Recursion conference - FINAL CALL FOR PAPERS

Daniel L.Everett dlevere at
Fri Nov 3 17:03:26 UTC 2006

Full Title: Recursion in Human Languages
Short Title: RecHuL

Date: 27-Apr-2007 - 29-Apr-2007
Location: Normal, Illinois, USA
Contact Person: Daniel Everett (dlevere at

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

Call Deadline: 20-Nov-2006

Meeting Description:

Recursion on Human Languages will feature presentations that address  
the typology, psychology, formalization, and grammatical  
manifestations of recursion in human languages.

Recursion in Human Languages

In an important paper, Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch (2002) state the  
following about the narrow faculty of language (FLN): ''We  
hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely  
human component of the faculty of language. We further argue that FLN  
may have evolved for reasons other than language, hence comparative  
studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the  
domain of communication (for example, number, navigation, and social  

As interesting as this claim might be, it is difficult to evaluate it  
for various reasons. For example, there is first the fact that  
recursion has a long and yet often unclear history in the development  
of formal linguistics (Tomalin (2006)). How is recursion defined?  
Second, the question arises as to where recursion must manifest  
itself in FLN. In the morphology? In the phonology? In the syntax? In  
the semantics? In all components of the grammar? Third, there is the  
empirical issue as to whether the claim above is in fact true. Is  
recursion found in all languages? Is it distributed throughout  
grammars in the same way in all languages?

As a start towards addressing these and other fundamental questions  
about the nature of recursion in human languages, the Department of  
Linguistics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology  
and Illinois State University are sponsoring a conference from April  
27-29, 2007, at the campus of Illinois State University in Normal,  
Illinois. Invited speakers for this conference are (topics are  
listed, rather than actual titles of presentations):

-Prof. Aravind Joshi (University of Pennsylvania) - ' Uniform and non- 
uniform recursion
-Prof. Edward Gibson (MIT) - 'The psychology of recursion'
-Prof. Marianne Mithun (UCSB) - 'The typology of recursion'
-Prof. D. Robert Ladd (Edinburgh) - What would 'recursion' mean in  
-Prof. Daniel L. Everett (ISU) - 'Cultural constraints on recursion'
-Prof. Alec Marantz (MIT) - 'Recursion in morphology'
-(tentative) Prof. W. Tecumseh Fitch (St. Andrews) - 'The evolution  
of recursion'

In addition to these invited talks, we would like to invite abstracts  
for up to sixteen additional talks on recursion. Abstracts may be up  
to 500 words in length and may address any aspect of recursion, e.g.  
its history, its formal nature, unusual distributions or  
manifestations of recursion in specific languages, etc. Abstracts  
must be received by November 20, 2006. Authors will be notified on  
abstract decisions by December 20, 2006. A webpage for this  
conference will be announced soon.

Please send abstracts and any questions regarding this conference to:

Daniel L. Everett, Professor of Linguistics & Anthropology and Chair,
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Campus Box 4300
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois 61790-4300
OFFICE: 309-438-3604
FAX: 309-438-8038

β€œThe notion that the essence of what it means to be human is most  
clearly revealed in those features of human culture that are  
universal rather than in those that are distinctive to this people or  
that is a prejudice that we are not obliged to share... It may be in  
the cultural particularities of people β€” in their oddities β€” that  
some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be  
generically human are to be found.” Clifford Geertz (1926-2006)

More information about the Funknet mailing list