Call for Papers


Workshop on the Emergence of Universals

February 18-19, 2018

Department of Linguistics

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio


One of the central questions in linguistics concerns the nature of the commonalities that languages share, as well as the source of those commonalities. The dominant paradigm in the study of universals has for a long time been based on the concept of a Universal Grammar: an innate cognitive module containing both substantive and formal prescriptions for the construction of all and any human language.

In recent years, however, another strand of research has developed that entertains the idea that universals, or universal tendencies, may be traceable to factors external to linguistic competence narrowly defined. Such factors include the ways in which all languages are transferred and mis-transferred across generations and speakers, the way humans create and populate conceptual categories of all kinds, the constraints on sequential auditory processing, the integration of multiple sources of sensory information, and the ordering of categories to optimize computation of form/meaning correspondences, among others. These forces may act in the short term, shaping the structure of individual utterances, over longer periods of time in the accumulation of incremental changes to how languages are represented and processed, and/or in the evolution of human language from pre-linguistic communication.

There will be several invited speakers:

Juliette Blevins, CUNY Graduate Center

Morten Christiansen, Cornell University

Jeff Mielke, North Carolina State University

Rebecca Morley, The Ohio State University

Elliott Moreton, University of North Carolina

and there is room on the program for a number of 20-minute papers (each with an additional ten minutes for discussion). Thus, we invite submissions on the topic of language universals across all time scales and all domains of linguistics. Papers should specifically investigate the hypothesis that such universals may not be directly specified in human DNA, but might emerge multiple times across different languages due to the common forces that shape those languages. Please send in abstracts of no more than one page in length, with an additional page for data or references, via EasyChair; The submission Web page for the Workshop (known as “WEU1”) is

The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 11:59pm, October 31, 2017.