Workshop Description

July 6-7, 2013
LSA Linguistic Institute
2306 Mason Hall
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This workshop, hosted by the 2013 LSA Linguistic Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, responds to a growing interest over the past two decades in reconciling the study of sociolinguistic variation with syntactic theory (e.g., Kroch 1994; Hudson 1995; Henry 2002; Cornips & Corrigan 2005). These fields of inquiry have been estranged virtually since their inception, with longstanding disputes mainly centered on fundamental methodological and theoretical issues (e.g., Chomsky 1965; Labov 1975). However, recent work  has demonstrated that variationist empirical methods are indeed well suited for investigating variable phenomena of relevance to syntactic theorizing, and furthermore that independently developing theories of syntax and its interfaces have become sufficiently articulated that plausible formal mechanisms of intra- and inter-individual variation can be proposed (e.g., Adger & Smith 2005; Adger 2006; Adger & Smith 2010; Nevins & Parrott 2010; Tortora and Den Dikken 2010).

The workshop has dual objectives. The first is to synthesize our current knowledge of syntactic variation, enumerating areas of consensus and identifying strategies for resolving recalcitrant disputes. One such matter is the question of whether syntactic variation should be analyzed as ‘multiple grammars’ (e.g., Kroch 1994, Yang 2002, Embick 2007), and if not, explicating the loci of variable mechanisms in the architecture of grammar. A second and more urgent objective of the workshop is to stimulate collaborative research beyond the conventional domains of either variationist sociolinguistics or theoretical syntax. For instance, the application of both refined syntactic theoretical concepts and modified variationist empirical methods (e.g., Adger 2010; Parrott 2012) to the study of second- or first-language acquisition (e.g., Miller and Schmitt 2010, 2012; Smith et al. 2007; 2009; Parrott 2009), multi-lingualism or -dialectalism, the emergence of new dialects or idiolects (Cheshire et al 2011), language/dialect attrition or death, heritage languages or dialects, language processing, etc.

To such ends, the workshop brings some of the most prominent researchers on syntactic variation from Europe and North America (David Adger, Leonie Cornips, Bill Haddican, Cristina Schmitt, Jennifer Smith, and Sali Tagliamonte) together with students and young researchers at an ideal venue for intense cross-disciplinary interaction and inquiry. In addition to the invited speakers, the workshop will feature 30-minute talks solicited by an open call for papers, along with panel commentary and plenty of time allotted for general discussion.

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