• Workshop Feb 8-9, 2016: Linguistic Variation in the Interaction between Internal and External Syntax 

We are very happy to announce our workshop on Linguistic Variation in the Interaction between Internal and External Syntax, which will be hosted at Utrecht University, February 8-9, 2016.

Call for papers:

Organizing institute: NWO-project, The uniformity of linguistic variation, Utrecht University, UiL-OTS, The Netherlands.
Organizers: Heidi Klockmann, Franca Wesseling and Marjo van Koppen
Place of the workshop: Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Date: February 8th and 9th, 2016

Goal of the workshop
The aim of this workshop is to look at linguistic variation from the perspective of the interaction between the internal and external syntax of XPs. In particular, how are syntactic mechanisms (e.g. case assignment, agree, EPP movement, etc.) and the distribution of linguistic items in the syntactic tree influenced by the internal structure of such lexical/grammatical items? And, what type of variation do we find in this domain?

A lot of linguistic research in the past years has focused on the internal structure of functional and lexical items. Distributed Morphology (Halle & Marantz 1993) started a movement in which it was assumed that syntax does not operate on opaque lexical items, but rather on feature bundles. Since then, research has been focused on questions concerning the exact featural make-up of a functional or lexical item, for instance in the work by Borer (2005). This attention to the internal structure of items also plays an important role in the Nano-Syntactic framework (Starke 2011), where a driving goal is to identify the pieces of structure involved in syncretisms within languages and variation in these syncretisms between languages. What we would like to explore in this workshop is how these very precise assumptions about the internal syntax of functional and lexical items affects the syntax of the external environment, including the distribution of such items. So, for instance, one can ask how the internal make-up of pronouns, numerals or compounds interacts with case and agreement, or how the internal structure of verbs interacts with their positioning in the syntactic tree. To what degree is the distribution or syntactic behavior of some element derivable from its internal syntax?

We want to combine this approach with a variation perspective, since the featural make-up of elements has also played an important role in the variation debate. For instance, Kayne (2005) argues that variation should be reduced to already variant properties of human language, namely the featural structure of (functional) items. Cinque (1999) shows that there is a universal hierarchy of adverbs. He argues that the language system has a universal ordering of functional projections hosting these adverbs. Languages may differ, however, in whether they employ all these projections or not and whether or not there is movement of elements through these projections. As also shown by Gianollo et al. (2008), these points of variation can be attributed to the feature specification of functional elements. For instance, whether or not there is movement to a certain functional head is related to the presence of an EPP-feature on it.

It is clear that the question on the interaction between internal and external syntax raised above is highly relevant for furthering our understanding of variation. If, as Kayne, Cinque, and others suggest, the locus of variation is contained in the featural specifications of elements (and not in operations like Merge, Move, Agree), then we expect that variation in the internal structure or featural make-up should have predictable and identifiable effects in the external syntax, both with regards to the output of syntactic processes and the possible distributions of such XPs. Studying the interaction effects provides us with a window into the range of options of, as well as the limitations on, variation in this domain.

We invite papers on questions relating to the interaction between the internal and external syntax, in particular focusing on the cross-linguistic/cross-dialectal and diachronic variation in this domain.

Halle, M. & A. Marantz (1993). ‘Distributed Morphology and the Pieces of Inflection’. In: The View from Building 20, eds. K. Hale & S.J. Keyser. Cambridge: MIT Press, 111-176.

Kayne, R. (2005). ‘Some notes on comparative syntax with special reference to English and French’. In: G. Cinque & R. Kayne, The Oxford handbook of comparative syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3-69.

Borer, H. (2005). In Name Only. Structuring Sense. Volume I, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gianollo, C.,  C. Guardiano, & G. Longobardi (2008). ‘Three fundamental issues in parametric linguistics’. In: The limits of syntactic variation, ed. T. Biberauer. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 109-142.

Cinque, G. (1999). Adverbs and functional heads: A cross-linguistic perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Starke, M. (2011). Towards elegant parameters: Language variation reduces to the size of lexically stored trees. lingbuzz/001183.

Invited speakers
Roberta D’Alessandro (Leiden University, Netherlands)
Michelle Sheehan (Anglia Ruskin University, UK)
Martina Wiltschko (University of British Columbia, Canada)

Abstract submission
Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author. Abstracts should be anonymous, no more than 2 pages long, with 12-point font and 1-inch margins, and should be submitted electronically in PDF. The subject line of the e-mail message should read “abstract” and the body of the message should contain the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Name(s) of the author(s)
  • Affiliation(s)
  • E-mail address(es)

Submissions should be sent to:

Deadline for submission: November 23rd, 2015
Notification of acceptance: December 7th, 2015

More information
For more information you can also make use of this e-mail address. Furthermore, you can look at the workshop website:


  • Lectures by Thomas McFadden

Handouts of the lectures can be found here

We are happy to announce that Thomas McFadden (ZAS, Berlin) will come to Utrecht to give three seminars on (Historical) Corpus Linguistics and How to Combine Corpus Research with Theoretical Syntactic Research. In addition he will give a lecture within the Utrecht UiL OTS Syntax-Interface Meetings series (topic t.b.a.). Everyone is more than welcome to attend!

Monday April 28 10:00-13:00 SEMINAR on Historical Corpus Research
Location: UU Drift 21, 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Monday April 28 15:30 Syntax Interface Lecture, Location: t.b.a.

Tuesday April 29 13:00-16:00 SEMINAR on Historical Corpus
Research, UU  Drift 21, 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Wednesday April 30 13:00-16:00 SEMINAR on Historical Corpus
Research, UU  Drift 21, 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

  • Workshop on the uniformity of Micro and Macro variation

On Thursday October 24th there will be a workshop on “The Universality of Linguistic Micro and Macro Variation” at Leiden university, Lipsius room 148, from 1400-1730.

The workshop will be part of a bigger KNAW-conference “Diversity and universals in language, culture, and cognition”, October 24-26, which aims to investigate the tension between universal aspects of human cognition, language and culture on the one hand and language or culture specific properties on the other.

The speakers at this workshop are:

Mark Baker (Rutgers University): Ergative and Accusative; Syntactic and Morphological; Formal and Functional; Micro- and Macro-
Sjef Barbiers (Meertens Institute): Where is syntactic variation?
Norbert Corver & Marjo van Koppen (Utrecht University): The architecture of variation
Jack Hoeksema (Groningen University): Variation without parameters, micro, macro or otherwise
Marc van Oostendorp (Meertens Institute): What is variable? The view from phonology