LINGUIST List 32.945

Mon Mar 15 2021

Calls: Gen Ling, Lang Acq, Psycholing, Syntax/Online

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 15-Mar-2021
From: Adina Camelia Bleotu <>
Subject: Recursion Across Languages: The Intricacies of Babel
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Full Title: Recursion Across Languages. The Intricacies of Babel. (Online Workshop)
Short Title: RecursionBabel

Date: 01-Jun-2021 - 02-Jul-2021
Location: Online, Bucharest, Romania
Contact Person: Adina Camelia Bleotu
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Psycholinguistics; Syntax

Call Deadline: 01-May-2021

Meeting Description:

The online workshop “Recursion Across Languages. The Intricacies of Babel.” will take place online: 1-2 June 2021

The online workshop aims at bringing into discussion recent theoretical and experimental research on recursive structures across languages.

Recursion has been a part of grammatical theory since Chomsky (1965), being considered a fundamental property of human language (Chomsky, Hauser & Fitch 2001). Two types of recursion have been distinguished in the literature (Snyder & Roeper 2011): Direct Recursion, which simply merges items together directly (in coordinative structures), and Indirect Recursion, which embeds items within each other through linking nodes (in recursive structures). Research in language acquisition has shown that children tend to go through a stage where they reduce indirectly recursive structures to directly recursive ones. This has been noticed for a variety of structures:

i. Compounds (Hiraga 2009): tea-pourer-maker= tea-pourer and maker
ii. Possessives (Gentile 2003, Limbach & Adone 2010, Roeper et al. 2012, Pérez-Leroux et al. 2012, Giblin et al. 2019, Li et al. 2020): Jane’s father’s bike= Jane’s and father’s bike
iii. Prepositional Phrases (Sevcenco, Roeper & Pearson 2017, Roberge, Pérez-Leroux & Frolova 2018, Pérez-Leroux et al. 2018, Sevcenco & Avram 2018): the parrot next to the hamster next to the bunny= the parrot next to the hamster and next to the bunny
iv. Adjectives (Bryant 1982, Matthei 1982, Bleotu & Roeper 2021, Grohe, Schulz & Yang 2021): second, green ball=second and green ball
v. Sentential and wh- complements (Hollebrandse et al. 2008, Hollebrandse & Roeper 2014): John thinks that Bill thinks that…=John thinks and Bill thinks that

Importantly, in spite of many similarities, these types of structures have been shown to differ in various respects among each other and also cross-linguistically, sometimes even in very significant ways. For instance, there are no recursive possessives in German, while there are in English (Saxon Genitive); there is no compound recursion in Romance, although there is in English; there are languages where prepositional phrase recursion is marked by specific cues (such as Romanian), making it easier to handle than in English, there are recursive serial verbs in Mauritian and Bantu but non-recursive verbal sequences in English (come play), a.o.
Many interesting questions arise. How does recursion emerge in acquisition? Does it emerge all at once? Do left-branching and right-branching constructions trigger each other? How big a role do intonation, overt morphology, and lexical forms play? Is lexical recursion different from syntactic recursion? (coffee-maker-maker versus the cat who is near the dog who is near the mouse)? Do the semantic relations of set/subset (adjectives), referential/generic (possessives), or infinitival/Tensed complements, and their connections to Theory of Mind play a role?

Keynote speaker: Tom Roeper (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Organizers: Adina Camelia Bleotu, University of Bucharest; Deborah Foucault Etheridge, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Committee: BAI Bing, Usha Lakshmanan, Emma Merritt, Tyler Poisson, Roehl Sybing

Call for Papers:

We are interested in papers that investigate these questions and others both from a theoretical and experimental standpoint (dealing with first and second language acquisition, language processing, recursion in individuals with language impairments, online and offline methodological issues, a.o.). We welcome papers studying languages all over the world (both spoken and sign languages), using a variety of techniques from naturalistic data to act-out experiments, truth-value judgement tasks, eye-tracking, production tasks, computer apps, story-telling, a.o. We also welcome papers that examine recursion from a pedagogical perspective.

We invite abstracts for 30-minute talks (with a 10-minute discussion included)/ 10-minute talks (with a 5-minute discussion included). You can apply for both or just one. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words in a font size no less than 12pt, with an additional page including examples, figures and references. Abstracts should be anonymous. Contact details (Author’s name and affiliation) and the title of the presentation, as well as the preference for the type of talk (long/short) should be included in the accompanying email.

Please send your abstract (PDF format) to

We intend to publish a selection of the papers in a volume on recursion.

Important Dates:
- Deadline for abstract submission: 1 May
- Notification of acceptance: 15 May
- Workshop: 1-2 June

Page Updated: 15-Mar-2021