Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Microvariation (TEAM 2017)

Nuova Giornata di Dialettologia

Padua, 22 – 24 June 2017


More languages than we might have thought. Fewer languages than there might have been.”

(R. S. Kayne, Lectio Magistralis, Honorary Degree in Language Sciences, Venice 18 December 2015).


Over the past decades micro-comparative studies have greatly contributed to theoretical linguistics, allowing scholars not only to test hypotheses on language structures and language properties on a much larger empirical basis but also to refine them in a non-trivial fashion. Minimally different related languages offer a valuable test-bed for the identification of the primitive principles of grammar: keeping the major linguistic variables (fairly) coherent across languages, we come closer to the best possible experimental setting and can better single out clusters of correlating properties and how they fit together in terms of inclusion, exclusion, coincidence or intersection. Dialects have been used in recent decades as a magnifying lens to pin down differences and variation patterns that escape us in a broad typological framework which constitutes the other side of the medal of language variation.  We intend to capitalize on this amount of research and discuss to what extent macro and micro variation are similar and test the idea that macro and micro variation are different not only quantitatively but also in a qualitative sense.  At present we have important tools that allow us to deal with big data and can help us to better understand what the internal mechanisms of variation really are. This conference is set to be a meeting point for scholars who work on micro- and macro-variation and compare their methodologies and results to achieve a more precise picture of how the internal mechanisms of variation work. 

            Italo-Romance was the first domain onto which the micro-comparative methodology was developed in the early 90ties, but since then other linguistic groups like Dutch, Norwegian, English, Basque etc. have been systematically investigated and parallel observations have been made which should be more systematically explored. In order to do this, this year we intend to compare Italo-Romance with variation in the Slavic languages, although papers on the phonology, morphology syntax and semantics of  all languages are welcome.  Since we find that methodology is an important issue when considering big data, a further aim of this conference is to discuss some empirical problematic aspects in gathering, tagging and retrieving very large sets of minimally different data. Therefore, we plan a methodological round table where we invite experts to discuss which the most profitable technical IT-tools are to exploit the big amount of data we now have at our disposal.


Invited speaker:

            Richard S. Kayne (New York University)

Invited speakers for the Session on Slavic Microvariation:

            Boban Arsenijević (University of Niš)

            Franc Marušič (University of Nova Gorica)

Methodological Round Table: “Big Data, big problems?”

Moderators: Giorgio M. Di Nunzio (DEI-Università di Padova)

                    Simonetta Montemagni (Istituto di Linguistica Computazionale, CNR, Pisa)