Learning Meets Acquisition

The learnability of linguistic frameworks
from formal and cognitive perspectives


A workshop ('Arbeitsgruppe') to be held at the 31st yearly meeting of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS) in Osnabrück, Germany (March 4-6, 2009).

German website and English website of the 31st DGfS meeting.



Call for papers for the DGfS 2009 in Osnabrück, Germany:

AG Learning Meets Acquisition:

The learnability of linguistic frameworks from formal and cognitive perspectives

The workshop brings together researchers working on the learnability of linguistic models from a formal point, with those working on the models' cognitive adequacy.

In general, studies on the learnability of language account for how grammar and lexicon of a language can be learnt, and by what means. To give an example, considerate progress has been made recently in connectionist-based frameworks such as Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993) and Harmonic Grammar (Legendre et al. 1990). Most learnability models within OT deal with the learning of the grammar: learning of constraint hierarchies, and learning of constraints themselves. In most of these approaches, lexical information is already given. Other OT approaches tackle the learning of parts of the lexicon. Differences between approaches include whether lexicon and grammar are learnt in turns (offline) or in parallel (online), or whether the OT grammar to be learnt is traditional or stochastic. Current approaches to learnability within HG include learning constraint weights, by using learning algorithms such as the perceptron algorithm. Yet, formal results have been only seldom tested against empirical data from language acquisition research.

The workshop will not only capture the State-of-the-Art in current approaches to learnability, but also point out future developments in this field, especially those pertaining to cognitive adequacy. Questions to be addressed in the workshop include:

  • What are appropriate computational models of the formalizations and why?
  • What is the cognitive and psycholinguistic plausibility of these models?
  • How does the research on formal models of learnability relate to (psycholinguistic) research on language acquisition? Is there a "missing link"?
  • How can the learnability of interfaces (e.g., syntax-phonology, semantics-phonology) be formalized?
  • How can learnability account for diachronic aspects of language?

We invite anybody working within any well-established contemporary linguistic framework (including phonology, syntax or semantics, let it be GB, the Minimalist Program, OT, LFG or HPSG among many others), and who tackles its learnability from a theoretical, formal or cognitive perspective. Especially invited are contributions that contrast the learnability of a framework with empirical data (from language acquisition, language change or psycholinguistic experiments).

Abstract submission guidelines:

  • Abstracts should be submitted for 30-minute slots (including discussion).
  • 1 page (TimesNewRoman, 12pt, single-spaced, A4 margins), including references and figures etc.
  • Pdf format preferably.
  • Abstracts should contain the title of the talk, but not the authors.
  • Abstracts should be submitted via e-mail as attachment. The names and affiliations of the authors along with the title of the abstract should be included in the body of the e-mail.

Send abstracts to lma dot dgfs at gmail dot com, with "abstract submission" somewhere in the subject line.

Abstract submission deadline (extended): August 31, 2008.
Notification of acceptance: September 15, 2008.
Conference dates: March 4-6, 2009.