LINGUIST List 32.264

Wed Jan 20 2021

Confs: Gen Ling, Hist Ling, Ling Theories, Text/Corpus Ling/Germany and Online

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 20-Jan-2021
From: Kristin Kopf <>
Subject: Free Variation = Unexplained Variation? Empirical and Theoretical Approaches to Optionality in Grammar (DGfS 2021)
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Free Variation = Unexplained Variation? Empirical and Theoretical Approaches to Optionality in Grammar (DGfS 2021)

Date: 24-Feb-2021 - 26-Feb-2021
Location: Freiburg i. Breisgau, Baden-Wuerttemberg/Online, Germany
Contact: Thilo Weber
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Text/Corpus Linguistics

Meeting Description:

The 43rd annual meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft) will be held at the University of Freiburg (Germany) from 24-26 February, 2021. The overarching topic is ''Modelling and Evidence''. This workshop will be one of 15 thematic sections.

Recent years have seen an increasing interest in grammatical (in particular: syntactic) variation (e. g. Dufter et al. 2009), e. g. genitive variation in English, copula variation in Spanish, linking elements (Fugenelemente) in German compounds. Statistical models are employed to predict speakers' choices as accurately as possible (e. g. Bresnan & Ford 2010). However, there always remains a portion of unexplained data, often thought to be ''free'' variation (Cappelle 2009). But what exactly is it that we are left with if we strip away all possible extralinguistic and intralinguistic factors? Is it random noise or something systematic? How do we tackle it methodologically? And what are its implications for our respective grammatical theories (e. g. how do we model form-function relations)?

The questions we want to address include, but are not limited to, the following:
- (How) Can we benefit methodologically and theoretically from assuming free variation?
- How can we study free variation? How similarly do variants have to be distributed to be considered in “free” variation
- What are the implications for our models of grammar?
- How does free variation come into existence? Can it be diachronically stable or do free variants tend to become functionalized in the long run?
- Are there different types (and if so: what types) of free variation? Are there general differences across e. g. phonology, morphology and syntax?
- What role is played by frequency and gradience? Do free variants necessarily need to occur at equal frequencies and/or be equally acceptable?

The talks are looking at the topic from different theoretical perspectives and areas of linguistics (most prominently phonology, morphology, and syntax), analyzing data from a number of languages and dialects such as Aanaar Saami, Catalan, Cochabamba Quechua, English, German, French, Luxembourgish, Norwegian, Pomerano, Yucatec Maya and others.

Program Information:

Full programme of the workshop including abstracts:

Workshop organizers: Kristin Kopf & Thilo Weber (IDS Mannheim)

Invited speaker: Freek Van de Velde (KU Leuven): Didymophilia in language

Registration: (early-bird fee: 15 Euro, until Feb. 1st, registration is for the whole conference)

Bresnan, Joan & Marylin Ford. 2010. Predicting Syntax: Processing Dative Constructions in American and Australian Varieties of English. Language 86 (1), 168-213.
Cappelle, Bert. 2009. Can we factor out free choice? In: Dufter et al. (eds), 183-201.
Dufter, Andreas, Jürg Fleischer & Guido Seiler (eds.). 2009. Describing and modeling variation in grammar. Berlin, New York: de Gruyter.

Page Updated: 20-Jan-2021