory adequacy if we place severe bounds of the admissible means of describing the data. It is therefore necessary to develop a constrained and principled theory of constraints: What is the general format that the constraints should adhere to, and what are the types of constraints we may expect to occur?

The Minimalist Program and Optimality Theory

- Should MP and OT-syntax be considered two competing theories? If so, what properties of the two systems make them intrinsically incompatible? What are the prospects of solving the problems concerning the descriptive/explanatory adequacies of the two systems?

- Should MP and OT-syntax be considered as frameworks that simply focus on different questions, so that they are actually complementing each other? If so, could they be profitably combined into an overarching theory?

- Should we incorporate aspects of OT into MP (e.g. could we reformulate the filters in INT and/or the interface conditions into a OT-format) or should we incorporate MP into OT (e.g. could some version of CHL be the OT-generator). How would combining aspects of MP and OT contribute to solving the descriptive/explanatory adequacies of the two systems?

Practical information

The workshop is organized by the Linguistics departments of the University of Tilburg (the Netherlands), the University of Potsdam (Germany) and the Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Typologie und Universalienforschung (ZAS) in Berlin (Germany).

The workshop will be held at the ZAS from Saturday December 17, 2005, until December 19, 2005. The first two days and the morning session of the third day will consist of 15 talks of fifty minutes each (including a 10 minutes discussion). Five of these talks will be given by the following keynote speakers:

1) Edwin Williams, Princeton University, New Jersey
2) David Pesetsky, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts
3) Géraldine Legendre, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
4) Jane Grimshaw, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
5) Chris Collins, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

The afternoon session of the third day will be devoted to a round table discussion of the five keynote speakers chaired by Henk van Riemsdijk. Abstracts are solicited for the remaining 10 slots. The 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
- Abstract should be received by September 15, 2005.
- Notices of acceptance will be sent out before October 15, 2005.