DGfS 2014

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36th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society

March 5th-7th 2014

University of Marburg

"God particles" of language?
Theoretical and empirical approaches and the future of linguistic categories

For centuries, physicists have been attempting to uncover the building blocks of matter. Is a comparable search for elementary building blocks of language a similarly plausible enterprise for linguistics? At the beginning of the 21st century, we have more avenues of investigation to approach this question at our disposal than ever before: linguistic typology is delivering quantitative comparisons of thousands of languages; neuroscientific methods are uncovering the workings of the human brain during language production and comprehension; linguistic theories have delivered various model-theoretic perspectives on language architecture. Nevertheless, questions regarding possible "god particles of language": remain unanswered. To the contrary: there is a myriad of different theoretical approaches, ranging from the nativism of biolinguistics to a general skepticism with regard to (cross-linguistically) valid categories in certain typologically-based approaches. The theme of the DGfS-conference 2014 thus presents an opportunity for discussion as to whether such concepts remain feasible and, if so, what possible god particles of language might be. Should we view converging evidence from different methodological approaches as a criterium for such categories? Or should we learn to do without convergence and rather pay more attention to the diversity of phenomena, theories and approaches?

Last Update: March 17th 2014

DGfS LOEWE LingBas Philipps-Universität Marburg