Workshop on the Emergence of Universals

Workshop on the Emergence of Universals

February 18-19, 2018

Ohio State University

Abstract deadline October 31, 2017

One of the central questions in linguistics concerns the nature of the commonalities that languages share, as well as the source of those commonalities.  The dominant paradigm in the study of universals has for a long time been based on the concept of a Universal Grammar: an innate cognitive module containing both substantive and formal prescriptions for the construction of all and any human language. In recent years, however, another strand of research has developed that entertains the idea that universals, or universal tendencies, may be traceable to mechanisms external to linguistic competence narrowly defined. Such mechanisms include the ways in which all languages are transferred and mis-transferred across generations and speakers; the way humans create and populate conceptual categories of all kinds; the constraints on sequential auditory processing, the speed of physical articulators, and the integration of multiple sources of sensory information; among others. These forces may act in the short term, shaping the structure of individual utterances, over longer periods of time in the accumulation of incremental changes to how languages are spoken, and/or in the evolution of human language from pre-linguistic communication.

This workshop invites submissions on the topic of language universals across all time scales and all domains of linguistics. Papers should specifically investigate the hypothesis that such universals may not be directly specified in human DNA, but might emerge multiple times across different languages due to the common forces that shape those languages.

Invited Speakers:

Juliette Blevins, CUNY Graduate Center

Morten Christiansen, Cornell University

Jeff Mielke, North Carolina State University

Rebecca Morley, The Ohio State University

Elliott Moreton, University of North Carolina