Sie sind hier: FRIAS School of Language & … Veranstaltungen Workshop: "Complexity and …

Workshop: "Complexity and isolation"

Wann 08.12.2011 um 09:15 bis
09.12.2011 um 17:30
Wo FRIAS, Albertstraße 19 (Seminar room, ground floor)
Teilnehmer universitätsoffen
Termin übernehmen vCal

Organization: Guido Seiler


The complexity of language structure has become a center of interest in recent typological and socio­linguistic research (Miestamo 2008), Sampson 2009): Is greater complexity in one linguistic subsystem (e.g. morphology) always compensated by a lower degree of complexity in another sub­system (e.g. syntax)? Is the total amount of complexity constant crosslinguistically? What do differ­ent degrees of complexity mean for language production and processing? And, most importantly, how is complexity to be measured after all?

Work on sociolinguistic typology suggests that languages/varieties spoken by small, isolated com­munities tend to show a considerably higher degree of structural complexity than languages spoken by larger communities with more language and dialect contact (Nichols 1992, Trudgill 2004). How can this hypothesis be tested, and what are possible explanations for the sug­gested correlation between complexity and isolation? From a diachronic point of view, is it possible to trace back different degrees of complexity in genetically related languages/varieties to general mechanisms of complexification and simplification?

The Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies (FRIAS) invites for a workshop on the topic of interrelationships between structural complexity and the possible effects of isolation of the community that speaks the language. There will be a certain focus on microvariation and languages/varieties of the Alps, though presentations on more general issues or case studies from other parts of the world are, of course, very welcome as well. In particular, we would like to discuss

1) conceptual and methodological issues: How is complexity to measured (i) in different sub­systems of the grammar (phonology, morphology, syntax), (ii) in (parts of) the lexicon (e.g. deictic expressions), (iii) in a language as a whole (overall complexity)? Which assumptions about a theory of grammar can/should underlie a complexity metric (e.g., as for morphology, underspecification)? How can complexity differences be diagnosed in closely related, simil­ar languages/varieties?
2) the effects of isolation and contact: What does ?isolation’ exactly mean, e.g. for outlier dia­lects which are isolated from the rest of the dialect continuum but at the same time often un­der extensive language contact? In what sense are the effects of dialect contact and contact to other, nonrelated languages similar/different?
3) How can the Alps with their dramatic topography and linguistic and dialectal diversity be used as a laboratory to assess hypotheses of sociolinguistic typology?



Thursday, 8 December 2011

9:45-10:00 Welcome
10:00-10:45 Peter Trudgill (Agder): On the social determinants of linguistic complexity
10:45-10:50 Discussion
10:50-11:10 Coffee break
11:10-11:55 Kurt Braunmüller (Hamburg): On the origins of complexity: evidence from Germanic
11:55-12:00 Discussion
12:00-1:30 Lunch
2:00-2:45 Daniel Schreier (Zurich): High contact equals simplicity, low contact equals complexity - really?
2:45-2:50 Discussion
2:50-3:20 Open discussion: ‛Islands’
3:20-3:40 Coffee break
3:40-4:25 Jacopo Garzonio (Padova): On Complexity of Interrogative Structures in Alpine Dialects
4:25-4:30 Discussion
4:30-5:00 Raffaela Baechler (Freiburg): Inflectional complexity in closely related (non-) isolated varieties
5:00-5:15 Discussion
7:30 Conference dinner

Friday, 9 Dec 2011

10:00-10:30 Marco Angster (Pavia): Clitic subject pronouns and gender agreement: the balance between complexification and simplification in the fast shifting walser language minorities in Italy
10:30-10:35 Discussion
10:35-10:55 Coffee break
10:55-11:40 Johanna Nichols (UC Berkeley): Complex edges, simple frontiers: Grammatical complexity and language spreads
11:40-11:45 Discussion
11:45-12:15 Open discussion: ‛Mountains’
12:15-2:30 Lunch
2:30-3:15 James P. Blevins (Cambridge):Morphological Complexity (and Isolation)
3:15-3:20 Discussion
3:20-3:50 Matthew Baerman (Surrey): Covert order in Võru conjugation classes
3:50-3:55 Discussion
3:55-4:15 Coffee break
4:15-4:45 Benedikt Szmrecsanyi (Freiburg): An information-theoretic approach to assess linguistic complexity
4:45-4:50 Discussion
4:50-5:20 Open discussion: ‛Theories and methods’
5:20-5:30 Farewell




Miestamo, Matti [ed.]. 2008. Language complexity. (Studies in Language / Companion Series 94). Amsterdam etc.: Benjamins.

Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Linguistic diversity in space and time.. Chicago etc.: Univ. of Chicago Pr.

Sampson, Geoffrey [ed.]. 2009. Language complexity as an evolving variable. (Studies in the Evolution of Language 13). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Trudgill, Peter. 2004. The impact of language contact and social structure on linguistic structure: Focus on the dialects of modern Greek. In Bernd Kortmann (ed.), Dialectology Meets Typology. Dialect Grammar from a Cross-Linguistic Perspective., 435-451. (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 153). Berlin / New York: de Gruyter.