Cfp: Variation and Typology: New trends in Syntactic Research (Helsinki, August 2011)

"Seppo Kittilä" sepkit at
Wed Nov 3 09:18:23 UTC 2010

(apologies for multiple postings)

Variation and Typology: New trends in Syntactic Research

Helsinki, August 25–27, 2011

In recent years, theoretical discussion around syntactic issues has been characterized by a growing interest towards variation, both dialectal and cross-linguistic. Typological considerations have proven to be essential even for research on individual languages. On the other hand, detailed studies of variation within languages (e.g. studies of dialectical variation) and variation across closely related languages have attracted more interest among typologists. One consequence of this has been that the focus in dialect research has shifted from phonological and morphological towards syntactic questions. Whether this will turn out to be a mere adjustment in attention or a major paradigm shift, a broadened perspective is welcome and also necessary. In order for new approaches to emerge, old ones need to be combined in novel ways.

This symposium offers a forum for scholars interested in syntactic questions within typology and variation (and combinations thereof) and willing to contribute to this collective shift of focus. The goal of the symposium is to approach the concept of variation from a broader perspective for gaining new insights into what variation (in its different forms) can reveal about language. Basically, variation can be seen both language-internal (e.g. dialects, sociolects etc.) and cross-linguistic (typological variation).There are numerous studies of both of these, but only quite recently has there been real effort to combine these two aspects of variation (e.g. Kortmann 2004, Nevalainen et al. 2006, Barbiers et al. 2008). Special attention will be given to the oft-neglected areas which fall between the foci of linguistic typology and variation studies within syntax when these are seen as separate fields of study. The question we would like to be addressed is briefly: what do we gai
n by studying variation both within and across languages. Put another way, what are the implications of variation studies and language typology to one another?

We heartily welcome papers related to the overall enterprise. Possible topics for talks include, but, as usual, are not restricted to, the following:

– dialect syntax vs. syntactic typology: what is the relation between cross-linguistic variation and dialectal variation?
– accounting for variation in syntactic theory: rigid rules, fuzzy templates, or something else?
– implications of language variation to typological data selection & research: what is the ‘best variant’ of a language to be presented in reference grammars? What are the consequences of relying on standard language data in cross-linguistic research? And what is the significance of having vs. not having variation data available to the grammarian? 
– how to take into account variation in typological research in syntax?
- case studies of variation within and across languages (e.g. clause combining, use of reflexive pronouns, possessive constructions, argument marking, word order variations, etc. etc. within  and across languages)
- methodological contributions to variation: to what extent do we need different machinery for dealing with different types of variation, and to what extent are we dealing with “just variation”? 
- variation and marginal constructions: do we need a distinction between core and periphery in grammar? Does this involve a distinction between common and dialectal variants? Are certain constructions marginal both in dialects and across languages?
- borderline between dialectal and typological variation: e.g. issues of dealing with closely related languages, distinguishing between dialects vs. languages, spontaneous vs. contact-induced variation, etc. 
- qualitative methods in typology and dialect studies

For more information please visit the webpage of the symposium at:

Invited speakers:

Balthasar Bickel (University of Leipzig)
Joan Bresnan (Stanford University)
Marja-Liisa Helasvuo (University of Turku)

Scientific committee

Sjef Barbiers (University of Amsterdam)
Hans Boas (University of Texas, Austin)
Hannele Forsberg (University of Eastern Finland)
Bernd Kortmann (University of Freiburg)
Ekkehard König (Freie Universität Berlin)
Michel Launey (University of Paris 7)
Silvia Luraghi (University of Pavia)
Jan-Ola Östman (University of Helsinki)
Cecilia Poletto (University of Padova)
Stéphane Robert (CNRS)
Anna Siewierska (University of Lancaster)
Jussi Ylikoski (University of Helsinki)

Organizing committee

Seppo Kittilä (University of Helsinki)
Aki Kyröläinen (University of Turku)
Meri Larjavaara (Åbo Akademi University)
Jaakko Leino (Research Institute for the Languages of Finland)
Alexandre Nikolaev (University of Eastern Finland)
Maria Vilkuna (Research Institute for the Languages of Finland)

Abstract submission

Please send your abstract to typ-variation /at/ no later than March 1, 2011. The length of abstracts should not exceed 500 words (excluding data and references). Abstracts will be evaluated by the members of the scientific committee and also by the organizing committee. Letters of acceptance will be sent by March 31, 2011. The abstracts themselves must be anonymous, but the body of the message should include the following information:

Name of the participant
Title of presentation
E-mail address
Whether the paper is meant as a section paper, a poster, or a workshop


The symposium will include a workshop on Finnish and Finnic dialect syntax. Proposals for all workshops should be submitted no later than February 11, 2011. Notification of acceptance will be given by March 7, 2011. These one-day workshops will run in parallel sessions with the main conference program. Alternatively, the first day of the symposium may be dedicated to workshops. The symposium organizers will provide the lecture rooms and other facilities, but the workshop organizers will be responsible for the organization of their workshops (choosing the speakers etc.).

Key dates:
– Deadline for abstract submission: March 1, 2011
– Notification of acceptance: March 31, 2011
– Proposals for workshops: February 11, 2011
– Notification of acceptance of workshops: March 7, 2011


– Presentations by the invited speakers
– Presentations by other participants
– Posters
– Workshops


Barbiers, Sjef & Olaf Koeneman & Marika Lekakou & Margreet van der Ham (eds.) 2008. Microvariation in syntactic doubling. Syntax and Semantics, volume 36. Bingley: Emerald.
Kortmann, Berndt (ed.) 2004. Dialectology meets typology: dialect grammar from a cross-linguistic perspective. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Nevalainen, Terttu & Juhani Klemola & Mikko Laitinen (eds.) 2006. Types of variation: diachronic, dialectical and typological interfaces. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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