Variable Properties in Language

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240 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781626166639 (1626166633)

240 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781626166646 (1626166641)

ISBN: 9781626166653

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July 2019

Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics series


Table of Contents

Variable Properties in Language
Their Nature and Acquisition
David W. Lightfoot and Jonathan Havenhill, Editors

This edited volume, based on papers presented at the 2017 Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics (GURT), approaches the study of language variation from a variety of angles. Language variation research asks broad questions such as, "Why are languages' grammatical structures different from one another?" as well as more specific word-level questions such as, "Why are words that are pronounced differently still recognized to be the same words?" Too often, research on variation has been siloed based on the particular question—sociolinguists do not talk to historical linguists, who do not talk to phoneticians, and so on. This edited volume seeks to bring discussions from different subfields of linguistics together to explore language variation in a broader sense and acknowledge the complexity and interwoven nature of variation itself.

David W. Lightfoot is Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Communication, Culture & Technology program at Georgetown University. He is also Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Cognitive Science.

Jonathan Havenhill received his PhD in Theoretical Linguistics from Georgetown University in 2018. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong.

"In 1972, Georgetown University held the first meeting of New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) where formal and quantitative linguists convened to study language variation and change. Years of divergence followed but in the 45th anniversary year of NWAV, Georgetown was again the site of connection, with the focus on language acquisition: equipped with the structural constraints on language and the general principles of learning, how do children cope with the inherently variable data especially in the situation of variation and change? The contributors include leading experts in our discipline and more importantly, promising young researchers who now synthesize results and methods from previously disjointed research traditions. This collection of outstanding scholarly work will set the agenda for the integrated study of language in the years to come."—Charles Yang, Professor of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents


1. Re-thinking variable properties in language: Introduction
David W. Lightfoot and Jonathan Havenhill

2. Contrastive feature hierarchies in phonology: Variation and universality
B. Elan Dresher

3. Scope variation in contrastive hierarchies of morphosyntactic features
Elizabeth Cowper and Daniel Currie Hall

4. Allophonic systems as a variable within individual speakers
Betsy Sneller

5. A label theoretic explanation of the resultative parameter
Daniel Milway

6. Adverbial -s: so awks but so natural!
Norbert Corver

7. The acquisition of English article alternations: Variation, competition, and the default
Marjorie Pak

8. Verb second word order in Norwegian heritage language: Syntax and pragmatics
Marit Westergaard and Terje Lohndal

9. Acquisition of morphosyntax: A pattern learning approach
Heidi Getz

10. How to be faithful to the input in a situation of language contact
Alicia Avellana, Lucía Brandani, Hannah Forsythe, and Cristina Schmitt

11. Variation and mental representation
Gregory Guy

12. Variation and competing I-languages in creole genesis: A synchronic and diachronic view
Marlyse Baptista

13. Transmission revisited
Gillian Sankoff

14. The value of small communities in a big data world: Investigating Smith Island English in real and apparent time
Natalie Schilling

15. All zeros are not equal in African American English
Lisa Green


Alicia Avellana Lucia Brandani Norbert Corver Elizabeth Cowper B. Elan Dresher Hannah Forsythe Heidi Getz Lisa Green Gregory R. Guy Daniel Hall Jonathan Havenhill David W. Lightfoot Terje Lohndal Baptista Marlyse Daniel Milway Marjorie Pak Gillian Sankoff Natalie Schilling Cristina Schmitt Betsy Sneller Marit Westergaard