Birdeye view of river Cam and University Library

Explorations in Syntactic Government and Subcategorisation

Wednesday 31 August 2011 - Saturday 3 September 2011
University of Cambridge, UK

Call for papers

Linguistic fields

General Linguistics, Linguistic Typology, Syntax, Morphology, Formal Linguistics, Computational Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Psycholinguistics

Notification of acceptance:Monday, 18 April 2011
Conference dates:Wednesday, 31 August - Saturday, 3 September 2011 (lunchtime finish)
Selected papers due for publication:  Wednesday, 30 November 2011


We invite abstract submissions for presentations currently planned to last 25 minutes (plus 10-minute discussions). In the event that many more abstracts are received than there are available slots, a special poster session will be held in a dedicated time block. Poster presenters will be expected to provide 5-minute on-demand presentations during that session.

Abstracts should be in either .doc or .pdf format, at most 2 pages in length (including examples and references), with 2.5 cm or 1 in margins, single-spaced, with a font size no smaller than 12 pt, and with normal character spacing. Only the first 2 pages of any abstract will be considered. Abstracts should be anonymous. Please do not use your name in the filename.

Abstracts should be submitted electronically via the Linguist List's Easy Abs facility at: (abstract submission opens on 1 March 2011).

Meeting description

In traditional linguistic description, agreement and government are two types of featural dependency which link linguistic elements making up a clause. The features which are involved in agreement and government are identified through inflectional morphology, and the particular featural dependency between the relevant elements is captured with a syntactic rule, e.g. 'adjectives agree in gender with their head nouns', or 'verbs of this class govern genitive case of their objects'. Agreement and government are traditionally distinguished by the fact that under agreement

'two or more words or phrases are "inflected" for the same category (e.g. number or person), whereas under government the principal and the dependent member of a syntactic construction do not both exhibit the same category: instead the dependent member is determined with respect to the relevant category (e.g. case) by the principal member' [John Lyons, Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics 1968: 241].

Therefore, agreement can be seen as 'displaced information' (Moravcsik 1988: 90) - where one element carries the grammatical meaning relevant to another; while government can be seen as a 'brand mark' - here an element requires another element to carry grammatical meaning relevant to the relationship between them.

Although this distinction is accepted by most linguists, our understanding of government is surprisingly incomplete. Since there is no generally agreed upon definition of government, the interpretation of the notions of the 'principal member', 'dependent member', and 'being determined by' can vary considerably between linguistic frameworks. There is no systematic inventory of government phenomena and no criteria by which to identify less typical instances of government. Syntactic accounts which offer to model government are often incompatible with one another and may not correspond to accounts from inflectional morphology. The term 'governs' sometimes appears to be simply a substitute for 'requires [a particular form of an element]', revealing the lack of understanding of the possible general mechanism behind this requirement. At other times, government as a syntactic dependency may be equated with subcategorisation; however, there is no consensus about where to draw the lines between subcategorisation, semantic selection, and co-occurrence.

The conference aims to bring together descriptive linguists, typologists, theoretical, computational and corpus linguists who wish to contribute to the understanding and modelling of the phenomenon of government and subcategorisation. It is hoped that the papers will involve both expertly summarised overviews of different approaches to syntactic government which have been proposed but never brought together for direct comparison, as well as new descriptions of challenging phenomena from typologically diverse languages together with their cutting-edge analyses. Computational, corpus-based and language processing perspectives on dependency and government are very welcome. Linguists representing different standpoints will be asked to spell out their assumptions in order to facilitate cross-theoretical and cross-disciplinary discussion.

Call for papers

Papers are invited which address topics related to syntactic government and subcategorisation, and the morphosyntax of governed categories. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Description and analysis of uncertain or disputed instances of government, in familiar or underdescribed languages
  • Unusual or unexpected governors, governees, or governed categories
  • Criteria for canonical vs non-canonical government
  • Modelling variable case government
  • Modelling dependence of case government on another category (e.g. tense-aspect-mood-polarity)
  • Typology of syntactic dependency and government
  • Government vs agreement
  • Government vs subcategorisation
  • Government vs collocation
  • Syntactic government in computational grammars
  • Corpus-based studies of dependency and government
  • Language processing perspectives on syntactic government


Following the conference, a selection of externally refereed papers will be included in a volume dedicated to 'Syntactic Government', to be published with a major publisher.

Programme committee

Matthew Baerman (Surrey Morphology Group)
Jóhanna Barðdal (University of Bergen)
Theresa Biberauer (University of Cambridge)
James Blevins (University of Cambridge)
Oliver Bond (SOAS, University of London)
Patricia Cabredo Hofherr (Paris 8 & Surrey Morphology Group)
Martin Forst (Microsoft)
Andrew Hippisley (University of Kentucky)
Anna Kibort (University of Cambridge & Surrey Morphology Group)
Roland Meyer (University of Regensburg)
Matti Miestamo (University of Helsinki)
Åshild Næss (University of Oslo)
Irina Nikolaeva (SOAS, University of London)
György Rákosi (University of Debrecen)
Ioanna Sitaridou (University of Cambridge)


The conference will take place in the new building of the English Faculty, University of Cambridge ( Accommodation (modern rooms) for participants has been reserved in historic Cambridge colleges. Conference dinner will be held in the Old Hall at Queens' College, arguably the most impressive mediaeval dining hall in Cambridge. All conference locations are central and within 10 minutes' walk of each other. Cambridge offers a spectacular location for a conference, with its amazing mix of historic and modern buildings, lush college gardens, and world-famous museums and libraries. It also has a vibrant musical and theatre scene, with outdoor performances of Shakespeare, and concerts of music of all periods performed in college chapels, city churches and modern concert venues. It is only 50 minutes away by direct train from central London.


Anna Kibort (University of Cambridge)    ak243 @
Arturas Ratkus (University of Cambridge)    ar392 @

Further information about the venue and the conference, as well as accommodation and registration details will be posted on the conference website closer to the date.

This page created 27 December 2010
This page last updated 8 June 2011
Maintained by Anna Kibort
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