CfP: Workshop “Argument Structure across Modalities” (ASAM2018), Amsterdam, February 1-2, 2018



Argument structure, that is, the study of how predicates combine with arguments, is a core part of any grammar and any theory of grammar. There are numerous descriptions of argument structure in various languages, typological studies formulating cross-linguistic generalizations (Malchukov & Comrie 2015), and theoretical approaches touching upon the nature of argument structure (Ramchand 2013).

On the theoretical side, one of the most interesting debates in recent years has been between syntactic (constructional) and lexical approaches to argument structure. Some researchers argue that the basic argument structure is built in syntax (Borer 2005; Ramchand 2008). This idea of separating argument structure from lexical items is pursued in various frameworks, from Distributed Morphology (Marantz 1997) to Construction Grammar (Goldberg 1995). Others claim, following the more traditional approach, that argument structure is a lexical property, and argument structure alternations are operations in the lexicon (see Wechsler & Müller (2014) for an extended discussion). Finally, some researchers argue that some argument structure alternations happen in syntax, while others happen in the lexicon, and this can also be language-specific, thus suggesting a hybrid approach (Reinhart & Siloni 2005; Horvath & Siloni 2011). The debate between proponents of the different theories is far from being resolved.

On the empirical side, argument structure has been studied for a wide variety of languages (Malchukov & Comrie 2015), but one group of languages has been largely overlooked, namely sign languages. Given that sign languages resort to a different (visual) modality, and present a number of unique properties (Meier 2012), it is crucial that their argument structure is studied, too, in order to further contribute to typological and theoretical research into the topic. For instance, one aspect in which sign languages differ is the use of classifier predicates that have been argued to have unique properties which distinguish them from similar constructions in spoken languages (Zwitserlood 2012). Benedicto & Brentari (2004) have analyzed these constructions in American Sign Language and have argued that they provide a direct empirical argument in favor of syntactic approaches to argument structures. However, for most sign languages, even the basic properties of argument structure have never been described; thus many more exciting and theoretically relevant phenomena might still be uncovered.

To discuss both the theoretical debates around the notion of argument structure, and novel data from spoken and signed languages, we organize a two-day workshop “Argument Structure across Modalities” (ASAM2018) at the University of Amsterdam. The workshop is part of the research project “Argument structure in three sign languages: typological and theoretical aspects” (NWO, grant 360-70-520). We are happy to announce that the following distinguished scholars agreed to deliver a keynote lecture:

Prof. dr. Gillian Ramchand (University of Tromsø)
Prof. dr. Tal Siloni (Tel Aviv University)
Prof. dr. Elena Benedicto (Purdue University)
Prof. dr. Markus Steinbach (Universität Göttingen)

We invite abstracts for spoken or signed presentations (30+15 min). The languages of the workshop are English, International Sign, and Sign Language of the Netherlands (interpreting between NGT/IS and English will be provided). Abstracts related (but not limited) to the following issues are especially welcome:

  • Theoretical (lexical/syntactic/hybrid) approaches to argument structure
  • Evaluation of competing approaches based on novel data
  • Typological studies of aspects of argument structure
  • Argument structure (alternations) in understudied languages, spoken or signed
  • Argument structure in gesture

Submission guidelines:

We invite anonymous abstracts not exceeding two pages (Times New Roman 12pt or analogues, including tables, examples, figures; references can be on a separate page). Please submit your abstract via EasyChair: The abstracts will be reviewed by a committee of experts.

Workshop organizers:

Roland Pfau; Enoch O. Aboh; Vadim Kimmelman; Marloes Oomen; Vanja de Lint


Vadim Kimmelman:

Important dates

Deadline for abstract submission: June 1st, 2017
Notification of acceptance: September 1st, 2017
Date of the workshop: February 1-2, 2018

Call for Papers

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Written by Johanna