LINGUIST List 30.1576

Wed Apr 10 2019

Calls: General Linguistics, Linguistic Theories, Morphology, Semantics, Syntax/United Kingdom

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

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Date: 03-Apr-2019
From: Coppe van Urk <>
Subject: The Alphabet of Universal Grammar
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Full Title: The Alphabet of Universal Grammar

Date: 04-Jul-2019 - 05-Jul-2019
Location: London, United Kingdom
Contact Person: Coppe van Urk
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Morphology; Semantics; Syntax

Call Deadline: 30-Apr-2019

Meeting Description:

British Academy conference “The Alphabet of Universal Grammar”

4–5 July 2019

Co-organizers: Daniel Harbour, Luisa Martí, Hazel Pearson and Coppe van Urk

Venue: the British Academy


Thirty years into the Cognitive Revolution, Muysken and Van Riemsdijk drew attention to a deficiency of research into Universal Grammar. Understanding of how complex structures are constructed and manipulated had advanced rapidly, but features, the alphabet in which syntax is ‘written’, remained poorly understood. This contrasted with phonology, where understanding of features and structures had progressed in tandem. It was, they urged, “high time ... to examine the theory of syntactic features”, as “even basic questions such as ‘how many [features] are there?’, ‘what are they?’, ‘how do they distribute...?’ [had been] hardly addressed”. Another thirty years later, syntactic features remain scantly researched. However, an upsurge in recent interest shows that the field is at a tipping point for a major redirection of enquiry. This conference aims to serve as a catalyst in setting a unified agenda for a rigorous theory of features across multiple branches of syntactic research.

The years after Muysken and Van Riemsdijk’s call to action saw a number of advances within generative and general linguistics. In the early 1990s, two major theoretical innovations, Chomsky’s Minimalism and Halle and Marantz’s Distributed Morphology, afforded features a new centrality. The same period saw a landmark study in feature-based typology (Noyer’s treatment of person and number) and, at the end of the same decade, work by Cinque on universal functional sequences triggered a major research programme of its own. Jointly, these began to disaggregate previously indistinct notions of heads versus the features that they host, which drive numerous syntactic processes. This century, progress has been further fuelled by rich typological studies, detailed studies of specific feature families, and further clarification of the concept of features across multiple frameworks. What is needed now is a synthesis of past results, pooling disparate pockets of progress, and developing a unified programme of research into this fundamental area of cognition.

Invited speakers:

Diogo Almeida
Ana Arregui
Mark Baker
Theresa Biberauer
Patricia Cabredo Hofherr
Greville Corbett
Jennifer Culbertson
Amy Rose Deal
Peter Klecha
Angelika Kratzer
Lisa Matthewson
Ora Matushansky
Yasutada Sudo
Peter Svenonius
Martina Wiltschko
Maria Luisa Zubizarreta

Call for Papers:

Call for Posters:

We invite abstracts for poster presentations for the British Academy conference ''The alphabet of Universal Grammar'' (details here: The posters will be displayed on stands and presenters will have the opportunity to answer questions and receive feedback from the audience. Poster sessions will take place during breaks from the main session and during dedicated poster sessions each day.

Abstract Guidelines:

No abstract may be longer than 2 pages (A4 or letter size) with 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins. Abstracts must be set single spaced in a 12 pt font. Figures and references may be set in a smaller font, but must be within the 2 page limit. Only pdf files will be accepted. The submission must not reveal the identity of the author(s) in any way. (Note that files uploaded to Easychair are renamed by the system, but a PDF file may contain hidden information about its author or creator.)

An author may submit a maximum of two abstracts, where only one submission may be single-authored.

We have a small number of conference fee waivers available so please let us know in your EasyChair submission if you need such support in order to attend the conference (e.g., if you are a student, or in part-time employment).

Please submit abstracts via EasyChair no later than April 30 2019, 23:59 at the following link:

Page Updated: 10-Apr-2019