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Patterns in Language and Linguistic Theory

Berlin, May 28th 2010

Which are the building blocks of language and how are they assembled? Ever since structuralists started decomposing phonemes into features, it has been an implicit idea in many linguistic theories that – on several levels of the language system – larger items are composed of smaller items. And for meaningful elements, this system is mirrored by the idea of semantic compositionality. Though questioned now and then in the past, e.g. in the shape of theories on sentence patterns (“Satzbaupläne”) or word-and-paradigm morphology, it is only recently that non-compositionality is being discussed on a large scale. Whereas this kind of research has been a (mostly syntactically focussed) topic in several kinds of construction grammar in recent years, the main focus of mainstream generative grammar is still to show that compositionality is the driving factor of human language. It can be observed that a) a real dialogue between both positions is rarely to be found and b) the discussion of issues of (non-)compositionality is - today - mainly addressed in syntax, whereas other domains (such as phonology and morphology) show similar problems, and, in fact have run through similar discussions long before construction grammar was born.

Once a structure is identified as compositional, one can ask which mechanism of representation is to be preferred (algorithmic/derivational or declarative/representational). The same kind of question can be asked for non-compositional structures. If we assume that these can be best described in the shape of patterns, then, which types of patterns can we find in human languages? Are phonological and morphological patterns similar in nature to syntactic patterns (constructions)?

There are several other issues that can be discussed with respect to patterns: Is there a relationship between „PATTERN 1“ as a recurring structure in a corpus of utterances and „PATTERN 2“ as a (mental) model for producing utterances? Given this ambiguity of the term, should we rather avoid the term „pattern“? The literature makes use of the term „pattern“ in a quite inconsistent way. Therefore, the aim of this workshop is to look at different types of „patterns“ and discuss their (formal) properties.


Download: Flyer and Poster



09:30 - 09:40

Uli Reich
(Dean of Research, Dept. of Philosophy and Humanities, Freie Universität of Berlin)
Welcoming words

09:40 - 10:00

Guido Mensching
(Freie Universität of Berlin)

10:00 - 10:55

Martin Maiden
(University of Oxford)
Organized Nonsense: on Self-Replicating Patterns in Diachronic Morphology

11:00 - 11:55

Jordi Fortuny
(Autonomous University of Barcelona)
Duality of Patterning and Syntactic Patterns

12:00 - 13:30


13:30 - 14:25

Sebastian Löbner
(University of Düsseldorf)
Evidence for Frames from Human Language

14:30 - 15:25

Reinhard Blutner
(University of Amsterdam)
Compositionality and Systemacity

15:30 - 16:00

Coffee Break

16:00 - 16:55

Carel ten Cate
(Leiden University)
Patterns in Birdsong: Variations, Regularities and Rules

17:00 - 17:30

General Discussion