What is Language?

The workshop "What is language?" is hosted by the Zurich Center for Linguistics and organized by Lena Baunaz and Lee Barasch.

When: 6 - 7 December 2018
Where: University of Zürich, Room RAA-G-01

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Program and abstracts



The aim of this workshop is twofold:

The first aim is to contribute to the understanding of what language is by contrasting both the internal workings of the language system and the external, communicative aspects of language. This will be achieved by investigating (i) the properties and acquisition of linguistic items, which function uniquely inside the language system and do not map any extralinguistic concepts (directly), i.e. functional categories (section I; Prof. Elisabeth Stark, Dr. Lena Baunaz, MA Lee Barasch), and (ii) elements that generate from communication, like speaker and emotion information (i.e. indexical information), that are external to the linguistic system, but (might) have an impact on the inner workings of the language system (section II; Prof. Volker Dellwo). Subsequently, this dichotomy of the internal and external aspects of language that arises when answering the question “what is language?” leads us to question the very study of language and how it should be approached. “What is language?” leads us to question “what is linguistics?” (closing panel; Prof. Johannes Kabatek).
The second aim generates from the dichotomous nature of this workshop. We aim to enhance the dialogue between researchers from different backgrounds and subfields of linguistics in order to gain an encompassing view of language and language study.

The University of Zurich (UZH) plays a prominent role in linguistic research, both nationally and internationally. Especially the Zürcher Kompetenzzentrum Linguistik (ZüKL) promotes linguistics at UZH very actively. The ZüKL is an interdisciplinary institution gathering researchers (both faculty and young researchers) at UZH and beyond with a strong interest in language related issues encourages scientific exchanges across seminars and institutes and actively supports juniors in their scientific and networking initiatives. The workshop arose from the initiative of two junior researchers at the UZH, Dr. L. Baunaz and MA L. Barasch. It found strong support within the ZüKL and will take place in collaboration with it, as the extension of one of the ZüKL’s main events, the annual ‘linguistic afternoon’, an event for linguists of UZH, which allows to discover new projects and to exchange views with researchers of various fields of linguistics.

The workshop is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Hochschulstiftung, UZH Alumni, and the ZüKL.

For questions, please do not hesitate to contact:
lena.baunaz AT uzh.ch
lee.barasch AT uzh.ch