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Balthasar Bickel, Tuesday, May 20

Rethinking Universals of Language

Balthasar Bickel
University of Zurich


Recent research has identified increasing problems in the traditional quest for universals of human language: the traditional quest suffers, in the Greenbergian tradition, from sampling problems and unclear causal modelling and, in the Chomskyan tradition, from dwindling support from learnability theory and evolutionary evidence. I will suggest that we move beyond this traditional quest and instead approach the evolution and distribution of linguistic structures from a predictive perspective, starting with the social/historical and biological/cognitive conditions within which languages operate and evolve over time. I will illustrate this with a case study on how population history and processing preferences jointly predict the way grammatical relation structures have developed across the globe.

Where and when:
15:45-17:00 May 20, 2014
MPI, room 163

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