LINGUIST List 25.4152

Mon Oct 20 2014

Calls: Syntax, Linguistic Theories, Historical Linguistics/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Anna White <>

Date: 20-Oct-2014
From: Theresa Biberauer <>
Subject: Parameters in Diachronic Syntax
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Full Title: Parameters in Diachronic Syntax

Date: 02-Sep-2015 - 05-Sep-2015
Location: Leiden, Netherlands
Contact Person: Theresa Biberauer
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Syntax

Call Deadline: 21-Nov-2014

Meeting Description:

Parameters in Diachronic Syntax

Organisers: Theresa Biberauer & Ian Roberts

The central idea in generative approaches to diachronic syntax is that change results from children’s reanalysis of their parents’ grammar, G1: as they have only indirect access to G1, via its output, their grammar, G2, may differ from G1, causing syntactic changes to emerge inter-generationally. The advent of the Principles and Parameters era in the late 1970s led to the specific expectation in the diachronic context that at least some syntactic changes might be parametric, entailing parameter resetting. From the outset, however, the challenges facing a parametric approach to syntactic change were apparent. In the current generative context, opinion is divided as to the feasibility of a “post-GB” parametric approach to the understanding of syntactic variation: on the one hand, the empirical failures of GB parameters and/or the conceptual reorientation of the Minimalist Program are taken to argue against pursuing further parametric work; on the other, there is the argument that GB parameters should be viewed as “first-pass” parameters, with empirical and theoretical advances since the late 1970s and, particularly, in the minimalist context, pointing towards the kinds of modifications that could lead to a genuinely explanatory theory of parametric variation. The purpose of this workshop is to consider whether or not parametric explanations should be pursued from the perspective of diachronic syntax.

Call for Papers:

Please send a titled abstract of no more than 300 words, along with your name and affiliation, to Theresa Biberauer ([email protected]).

We welcome contributions:

1. Evaluating the evidence for and against the value of parametric approaches in diachronic syntax

2. Considering diachronic syntax in the context of a “three factors” approach to language (Chomsky 2005)

3. Considering the role of learning theory in diachronic generative syntax

4. Revisiting one/more GB parameters and considering what we have learned about the ways in which the associated phenomena vary over time

5. Considering what diachronic studies can teach us about the nature of the links between superficially unrelated properties

6. Considering the relevance of parametric ideas in understanding change in areas that were not a primary focus in the GB era, e.g. argument structure, alignment, discourse-configurationality/information structure, word-structure, ellipsis, cyclic changes beyond Jespersen’s Cycle

7. Revisiting diachronic postulates that crucially rely on the existence of parameters of some kind, e.g. the Constant Rate Effect (Kroch 1989)

8. Considering whether parameters have anything to contribute to generative investigations of the factors determining stability/continuity versus change in (morpho)syntax (Breitbarth, Lucas, Watts & Willis 2010)

9. Seeking to exploit our more sophisticated understanding of the synchronic differences between very closely related varieties: Is it meaningful to talk of ‘microparametric change’ in this case?

10. Considering what the types of optionality evident in changing systems may reveal about the feasibility of a parametric approach to change. Is it always the case that optionality is only apparent, or are there cases where different structures are in free variation? What is the status of competing grammars (Kroch 1989) and combinatorial variation (Adger 2006) in diachronic explanation?

See for a more detailed Call.

Page Updated: 20-Oct-2014