[EDLING:1637] CFP: The Role of Variation in Language Evolution

Tamara Warhol warholt at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 30 13:54:36 UTC 2006

Full Title: The Role of Variation in Language Evolution 
Short Title: Evolution workshop, DGfS 

Date: 28-Feb-2007 - 02-Mar-2007 
Location: Siegen, Germany 
Contact Person: Gerhard Jaeger
Meeting Email: < click here to access email > 
Web Site: http://wwwhomes.uni-bielefeld.de/gjaeger/dgfs2007/cfp.html 

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Call Deadline: 06-Aug-2006 

Meeting Description:

The workshop topic is the role of linguistic variation for the cultural 
evolution of language. It will bring together researchers from various areas 
(historical linguistics, creolistics, computational linguistics, ...) that are 
interested in the application of evolutionary concepts to natural language. 

The workshop is part of the annual meeting of the DGfS (German Linguistic 


Workshop at the 29th annual meeting of the German Association for Linguistics 

Siegen, 28 February - 2 March, 2007 

Organized by Regine Eckardt (Göttingen) & Gerhard Jäger (Bielefeld) 


It is a basic assumption of functional linguistics that the language system is 
the result of adaptation to the pressure of language usage. This has 
succinctly been expressed by Du Bois' (1987) dictum ''Languages code best what 
speakers do most.'' Formal linguists have largely remained skeptical towards 
the functional approach because of its teleological flavor. Prima facie, there 
is no causal mechanism linking the cognitively founded properties of the 
language system to the properties of language use. 

This predicament is reminiscent to the issue of adaptation in biology, and it 
is well-known that evolutionary theory offers a non-teleological, causal 
explanation there. In the past ten years or so, various authors (Nowak, 
Hurford, Kirby, Croft, Haspelmath inter alia) have proposed to apply 
evolutionary concepts to language. Under this conception, variation is 
essential to establish the link between language usage and language system. 
Among extant theories of (cultural) language evolution, there is disagreement 
though about the precise nature of this link. Some authors (like Haspelmath) 
propose a quasi-Lamarckian view of language evolution. This means that 
variation itself is adaptive. There are also arguments for a quasi-Darwinian 
view whereas variation itself is non-adaptive (i.e. random, as far as the 
language system is concerned). Adaptation of the system to usage is achieved 
via a process of selection, because some linguistic variants are more apt to 
be acquired by infants and to be imitated by adults than others (cf. for 
instance Kirby 1999). 


The workshop will explore the precise role of linguistic variation in language 
evolution. We invite submissions to the following (and related) topics: 

- Empirical studies of language variation that are relevant for language 
evolution. This includes experimental psycholinguistic studies as well as 
corpus investigations 
- Computer simulations of language evolution 
- Formal and computational models of the micro-dynamics of language evolution, 
like stochastic, exemplar based or memory based approaches 
- Studies of grammaticalization phenomena (and language change phenomena in 
general) that relate diachronic change to synchronic variation 
- The role of variation in creolization 
- Mathematical models of language evolution 

Call for papers 

Submissions are invited for 60-minutes presentations (45 minutes + 15 minutes 
discussion). Send your two-page abstract to Gerhard Jäger at the address 
below, either by email (in plain text or in PDF format) or as hard copy, to 
arrive no later than August 6, 2006. Notification of acceptance is by 
September 15, 2006 

Important dates 

May 25, 2006: first call for papers 

June 15, 2006: second call for papers 

August 6, 2006: deadline for submission 

September 15, 2006: notification of acceptance 

December 3, 2006: deadline for abstract to appear in the proceedings (half a 

Februar 28 - March 2, 2007: Workshop 


Gerhard Jäger 
University of Bielefeld 
Faculty of Linguistics and Literature 
PF 10 01 31 
33501 Bielefeld, Germany 

Regine Eckardt 
University of Göttingen 
Department of English / Linguistics 
Käte-Hamburger-Weg 3 
37073 Göttingen, Germany 

Tamara Warhol
PhD Student
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 
warholt at dolphin.upenn.edu

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