[Lingtyp] CfP: Efficiency in grammar - Patterns and explanations (Freiburg July 5, 2023)

Laura Becker becker.linguistics at gmail.com
Fri Mar 24 16:25:58 UTC 2023



*Workshop "Efficiency in **grammar**: Patterns and explanations"*

* *July 5*, 2023, University of Freiburg, Germany

* meeting website: https://laurabecker.gitlab.io/workshop.html

* Confirmed invited speakers:

- Sonia Cristofaro, Sorbonne University Paris

- Ilja Serzant, University of Potsdam


* abstract submission deadline: *May 1*, 2023

* notification of acceptance: *May 8*, 2023

* workshop date: *July 5*, 2023


Efficiency has been shown to be of high importance in human 
communication in various ways, allowing to save efforts with maximal 
benefits of successful transfer of information in the production and 
processing of speech (cf. Fedzechkina 2014; Gibson et al. 2019; Levshina 

Already Zipf (1935) showed that more frequent or predictable expressions 
tend to be shorter than equivalent less frequent or predictable 
grammatical expressions. Such patterns are efficient as they allow us to 
save production and processing costs with frequent expressions while 
maintaining successful communication. Related to that, work from an 
information-theoretic perspective has shown robust crosslinguistic 
evidence for a preference towards uniform information density (e.g. 
Jaeger 2010). We also coding efficiency with grammatical expressions 
across languages. This was already noted by Greenberg (1966), who showed 
that the more frequent function (e.g. singular) tends to have no overt 
or shorter markers as opposed to the less frequent functions (e.g. 
plural). Similar associations between the frequency/predictability and 
the length of a grammatical marker were found in recent crosslinguistic, 
quantitative corpus studies (cf. Guzmán Naranjo & Becker 2021, Stave et 
al. 2021). Research in phonetics has also shown that frequency, 
predictability and informativity can impact the acoustic duration of 
lexical and grammatical elements (e.g. Barth 2019; Bell et al. 2009; 
Cohen Priva 2008; Jurafsky et al. 2001; Seyfarth 2014). Coding 
efficiency is also at play in reference tracking, where referents can be 
realized through longer (lexical) and shorter (pronominal or zero) 
forms, depending on their contextual predictability (c.f. Chafe 1976; 
Ariel 1990).

Efficiency has also been related to certain types of word order 
preferences across languages. Preferred word orders have been argued to 
involve lower production and processing costs compared to other word 
orders. It is well known that minimal syntactic domains or dependencies 
tend to be preferred over longer dependencies in the world's languages 
(e.g. Dryer 1992; Futrell et al. 2015; Gibson 1998; Hawkins 2014). This 
is efficient, as minimal structures to be held in the working memory 
require less resources than larger structures during language production 
and processing. Another way in which efficiency has been argued to 
account for word order relates to the accessibility of syntactic units. 
More specifically, there is a crosslinguistic preference for shorter or 
simpler elements to precede longer or heavier ones (cf. Behagel 1909/10; 
Hawkins 2014), which saves processing cost (cf. MacDonald 2013).

Yet, we are still far from understanding in when and how efficient 
probabilistic variation becomes a part of grammar and leads to 
typological preferences for efficient grammatical patterns. Related to 
that, the explanatory role of efficiency for crosslinguistic preferences 
is still very much under debate in typology. Some researchers view 
communicative efficiency as the driver of diachronic developments 
towards efficient patterns and take efficient coding as an attractor 
state (e.g. Haspelmath 2021; Kiparsky 2008; Seržant & Moroz 2022). 
Others have argued for efficient patterns to be the outcome of several, 
unrelated diachronic processes that do not involve efficiency as the 
driver of change (e.g. Becker 2022; Cristofaro 2019, 2021).

We invite the *submission of abstracts* concerned with – including but 
not limited to – the following issues:

*** evidence for different types of efficiency in grammar within and 
across languages (e.g. from psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics or 

*** evidence for grammatical phenomena where efficiency plays no role / 
only a minor role

*** other factors that efficiency interacts with

*** how and under which circumstances efficient grammatical structures 

*** efficiency as an explanatory factor for grammatical structure(s) 
within and across languages


Anonymized abstracts of max. *500* words (excluding examples, tables, 
references) should be submitted in PDF format. Please send the abstract 
to laura.becker at linguistik.uni-freiburg.de in PDF format by *May 1*, 2023.

*== FORMAT ==*

The workshop will take place at the University of Freiburg and is 
planned as a primarily in-person meeting. However, if necessary, we will 
offer a hybrid format to accommodate online presentations.


Laura Becker, University of Freiburg 
(laura.becker at linguistik.uni-freiburg.de)

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