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Conference Information

Full Title: Generative Linguistics in the 21st Century: the Evidence and the Rhetoric
Location: Reading, United Kingdom
Start Date: 11-May-2017 - 11-May-2017
Contact: Jason Rothman
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: The School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences (PCLS) at the University of Reading will be hosting the workshop Generative Linguistics in the 21st Century: the Evidence and the Rhetoric on May 11, 2017. The workshop is being held in conjunction with Professor Noam Chomsky’s Albert Wolter’s Distinguished Visiting Professor’s stay, especially his public lecture taking place on the evening prior on May 10 (registration separate via University of Reading). It would be our pleasure to host you at the University of Reading for this very special event.

Keynote Speaker:

Prof. Noam Chomsky (MIT, USA)

Plenary Speakers:

Prof. Adriana Belleti (University of Siena, Italy & University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Prof. Hagit Borer (Queen Mary, London, UK)
Prof. Stephen Crain (Macquaire University, Australia)
Prof. Tanja Kupisch (University of Konstanz & UiT the Arctic University of Norway)
Prof. Terje Lohndal (NTNU & UiT the Arctic University of Norway)
Prof. Luigi Rizzi (University of Siena, Italy & University of Geneva, Switzerland)
Prof. Ian Roberts (Cambridge University, UK)
Prof. Ianthi Tsimpli (Cambridge University, UK)
Prof. Charles Yang (University of Pennsylvania, USA)


Prof. Jason Rothman (University of Reading)
Prof. Doug Saddy (University of Reading)

The fields of linguistics, cognitive science and psychology were forever changed starting in the 1950s on the coattails of the cognitive revolution against behaviourism. Chomsky’s (1959) review of Skinner’s Verbal Behaviour is one of the key turning points in this endeavour from which what would become the dominant theory of modern linguistics was born. Generative linguistics, often referred to as Universal Grammar (UG), has maintained for six decades now that humans are born endowed with domain-specific linguistic knowledge. In other words, the human brain comes pre-equipped with some type of innately determined blueprint to the general structure of language. Exactly what is universal and domain-specific with respect to linguistic knowledge has been the matter of debate and changing proposals over the past 6 decades, however, the core tenet of the generative program remains: at least some parts of language are provided by a genetic endowment. Although there is no question that parts of language are/can be learned in the truest sense, that input quantities and qualities matter, that social environment and interaction bring much to bear, a careful consideration of the preponderance of all evidence still “leaves little hope that [much of the structure of] language can be learned by an organism initially uniformed as to its general character, Chomsky, 1965: 58”.

The purpose of this workshop is to present and consider the evidence that still points in this linguistic domain-specificity, while at the same time sifting through and seriously considering the rhetoric that in recent years has rejected the general tenets of generative linguistics. In doing so, we will examine the role of generative linguistics at present and consider where it will be going as the 21st century unfolds.


As we expect that the workshop will meet capacity rather quickly, if you are interested in attending this workshop please email to register your interest at your earliest convenience. Pre-registration bookings will close at 6pm January 20 and all bookings will be honoured on a first come, first serve basis. Further details about the workshop, including how to register officially via an online portal will be announced soon. We expect the registration page (and webpage for the event more generally) to be available towards the end of Jan. in which case places that have not be pre-reserved will become open also at a first come, first serve basis.
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Linguistic Theories
LL Issue: 28.128

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