Parameters and variation

The word ‘Parameter’ is used so frequently in linguistics and elsewhere that we often forget that if comes from mathematical sciences and is associated by non-linguists with Gauß and Poisson but not with Noam Chomsky’s followers or Joseph Greenberg. Anyway, parameters most linguists need, are more alike a Boolean ‘switch’ which can be set on ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ positions  than gradual scales. This inclination is sometimes masqued by more florid terms referring to FEATURE STRENGH, see for instance ‘Weak Agreement’ versus ‘Strong Agreement’ or even ‘Strong Second-position Clitics’ versus ‘Weak Second-position Clitics’. Is this linguistic ideal appropriate? Are mechanisms known as Head-Marking and Dependent-Marking, cf. Case and Agreement, really different settings of one and the same underlying value ‘.X…-marking’, or do they represent different values? Is a typology dividing world’s languages into a pro-drop class and non-pro-drop languages, where pro stands for a ‘zero pronominal thematic subject’ feasible?

My colleagues and me are organizing a conference on Morphosyntactic Parameters, which is scheduled for December 5, 2011 at the Moscow State University for the Humanities, MGGU

Center for modern linguistic research


Moscow State University for the Humanities

is organizing a conference

in theoretical and typological linguistics 


The conference will take place on December 5, 2011 at the Moscow State University for the Humanities (Sholokhov-University)

The opening is at 10.30 AM. [the conference room will be announced later].

 The conference is addressed the issues of

  • Word order typology and constraints on movement.
  • Clitic typology.
  • Argument structure.
  • Case, Agreement, Head Marking, Dependent Marking.
  • Syntax-Prosody interface.
  • Polypredicative structures.
  • Spell-out, ellipsis and zero categories.ß
  • The correlation of morphosyntactic parameters and language types.Format: 25 minutes for the presentation +10 minutes for the discussion
    Organizing committee: Anton Zimmerling, Peter Arkadiev 

The conference participants are leading Russian linguists representing research institutions and universities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg and specializing in the field of typological syntax and grammar theory.

Parametric approach to grammar is a rapidly growing branch in linguistic studies lying at the joint of Universal Grammar and linguistic typology. World’s languages can be described in terms of general parameters capable of taking different values. There exist ca. 7000 languages described to an uneven degree.  Linguistic typology deals with open classes of world’s languages sharing the same parametric combinations and aims at establishing types conforming to stable parametric combinations which predict the distribution of grammar features. Our conference is devoted to the interaction of morphological (Case, Agreement) and syntactic (sentence structure, constraints of wоrd order and external merger) аs well as to interlevel interfaces, specifically, to the syntax-prosody interface responsible for the correlation of the phonetic form and the syntactic output as well as for the segmentation of well-formed texts.

 The conference programme can be viewed here: CONFERENCE PROGRAM_23_Eng

2 Responses to “Parameters and variation”

  1. peter kosta Says:

    Dear Friend, dear Anton!

    I am very interested in language Variation and language Typology, although I strongly doubt the existence of Principles & Parameters as part of UG and as a simple exlanation of Variation. You can see it in our new theroretical approach on Radical Minimalsm. If you’d be interested in my contribution for a volume, you can already look at what I’m working on w.r.t. EC’s and other issues.
    But you can share also our dropbox….I shall invite you
    I am working now on a book togehther with Mike Putnam (PenState) and Diego Krivochen (it spells ch because the pre-ancestors of the father’s family may come from Russia(´).

    Best wishes and a good conference and a good recovering for your father!!!


  2. antonzimmerling Says:

    Dear Peter, great to hear from you, also on this blog. I am not sure I believe in the classical version of the P & P theory either but I believe in linguistic typology and hope that the idea of parametric variation may be productive if it is used with caution and incorporated into a fruitful framework.

    Thank you also for the good wishes. My Dad is already at home.

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