CfP: Workshop on Scales (or Hierarchies)

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Thu Jan 17 11:15:24 UTC 2008

Date: 29-Mar-2008 - 30-Mar-2008
Location: Leipzig, Germany
Meeting Email: **scales at**
Web Site: <>
Call Deadline: 31-Jan-2008

Meeting Description:

The goal of this workshop is to address empirical and theoretical  
aspects of scales (or hierarchies), as they are relevant for grammatical  
phenomena like argument encoding and diatheses (see, e.g., Silverstein 1976, Comrie  
1981, Aissen 2003), by bringing together research from typology,  
grammatical theory, and psycholinguistics.

Organized by
Forschergruppe 742 (DFG):
Grammar and Processing of Verbal Arguments
University of Leipzig
MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology
MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences <>

Abstract Submission
Email to: *scales at*

Abstracts should be anonymous, no more than one page, in pdf format;
12pt, at least 2cm margins on all sides, for 30 minute talks (40  
minute slots).
Name, affiliation, and title of the abstract should be included in  
the body of the email.

Reimbursement: Speakers will be partially reimbursed.

Deadline for abstract submission: January 31, 2008 (Notification of  
acceptance: February 5, 2007)

The workshop will combine 10 presentations selected from the submitted
abstracts with contributions by members of Forschergruppe 742
(including Balthasar Bickel, Petr Biskup, Ina Bornkessel, Michael
Cysouw, Uwe Junghanns, Martin Haspelmath, Andrej Malchukov, Gereon
Müller, Jochen Trommer).

Workshop Description:

Since the discovery of scales (or hierarchies) for grammatical  
categories in the
70s, many cross-linguistic generalizations have been noted in the
functional-typological literature, especially in domains such as  
marking, argument encoding by case or agreement (Silverstein 1976,  
Dixon 1979),
and diatheses and direction marking (Comrie 1981, DeLancey 1981). The
formulation of scales as ''implicational hierarchies'' has enabled  
in this area to formulate some of the most robust generalizations on  
More recently, the concept of scales has received considerable  
attention in
grammatical theory as well. In particular, the work of Aissen (1999,
2003) has triggered a surge of research occupied with the question of  
how the
effects of scales are related to general principles of morpho- 
syntactic theory.
Also, recent work in psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic theorizing  
has argued
for cross-linguistic principles of language processing which employ  
the notion
of a scale. The idea is that scales may help to guide incremental  
interpretation by serving to shape the the interpretive relations  
than are
established between different arguments online (Bornkessel &  
Schlesewsky 2006).

In this workshop we would like to discuss empirical and theoretical  
aspects of
scales including (but not restricted to) the following.

(i) How well-established is the cross-linguistic evidence for  
scales? Recently, different potential counter-examples have been  
discussed (see
Filimonova 2005, Haude 2007). The question is especially pressing as the
availability of large databases (WALS, TDS) and recent comprehensive  
field work
studies promise a better understanding of the relevant empirical
generalizations. Also, is there evidence for new scales that have so  
far gone
unnoticed? And could it be that scales are organized in a meta- 
hierarchy with
respect to each other?

(ii) What is the status of scales in grammatical theory? Are they  
part of
grammar itself (Noyer 1992, Aissen 1999, 2003) or rather  
epiphenomena? If the
latter, are they epiphenomena of (a) functionality or frequency  
distributions in
language use (Bresnan, Dingare & Manning 2001, Newmeyer 2002, Hawkins  
Haspelmath 2008), or (b) derivable from other grammatical mechanisms  
such as
feature geometry or/and syntactic movement (Harley & Ritter 2002,  
Bejar 2003)?
What is the relation between feature hierarchies and the order of
functional projections in syntax (Cinque 1999, Starke 2001)?

(iii) Which role do scales play in the language processing  
architecture? Should
they be afforded an independent status or can they be viewed as  
epiphenomena of
other information types (e.g., frequency of occurrence)? Is there  
evidence for
the interaction of different scales during language processing and,  
if so, how
does this interaction take place?


Aissen, Judith (1999): Markedness and Subject Choice in Optimality
Theory, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 17, 673-711.

Aissen, Judith (2003): Differential Object Marking: Iconicity
vs. Economy, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 21, 435-483.

Bejar, S. (2003): Phi-Syntax: A Theory of Agreement. PhD thesis,
University of Toronto.

Bornkessel, I. & Schlesewsky, M. (2006): The extended argument
dependency model: A neurocognitive approach to sentence comprehension
across languages. Psychological Review 113, 787-821.

Bresnan, Joan, Shipra Dingare & Christopher Manning (2001): Soft
Constraints Mirror Hard Constraints: Voice and Person in English and
Lummi. In: Proceedings of the LFG 01 Conference, University of Hong

Cinque, Guglielmo (1999): Adverbs and Functional Heads, Oxford
University Press, Oxford.

Comrie, Bernard (1981): Language Universals and Linguistic
Typology. Blackwell, Oxford.

DeLancey, Scott (1981): An interpretation of split ergativity and
related patterns. Language 51, 626-657.

Dixon, R.M.W. (1979): Ergativity, Language 55:59-138.

Filimonova, Elena (2005): 'The noun phrase hierarchy and relational
marking: problems and counterevidence', Linguistic Typology 9, 77-113.

Harley, H. and Ritter, E. (2002): A feature-geometric analysis of
person and number. Language 78, 482-526.

Haspelmath, Martin (2008): Frequency vs. Iconicity in Explaining
Grammatical Asymmetries. To appear in: Cognitive Linguistics 19.1

Haude, Katharina (2007): A grammar of Movima, PhD thesis, Radboud
University, Nijmegen.

Hawkins, John A. (2004): Efficiency and Complexity in
Grammars. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

de Hoop, Helen & Lamers, Monique (2006): Incremental
distinguishability of subject and object. In: L. Kulikov, A. Malchukov
& P. de Swart (eds). Case, Valency and
Transitivity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Newmeyer, Frederick (2002): Optimality and Functionality: A Critique
of Functionally-Based Optimality Theoretic Syntax, Natural Language
and Linguistic Theory pp. 43-80.

Noyer, Rolf (1992): Features, Positions and Affixes in Autonomous
Morphological Structure. PhD thesis, MIT.

Silverstein, Michael (1976): Hierarchy of Features and Ergativity. In:
R. Dixon, ed., Grammatical Categories in Australian
Languages. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra,
pp. 112-171.

Starke, Michal (2001): Move Dissolves into Merge: a Theory of
Locality; PhD thesis, University of Geneva.

Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at
Max-Planck-Institut fuer evolutionaere Anthropologie, Deutscher Platz 6	
D-04103 Leipzig      
Tel. (MPI) +49-341-3550 307, (priv.) +49-341-980 1616

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