(Credits for the conference art go to Alina Veronica Petre, See: https://alinapetre.myportfolio.com)

Workshop on Recursion

Recursion Across Languages. The Intricacies of Babel.


Meeting Description:

The online workshop “Recursion Across Languages. The Intricacies of Babel.”  will take place online:

1-2 June 2021

Organizers:  Adina Camelia Bleotu, University of Bucharest

Deborah Foucault Etheridge, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Committee: BAI Bing, Usha Lakshmanan, Emma Merritt, Tyler Poisson, Roehl Sybing

The online workshop aims at bringing into discussion recent theoretical and experimental research on recursive structures across languages.

Keynote speaker: Tom Roeper (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Access links: 

June 1: https://umass-amherst.zoom.us/j/99789437856
June 2: https://umass-amherst.zoom.us/j/91926595740
June 1: https://youtu.be/a3t2wLfE_O4
June 2: https://youtu.be/9S4mztnKpXE

On recursion

Recursion has been a part of grammatical theory since Chomsky (1965), being considered a fundamental property of human language (Chomsky, Hauser & Fitch 2001). Two types of recursion have been distinguished in the literature (Snyder & Roeper 2011): Direct Recursion, which simply merges items together directly (in coordinative structures), and Indirect Recursion, which embeds items within each other through linking nodes (in recursive structures). Research in language acquisition has shown that children tend to go through a stage where they reduce indirectly recursive structures to directly recursive ones. This has been noticed for a variety of structures:

  1. Compounds (Hiraga 2009): tea-pourer-maker= tea-pourer and maker
  2. Possessives (Gentile 2003, Limbach & Adone 2010, Roeper et al. 2012, Pérez-Leroux et al. 2012, Giblin et al. 2019, Li et al. 2020): Jane’s father’s bike= Jane’s and father’s bike
  3. Prepositional Phrases (Sevcenco, Roeper & Pearson 2017, Roberge, Pérez-Leroux & Frolova 2018, Pérez-Leroux et al. 2018, Sevcenco & Avram 2018): the parrot next to the hamster next to the bunny= the parrot next to the hamster and next to the bunny
  4. Adjectives (Bryant 1982, Matthei 1982, Bleotu & Roeper 2021, Grohe, Schulz & Yang 2021): second, green ball=second and green ball
  5. Sentential and wh– complements (Hollebrandse et al. 2008, Hollebrandse & Roeper 2014): John thinks that Bill thinks that…=John thinks and Bill thinks that

Importantly, in spite of many similarities, these types of structures have been shown to differ in various respects among each other and also cross-linguistically, sometimes even in very significant ways. For instance, there are no recursive possessives in German, while there are in English (Saxon Genitive); there is no compound recursion in Romance, although there is in English; there are languages where prepositional phrase recursion is marked by specific cues (such as Romanian), making it easier to handle than in English, there are recursive serial verbs in Mauritian and Bantu but non-recursive verbal sequences in English (come play), a.o.

Many interesting questions arise. How does recursion emerge in acquisition?  Does it emerge all at once? Do left-branching and right-branching constructions trigger each other? How big a role do intonation, overt morphology, and lexical forms play? Is lexical recursion different from syntactic recursion? (coffee-maker-maker versus the cat who is near the dog who is near the mouse)? Do the semantic relations of set/subset (adjectives), referential/generic (possessives), or infinitival/Tensed complements, and their connections to Theory of Mind play a role?

We are interested in papers that investigate these questions and others both from a theoretical and experimental standpoint (dealing with first and second language acquisition, language processing, recursion in individuals with language impairments, online and offline methodological issues, a.o.). We welcome papers studying languages all over the world (both spoken and sign languages), using a variety of techniques from naturalistic data to act-out experiments, truth-value judgement tasks, eye-tracking, production tasks, computer apps, story-telling, a.o.  We also welcome papers that examine recursion from a pedagogical perspective, showing the role of exposure and explanation in enhancing children’s better performance with recursive structures from an early age.

