Conference: the Alphabet of Universal Grammar conference

The alphabet of universal grammar
Thu 4 Jul 2019 09:00 to Fri 5 Jul 2019 17:00
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH

Features—atomic units of contrast—are the alphabet of natural language. They predate the Cognitive Revolution and are central to Generative Linguistics, yet there is a hole in current understanding. Unlike phonology, syntax has no articulatory tract in which to ground its features. Consequently, the algorithms that build sentences are better researched than the atoms these algorithms operate over. Recently, however, morphology, semantics, typology, and psycholinguistics have sharpened syntax sufficiently for its foundational features to come into focus. Our conference aims to elucidate the featural alphabet of human syntax and to define a programme of enquiry into this underexplored domain.


  • Professor Daniel Harbour, Queen Mary University of London
  • Dr Luisa Martí, Queen Mary University of London
  • Dr Hazel Pearson, Queen Mary University of London
  • Dr Coppe van Urk, Queen Mary University of London

Speakers include:

  • Dr Diogo Almeida, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Dr Ana Arregui, University of Massachusetts, USA
  • Dr Theresa Biberauer, University of Cambridge
  • Professor Jonathan David Bobaljik, Harvard University, USA
  • Dr Patricia Cabredo-Hofherr, French National Centre for Scientific Research, France
  • Professor Greville Corbett, University of Surrey
  • Dr Jenny Culbertson, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Amy Rose Deal, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • Dr Peter Klecha, Swarthmore College, USA
  • Professor Angelika Kratzer, University of Massachusetts, USA
  • Dr Mora Maldonado, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Lisa Matthewson, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Dr Ora Matushansky, French National Centre for Scientific Research, France
  • Professor Peter Svenonius, University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway, Norway
  • Professor Martina Wiltschko, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Dr Yasutada Sudo, University College London
  • Dr Maria Luisa Zubizarreta, University of Southern California, USA

Call for Posters:

We invite abstracts for poster presentations for the British Academy conference ”The alphabet of Universal Grammar” (details here: The posters will be displayed on stands and presenters will have the opportunity to answer questions and receive feedback from the audience. Poster sessions will take place during breaks from the main session and during dedicated poster sessions each day.

Abstract Guidelines:

No abstract may be longer than 2 pages (A4 or letter size) with 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins. Abstracts must be set single spaced in a 12 pt font. Figures and references may be set in a smaller font, but must be within the 2 page limit. Only pdf files will be accepted. The submission must not reveal the identity of the author(s) in any way. (Note that files uploaded to Easychair are renamed by the system, but a PDF file may contain hidden information about its author or creator.)

An author may submit a maximum of two abstracts, where only one submission may be single-authored.

We have a small number of conference fee waivers available so please let us know in your EasyChair submission if you need such support in order to attend the conference (e.g., if you are a student, or in part-time employment).

Please submit abstracts via EasyChair no later than April 30 2019, 23:59 at the following link: