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Conference Information

Full Title: Niches in Morphology

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Start Date: 10-Sep-2017 - 13-Sep-2017
Contact: Rik van Gijn
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: As a general principle for all organized systems, situations of competition for a particular niche are expected to be resolved either by elimination or adaptation of one or more of the competing elements (Gause 1934). Aronoff (2016) proposes to apply the notion of “niche” to linguistic systems, which allows him to describe a range of phenomena. A clear example of adaptation in language is the distribution of the affixes -ic and -ical in English, which appear to be completely synonymous, but occupy different morphological niches: While -ic is generally preferred, -ical is only derived from a subset of stems of the form ‑ology (cf. Lindsay & Aronoff 2013).

Aronoff’s proposal interestingly suggests that competition and its resolution in language is an instantiation of a much more general principle, which opens up an interdisciplinary dialogue about competition resolution across complex systems. Moreover, it provides a framework that can bring together phenomena not normally considered together. Aronoff (to appear), for instance, discusses allomorphy, ranging from resolved (complementary distributed) allomorphy to situations of (near-)equilibrium such as over abundance (cf. Thornton 2011), but he also addresses limits to defaults in inflection classes (cf. e.g. Carstairs-McCarthy 1994). Conceivably, the niche metaphor can be extended to many more phenomena. For example, Walsh (2012) describes a phenomenon in the Australian language Murrinh-Patha that might be termed templatic, or slot competition, where there is a particular slot on the verb that can be filled either by a direct object bound pronoun or by an indirect bound pronoun. Only when there is no direct object, or when the direct object has zero exponence can the indirect object appear in that slot.

In this workshop, we propose to explore the extent to which the notion of “niche” can be extended to linguistics (and therefore the extent to which an interdisciplinary dialogue becomes feasible and fruitful). In order to keep the range of phenomena within reasonable boundaries, we focus on morphological phenomena, and in particular on niches provided by the language system (thus excluding sociocultural niches such as register).

Keynote Speaker:

- Mark Aronoff (Stony Brook University, New York)

The Workshop Organizers:

Rik van Gijn (University of Zurich)
Anja Hasse (University of Zurich)
Sandro Bachmann (University of Zurich)
Tania Paciaroni (University of Zurich)
Linguistic Subfield: Morphology
LL Issue: 27.4001

This is a session of the following meeting:
50th Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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