Workshop schedule and abstracts

Day 1: 1st June 2021

2:45 p.m.-3 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 7:45 a.m.- 8 a.m. (Amherst)

Recursion in Language Acquisition. Crosslinguistic Perspectives Part I

3-5 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8-10 a.m. (Amherst)

3-3:30 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8-8:30 a.m. (Amherst): Anna Maria Di Sciullo (University of Quebec)- Coordinate NPs, Recursion and the Acquisition Path (long talk) – Abstract

3:30-4 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8:30-9 a.m. (Amherst): Terue Nakato (Kitasato University)- Interface Properties: Their Roles on the Acquisition of Abstract Syntactic Recursion (long talk) – Abstract

4-4:30 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 9-9:30 a.m. (Amherst): Ana T. Pérez-Leroux (University of Toronto), Yves Roberge (University of Toronto), Erin Pettibone (University of Toronto), Anny Castilla-Earls (University of Houston)- What Can Recursion Tell Us About Bilingualism (and Vice Versa…)? (long talk) – Abstract

4:30-5 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 9:30-10 a.m. (Amherst): Short or Long: Amanda Rocha (UFRGS), Gabriel de Ávila Othero (UFRGS), Ingrid Finger (CNPq, UFRGS)- Recursion in Brazilian Sign Language (long talk) – Abstract

5:10-6 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 10:10-11 a.m. (Amherst): Tom Roeper (UMass)- Finding the Child’s Principles on the Acquisition Path of Recursive Structures (Keynote)


Recursion, the Acquisition Path and Pedagogical Approaches

6:10-7:30 p.m. (Bucharest)/11:10 a.m.-12:30 a.m. (Amherst)

6:10-6:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 11:10-11:40 a.m. (Amherst): Bing Bai (Soochow University), Adina Camelia Bleotu (Unibuc), Deborah Foucault (UMass/Western University), Usha Lakshmanan (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Emma Merritt (Goethe University), Tyler Poisson (Springfield College), Tom Roeper (UMass), Roehl Sybing (Doshisha University)- Relative Gradable Adjective Recursion is More Challenging for Acquisition than Possessive Recursion (long talk) – Abstract

6:40-7:10 p.m. (Bucharest)/11:40-12:10 p.m. (Amherst): Roehl Sybing (Doshisha University)- A Grounded Theory Approach to Identifying Teaching Experiences in Acquisition of Recursion (long talk) – Abstract

7:10-7:20 p.m. (Bucharest)/12:10-12:20 p.m. (Amherst): Tyler Poisson (Springfield College)- The Kid’s Kid’s Bike: Generics in the Acquisition of Recursive Possessives (short talk) – Abstract

7:20-7:30 p.m. (Bucharest)/12:20-12:30 p.m. (Amherst): Adina Camelia Bleotu (Unibuc), Tom Roeper (UMass)- The Recursive Set-Subset Ordering Restriction Overrides Adjective Ordering Restrictions. Evidence from Romanian 4-year-olds and Adults (short talk) – Abstract


Insights into the Theory of Recursion

7:40-9:20 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 12:40-2:20 p.m. (Amherst)

7:40-8:10 p.m. (Bucharest)/12:40-1:10 p.m. (Amherst): Daoxin Li (University of Pennsylvania), Kathryn Schuler (University of Pennsylvania)- Acquiring Recursive Structures Through Distributional Learning (long talk) – Abstract

8:10-8:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/1:10-1:40 p.m. (Amherst): Lydia Grohe (Goethe-University Frankfurt), Petra Schulz (Goethe-University Frankfurt), Charles Yang (University of Pennsylvania)- How to learn recursive rules: Productivity of Prenominal Adjective Stacking in English and German (long talk) – Abstract

8:40-9:10 p.m. (Bucharest)/1:40-2:10 p.m. (Amherst): Charles Yang (University of Pennsylvania)- Productivity and Recursion in English Compounding (long talk) – Abstract

9:10-9:20 p.m. (Bucharest)/2:10-2:20 p.m. (Amherst): Emanuele Bernardi (University of Turin)- From Greenberg’s U(niversal) 20 to Language Acquisition: New Considerations (short talk) – Abstract


30 minutes of socializing (in break out rooms)


Day 2: 2nd June 2021

Recursion in Language Acquisition. Crosslinguistic Perspectives Part II

3-4 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8-9 a.m. (Amherst)

3-3:30 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8-8:30 a.m. (Amherst): BAI Bing (Soochow University), Yang Caimei (Soochow University), Dong Xin (Soochow University), and Thomas Roeper (UMass)- The Minimal Interface Works in Child Language Acquisition: Evidence from Doubly-embedded Relative Clauses in Mandarin (long talk) – Abstract

3:30-3:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8:30-8:40 a.m. (Amherst): Yang Caimei, Hu Yafei, Bai Bing, Dong Xin; Fan Jiabao (Soochow University)- A Theoretical and Experimental Study of Children’s Acquisition of Recursive Relative Clauses (short talk) – Abstract

