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The Tension between Language Description and Language Typology        


Workshop at the 28th annual meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS)


Bielefeld, 22-24 February 2006


Organized by

  • Walter Bisang (Universität Mainz)
  • Martin Haspelmath (Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie)


Typological insights about variation and invariance in linguistic structures depend on the systematic exploitation of descriptions of particular languages, many of which are now endangered. Language-particular grammars in turn take recourse to typologically-based abstractions. There is thus a mutual interaction between description and typology, which is, however, not without its problems. Typologists complain that descriptive grammars often fail to provide the information that happens to interest them, while grammar authors criticize typologists for ignoring language-internal generalizations. This tension is unfortunately approached too rarely in a constructive manner, but it is of crucial importance for progress in linguistics, since new insights can grow primarily at the interface of detailed language-particular analysis and broader theories. Despite the difficulties, both language description and language typology have made enormous progress over the last two decades by profiting from each other.
This workshop is intended both for descriptive linguists and for typologists. The organizers expect that the general issue will be considered in light of concrete (possibly even highly specific) phenomena. Talks on all levels of language structure are welcome (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics).


DGfS Conference

Note that  the workshop will be part of the DGfS conference . All participants must register for that conference.
To keep in sync with the rest of the conference programme, the time allotted for workshop presentations is 20 minutes plus 8 minutes for discussion.

Schedule (workshop talks in blue, plenary events in green)

  Mittwoch, 22.02.2006  
9.00- 9.45 Uhr Begrüßung
10.00-11.00 Uhr Plenarvortrag: Nikolaus Himmelmann
11.00-12.00 Uhr Plenarvortrag: Steven Bird
12:00-13:45 Uhr Mittagspause
13:45-14:15 Uhr Bakker, Dik (U Amsterdam) & Siewierska Anna (U Lancaster) What typologists always wanted from grammars, but never dared to ask
14:15-14:45 Uhr Bender, Emily M. (U Washington ) & Scott Drellishak (U Washington ) & Dan Flickinger (CSLI Stanford) & Jeff Good (MPI-EVA Leipzig) Typological coverage and descriptive precision in grammar engineering
14:45-15:15 Uhr Bisang, Walter (U Mainz)
Innovation by description – what description can see that typology and theory can’t
15:15-15:45 Uhr Boyd, Raymond (CNRS-LLACAN, Paris)
“Adjectives”: one descriptive linguist’s struggle with a “typological generalization”
15:45-16:15 Uhr Kaffeepause
16:15-16:45 Uhr Cristofaro, Sonia (U Pavia)
The organization of reference grammars: A typologist user’s point of view
16:45-17:15 Uhr (NOTE CHANGE!) Szakos, Josef (National Dong Hua University, Taiwan)
Enabling field-workers: How the expertise of typologists can help us to become real professionals of language documentation 
17:15-17:45 Uhr (NOTE CHANGE!) Vittrant, Alice (CNRS-Lacito, Paris)
How typology allows new analysis of verbal phrase in Burmese
17:45-18:15 Uhr Haspelmath, Martin (MPI-EVA Leipzig)
Preestablished categories don’t exist — consequences for language description and typology
  Donnerstag, 23.02.2006  
09:00-09:30 Uhr Haude, Katharina (RU Nijmegen)
Labelling grammatical relations: the case of Movima
09:30-10:00 Uhr Khanina, Olesya (Moscow State U)
Lexicon-grammar interaction in grammatical descriptions
10:00-10:30 Uhr Wälchli, Bernhard (MPI-EVA Leipzig)
Descriptive typology vs. the extracting-descriptions-of-particular-languages method: Continuous variables in the typology of motion events
10:30-11:00 Uhr Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria (U Stockholm) Lexical typology and language description
11:00-11:30 Uhr Kaffeepause
11:30-12:00 Uhr Stiebels, Barbara (ZAS Berlin)
On the typology of SOA-argument-taking predicates
12:00-12:30 Uhr Naghzguye Kohan, Mehrdad (Bu-Ali Sina U, Hamadan ) & Fanaei, Marjan (Islamic Azad U, Shahreza)
Phonological typology of Iranian dialects as evidence for the development of the New Persian vowel system
12:30-14:30 Uhr Pause / Postersession der Sektion CL
ab 14:30 Uhr DGfS Mitgliederversammlung
8.00- 9.00 Uhr Plenarvortrag: Stephen Levinson
9.00-10.00 Uhr Plenarvortrag: Nicoletta Calzolari
10.00-10.30 Uhr Kaffeepause
10.30-11.00 Uhr Wiemer, Björn (U Konstanz) & Paolo Acquaviva (University College Dublin)
The interplay of lexical semantics and grammatical categories in typology and language description
11.00-11.30 Uhr Montaut, Annie (INALCO Paris)
Describing a modal system regarding (the lack of?) evidential category: The example of Indo-Aryan languages
11.30-12:00 Uhr Moyse-Faurie, Claire (CNRS-Lacito, Paris)
A typological survey of Oceanic intensifiers and reflexive markers
12.00-12.30 Uhr Newmeyer, Frederick (U Washington)
Typological rarity and grammatical complexity: Is there a correlation?
12.30-13.30 Uhr
13.30-14.00 Uhr Pilot-Raichoor, Christiane (CNRS-Lacito, Paris)
A typological approach to the description of sentence types in a language: Badaga, a Dravidian language
14.00-14.30 Uhr Schaefer, Ron (Southern Illinois U ) & Francis Egbokhare (University of Ibadan) Lexical typology and the practice of descriptive linguistics
14.30-15.00 Uhr Seifart, Frank (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
Nominal classification in Miraña (North West Amazon): A challenge to
the typological distinction between classifiers and noun classes
15.00-15.30 Uhr
Skopeteas, Stavros (U Potsdam)
Comparative production data in grammatical description
15.30-16.00 Uhr (NOTE CHANGE!) (Donabedian, Anaïd (INALCO Paris)
Evidentiality: a challenge for both descriptive and typological linguistics)


Further information

Walter Bisang
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft
D-55099 Mainz
Tel./Fax: +49 6131 39-22778/39-23836
E-mail: wbisang at mail.uni-mainz.de

Martin Haspelmath
Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel./Fax: +49-341-3550 307/3550 333
E-mail: haspelmath at eva.mpg.de

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology - Department of Linguistics