3rd CfP - Session on Lexical Bootstrapping - GCLA conference

bartsch at zas.gwz-berlin.de bartsch at zas.gwz-berlin.de
Mon May 29 12:16:10 UTC 2006

Dear all, 

Please find below the third and final call for papers for our theme session 
on lexical bootstrapping in early language and conceptual development. 

DEADLINE: May 31, 2006 

With best wishes,

Third and Final Call for Papers 


Theme session
To be held at the
Munich, 5-7 October 2006 


Apart from some few exceptions (Brown 1958, Nelson 1973), the research on 
child lexical development did not receive much attention from students of 
child language in the 1960s and 1970s. In opposition to some statements 
found in the more recent literature (Rothweiler & Meibauer 1999), this fact 
is not really surprising when one considers the very influential role then 
played by formal linguistics with its primacy of syntactic structures and 
the view of lexicon and semantics as something rather epiphenomenal. From 
the 1980s on, this state of affairs has changed dramatically. 

For one thing, over the last 25 years or so, there has been more and more 
interest in topics related to child lexical acquisition. Over these several 
years, the research has issued many relevant theoretical insights resp. 
assumptions, and methodologies about lexical development, such as the view 
of individual differences in early vocabulary composition in terms of a 
continuum between referential and expressive style (Nelson 1973) and the 
holophrastic nature of early words (Nelson 1985), the differentiation 
between expressive and receptive vocabulary, as well as the use of 
correlational methods (Bates et al. 1988), or the role of domain-general 
cognitive skills of categorisation and theory of mind (Tomasello 2003), 
amongst several others. 

Secondly and most importantly, this body of research (much of which has been 
done within functionalist-cognitivist frameworks) seems to allow for the 
formulation of general assumptions concerning child language development in 
general, as well as the interplay between language and conceptual 
development. Thus, especially studies focussing on within- and cross-domain 
developmental correlations seem to provide evidence for a Lexical 
Bootstrapping Hypothesis (Dale et al. 2000, Dionne et al. 2003), i.e., the 
assumption that early lexical development, as mapping of words to referents 
or their conceptualisations, and even to whole propositions, is not only 
prior to, but also pre-requisite for the emergence of morpho-syntactic 
constructions (which, incidentally, are not fundamentally different from 
words, in that they are equally form-meaning pairs). The lexical 
bootstrapping hypothesis presupposes an early stage in lexical development 
characterized by the learning of archilexemes, a term originally proposed by 
Zemb (1978), as grammarless lexemes composed of form and concept only, here 
understood as the means by which the child begins to cognize and categorize 
the world. Such assumption on the fundamental role of early lexical 
acquisition for later language development as a whole challenges the view 
about the primacy of syntax over lexicon and semantics that has been 
postulated in these 50 years of formal linguistics. 

For our special paper session, we would like to invite researchers 
interested in an exploratory discussion about lexical bootstrapping in child 
language and conceptual development, and willing to present their own 
studies as contributions to this discussion. 

Empirical, methodological and theoretical contributions dealing with aspects 
of word learning in the one-word phase (and perhaps also before) that might 
predict diverse aspects of later language and conceptual development of 
typically developing and impaired children may focus on one or more of the 
following questions and topics (evidently, other suggestions are equally 

 - How can measures of, and assumptions on, early lexical development 
(vocabulary size, vocabulary composition, vocabulary growth rate, vocabulary 
style, vocabulary spurt, critical mass, others?) be correlated to measures 
of later grammatical emergence and development (emergence and proportion of 
multi-word utterances, Mean Length of Utterance, development of inflectional 
paradigms and use of function words, realisation of argument constructions, 
others?) How reliable are such correlations? 

 - How can the study of early lexical development shed light on the issue of 
individual variance and developmental language disorders? Can aspects of 
early word learning (expressive vs. referential style, dissimilar timing of 
vocabulary development, peculiarities in vocabulary composition, 
peculiarities in the conceptual mapping, others?) provide criteria for a 
differentiation between mere individual variance and developmental disorder, 
as well as for a differentiation between transient and persistent disorders? 
Can such aspects be used in the context of early diagnosis of such 

 - Which cognitive processes underlie word learning as both word-to-concept 
mapping and categorization task? Are there constraints and principles at 
play? What is the nature of such constraints—are they domain (=language) 
specific or domain general? How are they related to later language and 
conceptual development? 

 - Does a notion of lexical bootstrapping in language acquisition preclude 
other bootstrapping mechanisms in the stages before the emergence of 
grammar, such as prosodic, semantic, syntactic bootstrapping, or can 
interplay amongst these types of bootstrapping mechanisms be assumed? 