3:40-3:50 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8:40-8:50 a.m. (Amherst): Dong Xin; Yang Caimei (Soochow University)- Mandarin Children’s Acquisition of Relative Clauses with Resumptive Pronouns (short talk) – Abstract

3:50-4 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 8:50-9 a.m. (Amherst): Tiaoyuan Mao, Xiangyu Chang (Soochow University)- On Mandarin-speaking Children’s Acquisition of deP Recursion (short talk) – Abstract


Recursion in Language Acquisition. Crosslinguistic Perspectives Part III

4:10- 5:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 9:10-10:40 a.m. (Amherst)

 4:10-4:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 9:10-9:40 a.m. (Amherst): Vaijayanthi Sarma (IIT Bombay, Mumbai, India)- Recursion and its Acquisition: A Case Study (long talk) – Abstract

4:40-5:10 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 9:40-10:10 a.m. (Amherst): Usha Lakshmanan (Southern Illinois University Carbondale): Tamil Children’s Comprehension of Recursive Phrases: Evidence from Possessives, Locatives and Relativized Sentences (long talk) – Abstract

5:10-5:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 10:10-10:40 a.m. (Amherst): Zoltán Bánréti, Ágnes Langó-Tóth (Hungarian Research Centre for Linguistics, Institute for General and Hungarian Linguistic)- Recursion in Children’s Hungarian – Complex PPs vs. Recursive Possessives (long talk) – Abstract


Biolinguistic and Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Recursion (Production and Processing)

 5:50- 8 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 10:50 a.m.-13 p.m. (Amherst)

5:50-6:20 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 10:50-11:20 a.m. (Amherst): Qing Zhang (Sun Yat-Sen University), Edward Ruoyang Shi (University of Barcelona)- Recursion in Language and Beyond: A Biolinguistic Perspective (long talk) – Abstract

6:20-6:50 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 11:20-11:50 a.m. (Amherst): Diego Guerrero (UMass, Universidad del Valle), Tom Roeper (UMass), Joonkoo Park (UMass)- Does Recursion in Language Trigger Recursion in Natural Numbers? (long talk) – Abstract

6:50-7:20 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 11:50-12:20 p.m. (Amherst): Isabelle Roy (University of Nantes / CNRS – LLING), Bridget Copley (University of Paris 8 / CNRS – SFL), Lorraine McCune (Rutgers University)- Production Mismatches in the Development of Recursion in English (long talk) – Abstract

7:20-7:50 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 12:20-12:50 p.m. (Amherst): Thomas Morton (UMass), Shota Momma (UMass), Tom Roeper (UMass), Joonkoo Park (UMass)- Children’s Production of Embedded and Conjoined Recursive Possessives (long talk) – Abstract

7:50-8 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 12:50-1 p.m. (Amherst): Sabrina Santos (Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro), Tom Roeper (UMass), Marcus Maia (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)- PP Coordination, Embedding, and Feature Sharing: Seeking the Connections Between Notation and Processing (short talk) – Abstract


Insights into the Theory of Recursion

8:10-9 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 1:10-2 p.m. (Amherst)

8:10-8:40 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 1:10-1:40 p.m. (Amherst): Ayrthon Breder (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro) & Cilene Rodrigues (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro)- Do Nominalizations Reduce Syntactic Complexity by Avoiding Recursive Clausal Embedding? (long talk) – Abstract

8:40-8:50 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 1:40-1:50 p.m. (Amherst): Satoshi Tomioka (University of Delaware) & Keita Ishii (University of Delaware)- Morpho-syntax Determines Embeddability of Politeness Markers in Japanese (short talk) – Abstract

8:50-9 p.m. (Bucharest)/ 1:50-2 p.m. (Amherst): Carlo Cecchetto (University of Milan-Bicocca and SFL -CNRS & Paris 8 University)- Identifying Recursion: The Prefer Test (short talk) – Abstract


1 hour of socializing and wrapping up


Call for Papers:

We invite abstracts for 30-minute talks (with a 10-minute discussion included)/ 10-minute talks (with a   5-minute discussion included). You can apply for both or just one. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words in a font size no less than 12pt, with an additional page including examples, figures and references. Abstracts should be anonymous. Contact details (Author’s name and affiliation) and the title of the presentation, as well as the preference for the type of talk (long/short) should be included in the accompanying email.

Please send your abstract (PDF format) to recursionbabel@lls.unibuc.ro.

We intend to publish a selection of the papers in a volume on recursion.

Important Dates:
– Deadline for abstract submission: 1 May
– Notification of acceptance: 15 May
– Workshop: 1-2 June

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