Date: Tuesday 2 April, 2013
Contact: Ida Larsson
Invited speaker: Marit Westergaard, University of Tromsø
Deadline for submission: November 15, 2012
Notification of acceptance: January 20, 2013
Submission of abstracts: Easychair
Since the introduction of the principles-and-parameters theory of universal grammar (Chomsky 1981), comparative studies of syntactic phenomena have been a constant domain of inquiry from both a synchronic and a diachronic point of view. A dominant hypothesis during the 80s and early 90s was that linguistic variation is due to varying settings of parameters that determine clusters of surface properties (see e.g. Rizzi 1982, Baker 1989, Holmberg & Platzack 1995 for synchronic studies and e.g. van Kemenade 1987, Falk 1993 and Roberts 1993 for diachrony). The hypothesis predicts there to be clusters of surface effects of these deep-lying parameters in the languages of the world.
However, few attempts to identify universally valid macroparameters have been completely successful, and in many cases, grammatical properties do not seem to be linked to each other in the way that was originally suggested; the linguistic reality is simply too complex to be governed by a limited set of macroparameters (see e.g. Newmeyer 2004, Roberts & Holmberg 2005 and Baker 2008 for discussion).
Over the last decades, the focus of interest has changed from macroparameters to microvariation, and considerable progress has been made in the microcomparative work on closely related languages (or dialects) (see e.g. Kayne 2000). Large projects such as ASit on Italian dialects, FRED on English dialects, SAND on Dutch dialects, and ScanDiaSyn on Scandinavian (to name but a few) have collected a large amount of new data that has enriched the theoretical discussion of a wide range of syntactic phenomena (including e.g. doubling, negative concord, noun phrase syntax and verb placement).
The questions of synchronic syntactic variation and parameters are obviously closely tied to questions of syntactic change. However, the diachronic origin of the observed microvariation has received rather little attention. Theoretically oriented research on syntactic change has focused on questions regarding the relationship between acquisition and change (e.g. Lightfoot & Westergaard 2007), as well as grammaticalization in terms of economy principles (e.g. van Gelderen 2004).
An old matter of dispute is the question of how the gradualness of change from a diachronic perspective is represented in the formal and intrinsically non-gradual grammatical system: in terms of competing grammars (Kroch 1989 etc.) or as variation within one single grammar (Koopman 1990, Lightfoot 1991 etc.). There have, however, been few explicit attempts to address the problem of the apparent gradience of on-going change within the microcomparative paradigm.
A better understanding of both synchronic and diachronic variation, and the relation between the two, is clearly a prerequisite for more general theoretical insights in the field of syntactic change. Earlier historical studies on syntactic change now need to be re-evaluated and framed in different terms, and the variation revealed in the synchronic dialect studies needs to be related to diachrony. The results from the dialect projects clearly raise the questions: how did the observed differences between closely related varieties emerge, and how can they be explained?
The workshop will provide a forum for discussing questions of syntactic variation and change. We hereby call for abstracts for papers that address the questions of how syntactic differences between varieties emerge, and how they can they be explained. Priority will be given to papers that address theoretical issues of linguistic change on the basis of microcomparative (historical as well as contemporary) data.
This workshop is organized with financial support from The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.
Baker, M. 1989. Incorporation: a Theory of Grammatical Function Changing. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Baker, M. 2008. The Macroparameter in a Microparametric World. In: T. Biberauer (ed.), The Limits of Syntactic Variation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pp. 351–374.
Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding, Dordrecht: Foris.
Falk, C. 1993. Non-Referential Subjects in the History of Swedish. Diss. Lund: Institutionen för nordiska språk.
Gelderen, E. van. 2004. Grammaticalization as Economy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Holmberg, A. & C. Platzack. 1995. The Role of Inflection in Scandinavian Syntax. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Koopman, W. 1990. Word Order in Old English with Special Reference to the Verb Phrase. Diss. Amsterdam.
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Lightfoot, D. 1991. How to Set Parameters: Arguments from Language Change. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Lightfoot, D. & M. Westergaard. 2007. Language Acquisition and Language Change: Inter- relationships. Language and Linguistics Compass 1:396–416.
Newmeyer, F. 2004. Against a parameter-setting approach to language variation. Linguistic Variation Yearbook 4:181–234.
Rizzi, L. 1982. Issues in Italian Syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.
Roberts, I. 1993. Verbs and Diachronic Syntax. A Comparative History of English and French. Dordrecht, Boston & London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Roberts, I. & A. Holmberg. 2005. On the role of parameters in Universal Grammar: a reply to Newmeyer. In: H. Broekhuis, N. Corver, R. Huybregts, U. Kleinhenz & Jan Koster (eds.), Organizing Grammar. Linguistic Studies in Honor of Henk van Riemsdijk. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.