 - Related to the last question, how does the child construct her mental 
lexicon? How is it structured—is this structure modular or network-like or 
anything else? Which processes of reorganisation are at work along 

 - Can early words (at least partially) be seen as holophrases in that they 
(at least partially) refer to whole propositions? Which developmental 
change(s) takes place in the transition from holophrastic one-word 
utterances to multi-word utterances? 

 - Which evidences can be drawn from studies of word learning in children 
with cognitive developmental disorders (Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, 
others?), as well as in blind and deaf children? 

 - Which insights can be drawn from research based on (i) corpora analyses; 
(ii) computer learning simulations; (iii) neural activation in experimental 
situations, such as categorisation tasks; (iv) lexical/conceptual processing 
in adults with and without language disorders (e.g. aphasia)? 

 - Which similarities, differences or peculiarities can be observed when 
comparing mono- and multilingual word learning, as well as comparing 
monolingual and cross-linguistic studies? 

Depending on the number of contributions, the special session will take 
place at one or two days of the conference. 

The theme session will be framed by a paper introducing the topic of lexical 
bootstrapping in child language and conceptual development and, again 
depending on the number of contributions, one or two discussion rounds. 


 - indicates EXPLICITLY how and to which extent YOUR STUDY IS RELATED TO THE 
HYPOTHESIS OF LEXICAL BOOTSTRAPPING in child language and conceptual 
development. Does your study support or refute the lexical bootstrapping 
hypothesis? If yes, how and to which extent? If not, why not? 

 - is detailed, i.e., it is about 1000 WORDS LONG, not including list of 
references, tables, diagrams, etc.; 

 - indicates explicitly and in detail the EMPIRICAL BASIS of your study; this 
holds also for theoretical works, i.e., theoretical work might rely, for 
instance, on empirical studies of other researchers, but please NOT SOLELY

 - contains a LIST OF THE REFERENCES mentioned. 

The deadline for abstract submission was extended to 31 May 2006. 
Participants will be notified of the acceptance of their papers by 1 July 
2006. Participants should send us an updated abstract of their papers by 21 
September 2006. 

Please send your abstracts exclusively as email attachments (doc- or 
rtf-files) to: 

Susanna Bartsch                 Dagmar Bittner
bartsch at zas.gwz-berlin.de       dabitt at zas.gwz-berlin.de 

The conference languages are German and English. 

The organizers are preparing a PROPOSAL FOR PUBLICATION of the presented 
papers in the series COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS RESEARCH (CLR) (Mouton de 
Gruyter) edited by Dirk Geeraerts, John Taylor, and René Dirven. 


Bates, E., Bretherton, I., & Snyder, L. 1988. From First Words to Grammar. 
Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 

Brown, R. 1958. Words and things. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. 

Dale, P. S., Dionne, G., Eley, T. C., & Plomin, R. 2000. Lexical and 
grammatical development: A behavioural genetic perspective. Journal of Child 
Language, 27/3, 619-642. 

Dionne, G., Dale, P. S., Boivin, M., & Plomin R. 2003. Genetic evidence for 
bidirectional effects of early lexical and grammatical development. Child 
Development, 74, 394-412. 

Hoey, M. 2005. Lexical Priming: A New Theory of Words and Language. London & 
New York: Routledge. 

Marchman, V. A. & Bates, E. 1994. Continuity in lexical and morphological 
development: A test of the critical mass. Journal of Child Language, 21/2, 

Nelson, K. 1973. Structure and strategy in learning to talk. Chicago: Univ. 

Nelson, K. 1985. Making sense: The acquisition of shared meaning. 
Developmental psychology series. Orlando: Academic Press. 

Pinker, S. 1984. Language Learnability and Language Development. Cambridge, 
Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. 

Rothweiler, M. & Meibauer, J. (eds.) 1999. Das Lexikon im Spracherwerb: Ein 
Überblick. In: Meibauer, J., & Rothweiler, M. (eds.). 1999. Das Lexikon im 
Spracherwerb. UTB für Wissenschaft;Mittlere Reihe, 2039. Tübingen: Francke. 

Rescorla, L., Mirak, J., & Singh, L. 2000. Vocabulary growth in late 
talkers: Lexical development from 2;0 to 3;0. Journal of Child Language, 27, 

Zemb, J. M. 1978. Vergleichende Grammatik Französisch Deutsch: Comparaison 
de deux systèmes. Mannheim et al.: Bibliographisches Institut. 

Tomasello, M. 2003. Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of 
language acquisition. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. 

Susanna Bartsch
Zentrum für allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Typologie und 
Universalienforschung (ZaS)
Centre for General Linguistics, Typology, and Universals Research
Jägerstr. 10-11
10117 Berlin

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