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Summer School/Workshop

In Search of New Ways to Understand Language Variation, Change and Acquisition

Dates June 25-26, 2012

Venue Miramar Palace, Donostia-San Sebastian

Workshop Description

From its inception, generative grammar centered on the descriptive and explanatory adequacy of the attained steady state in language learning but it also put at the center of the research agenda the explanation of ’Plato’s problem’ (how come we acquire knowledge without explicit evidence or teaching). Thus, learnability was put and it used to be at the forefront of research in generative grammar in the early 1980s, with profound research on the Language Acquisition Device, Poverty of Stimulus, Universal Grammar, and the parametric options that it was open to (cf. Piattelli-Palmarini (1980), Lightfoot (1982)). However, we feel that the answer that the Principles and Parameters theory was providing to Plato’s Problem is not satisfying anymore. The notion of parameter has been deeply discussed and even more, lately the availability of UG itself has been disputed in other traditions (cf., i.a. Elman et al. (1996), Clark & Lappin (2011)). Thus, we feel that after two decades in the background, learnability ought to make a comeback in linguistic theorizing, and generative grammarians ought to take advantage of findings in other fields and linguistic traditions to rethink Plato’s problem in a broader biolinguistic context. With this goal in mind, we have organized a Summer Course that will address these issues with different points of view. Thus, the general goal of this course is to revisit the nature of Universal Grammar and the role of language learning strategies in shaping the acquired language, linguistic diversity and language change. Teachers/Presenters will include :

  • Cedric Boeckx (ICREA/UB)
  • Jennifer Culbertson (University of Rochester)
  • Judit Gervain (CNRS/LPP)
  • Wolfram Hinzen (Durham University)
  • Aritz Irurtzun (CNRS/Iker)
  • Guillermo Lorenzo (University of Oviedo)
  • Kenny Smith (University of Edinburgh)

Call for Papers

In addition to the invited speakers, we would like to invite anyone interested to submit an abstract for a dedicated poster session on any aspect of learnability and language variation that they are working on. We welcome contributions in language variation, language change, theoretical and empirical works on acquisition and learnability, pattern recognition, phonological bootstraping, etc.

Submission Guidelines

Abstracts are invited for a poster session. As reviewing will be double-blind, abstracts should be anonymous ; author’s information should be submitted in the accompanying email. Please send your abstract (PDF format, two pages, including references and using a 12 pt. font type) to the co-organizers ( and

Important Dates

Deadline for abstract submission : March 20, 2012

Notification of acceptance : Early April, 2012

Workshop : June 25 - 26, 2012

How to get there

The workshop/school will take place at the Miramar Palace, in Donostia-San San Sebastian. The official tourism information webpage can be found here.

The Workshop is organized within the ’Meetings’ section of the Summer Courses of the University of the Basque Country. Check out more information here.

San Sebastian can easily be reached by plane, train or bus.

By plane :

For most foreign visitors, probably the best way to get to San Sebastian is to fly to Bilbao International Airport (BIO) and to get to downtown San Sebastian by bus (there are regular buses departing every hour from the Bilbao airport terminal and getting to San Sebastian in one hour). An alternative is to fly to the San Sebastian Airport (EAS), which is a domestic one, and then to get to San Sebastian by taxi. However, this option is normally more expensive (usually it also involves one more flight and the taxi fares to/from the airport are not cheap) and there is not much gain in time comparing to flying to Bilbao, given that the airport is located at about a 25 minutes drive from downtown San Sebastian.

By train :

There are regular RENFE trains connecting San Sebastian to Barcelona and Madrid. There is also an easy connection with the trains arriving from Bordeaux, Paris, etc. (SNCF). If you are coming from France and are taking the latter option, we would recommend you to stop at the SNCF station at Hendaye and then taking the surface metro of the company called ’Euskotren’, which is situated just at the exit of the SNCF station, to the right. This company serves San Sebastian very regularly and it will leave you at the city center.

By bus :

San Sebastian can also be easily reached by bus from many major cities in Spain (with the companies PESA, La Burundesa and ALSA-Continental) as well as France and the rest of Europe via Eurolines.


San Sebastian is a touristic city and late June is the beginning of the summer touristic season, thus we recommend to book your accommodation early. The conference venue is located at the city center so if you are located at any hotel/hostal downtown, it won’t probably take you more than a 10 minutes walk to get to the Miramar Palace. There are many hotels close to the Workshop venue, among them La Galeria, Barceló Costa Vasca and NH Aranzazu. The organization of the Summer Courses has also arranged some accommodation options which might be convenient (hostels). Check out them here. Besides, there are many other options around the city.


Fill out this PDF form (our workshop is the "Activity 3.2 : In Search of New Ways to Understand Language Variation, Change and Acquisition") and make a bank transfer of 40 € to the account number that appears therein. Then send the form and the proof of transfer to the address that appears in the form. When filling the form, leave blank the slots that do not apply to you (for instance, accommodation, in case you make your own reservations elsewhere).

If you have any specific queries regarding registration, you can contact the central bureau at


For any question, email the organizers of the workshop at and