Conference Program

A schedule for the conference is now available (last updated 10/02), and individual abstracts can be found here. A copy of the conference program is also available (best viewed by printing and assembling). Finally, an overview of the conference schedule is listed at the bottom of the page.

Keynote Presentations

In Search of Stability
Pieter Muysken – Radboud University Nijmegen

Languages change continuously, in part because their speakers also use other languages. This type of influence is called language contact. In this lecture I will discuss different ways of studying language contact, from the perspective of stability. Which aspects of language remain stable, and under which circumstances is there stability? Which methodologies can be used to study stability, and can they reinforce each other?

Language contact can be studied at different levels of time depth and geographical scope:

  • Deep time contacts involving large areas, such as the Circum-Pacific or Eurasia
  • Historical time contacts involving countries and single languages, such as the history of English in Great Britain
  • Recent time contacts involving bilingual speech communities, such as the Puerto Rican community in New York
  • Instant time contacts in experimental settings with cross-linguistic priming of multilingual speakers

These different levels have yielded different and sometimes apparently contradictory results. How can we explain these?
The lecture will present recent findings from our Languages in Contact group (, keeping these four levels in mind but focusing on our research on deep time relations in the Amazon region (time depth at least 5000 years) and historical time depth relations in the Republic of Surinam (time depth about 500 years).

Which aspects of language structure are difficult for heritage speakers and why?
Maria Polinsky – Harvard University

Existing cross-linguistic studies of heritage languages allow us to make preliminary generalizations about the overall linguistic architecture of heritage speakers’ grammars and formulate more precise questions for future investigations. Due to a wide variation in proficiency among heritage speakers, not all phenomena may be of equal difficulty to all heritage language speakers, and not all heritage speakers can be expected to diverge from the baseline language on all variables. At the same time, researchers have noticed intriguing parallels among typologically dissimilar languages regarding aspects of linguistic knowledge that present systematic challenges in heritage language grammars. Most generally, heritage speakers have difficulty with the following three aspects of language structure: optional phenomena, relating two elements that are separated by distance, and silent elements in morphology or syntax. This paper will present and analyze instances of each and will propose tentative explanations for such difficulties.

Schedule Overview

  • Wednesday Evening 7:00 PM – Warm-up event (Three Aces)
  • Thursday
    • 9 - 10 AM – Registration
    • 10 AM - 12:30 PM – Morning talks
    • 12:30 - 1 :30 PM – Lunch
    • 1:30 - 5:00 PM - Afternoon talks
    • 5:15 PM – Keynote: In Search of Stability by Pieter Muysken
    • 6:30 PM – Conference Dinner (Francesca's on Taylor)
  • Friday
    • 9 AM - 10 AM – Registration
    • 10 AM - 12:15 PM – Morning talks
    • 12:15 - 1 :15 PM – Lunch
    • 1:15 - 4:45 PM - Afternoon talks
    • 5:00 PM – Keynote: Which aspects of language structure are difficult for heritage speakers and why? by Maria Polinksy
    • 6:15 PM – Conference Reception (Grant Hall 308)