LINGUIST List 30.4477

Tue Nov 26 2019

Calls: Gen Ling, Ling Theories, Morphology, Semantics, Syntax/Germany

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 19-Nov-2019
From: Doreen Georgi <>
Subject: Structural Asymmetries in African Languages
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Full Title: Structural Asymmetries in African Languages
Short Title: SAIAL

Date: 27-Apr-2020 - 28-Apr-2020
Location: Potsdam, Germany
Contact Person: Doreen Georgi
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >
Web Site:

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

Call Deadline: 31-Dec-2019

Meeting Description:

The study of asymmetries in grammatical systems has played a central role in grammar-theoretical approaches to human language. For instance, extraction-asymmetries between subjects and non-subjects have played an important role in the development of generative models of grammar from the early beginnings in Chomsky (1965). The same holds, for instance, for reorderings to the left or to the right, or for the question of whether external arguments (subjects) stand in a fundamentally different structural, and hence semantic relation to the verbal predicate than internal arguments (objects). Often, theoretical approaches differ precisely in whether or not they assume such asymmetries in human language. For instance, the framework of Categorial Grammar allows for the local composition of subjects and verbs, whereas many other syntactic frameworks assume strict configurationality in the VP, and hence do not.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers from different frameworks working on the structural aspects of grammar in African languages, and in particular on structural asymmetries. Apart from contributing novel data to the discussion, we are particularly interested in the consequences of the empirical observations for our understanding of the grammar of human language: Do the data support or falsify existing theoretical approaches to structural asymmetries? Do the data make the existence of asymmetries in the grammatical architecture of languages mandatory, or do they allow for less restricted approaches? Do they allow us to refine less well understood aspects of previous approaches? What can we learn about the cause of the observed asymmetries? What do the findings tell us about the overall architecture of grammar and the interfaces between (morpho)syntax, phonology/phonetics and semantics/pragmatics?
We are thus especially interested in papers that present new empirical data, also from understudied languages, and which discuss their implications for formal theories of structural aspects of the grammar of human language.

Phenomena of interest include (but are not limited to) the following:

- extraction asymmetries (subjects vs. non-subjects, arguments vs. adjuncts, referential vs. non-referential elements) e.g. concerning the distribution of resumptive pronouns vs. gaps, cross-referencing of arguments (case, agreement), that-trace effects, ...

- reordering asymmetries (left- vs (no) right-disclocation, subject inversion, ...)

- asymmetries between matrix and embedded questions (e.g. the lack of embedded questions with relative clauses being used instead; choice of operator elements, differences in tense-aspect-mood, ...)

- asymmetries in clausal complementation (infinitival vs finite; differences in tense-aspect-mood; selection asymmetries (Y/N-questions, wh-questions, declaratives, DPs) with different embedding predicates, ...)

- structurally different types of serial verb constructions / clefts / copula clauses / ...

- asymmetries in focus marking (position: in situ / ex situ focus & wh, category-based: predicate focus vs argument focus)

- asymmetries between the vP- and TP-periphery

- asymmetries between DPs (D-elements in the extended nominal projection) and clausal determiners (D-elements attached to clauses)

- asymmetries in tense-aspect-mood marking (e.g. structural realization of future vs non-future; tense vs. aspect-marking)

Invited speakers:
Jenneke van der Wal (LUCL, Leiden) & Enoch Oladé Aboh (UvA, Amsterdam)

Doreen Georgi (University of Potsdam), Katharina Hartmann (Goethe University Frankfurt), Malte Zimmermann (University of Potsdam)

Call for Papers:

We invite abstracts for 35-minute presentations (25 minutes talk + 10 minutes for discussion) for a two-day workshop on Structural asymmetries in African languages (SAIAL). Abstracts must be anonymous and must not exceed two pages including text, examples, tables, figures and references. The pages should have 1inch/2.54cm margins with a minimum font size of 11pt (Times New Roman). Examples and tables must be interspersed with the text. Submissions are limited to maximally two abstracts per author, of which only one abstract can be single-authored. Abstracts should be submitted via EasyChair. Please follow this link:

Abstract submission deadline: December 31, 2019
Notification of acceptance: January 31, 2020

We particularly welcome contributions from native-speaker linguists, based at universities within or outside Africa! We seek to provide a few travel grants for presenters from Africa whose institutions cannot fully fund the expenses (the amount depends on the number of eligible candidates and the funds available at that time). We are also aiming at an appropriate proportion of female researchers in the program.

Page Updated: 26-Nov-2019