Call for papers


MAY 18-19, 2016, New York, NY, USA.


Labov’s pioneering study on contraction and deletion of the copula in African American Vernacular English (1969) and subsequent work on linguistic variation and change by e.g. Kroch (1989; 1994) and Anttila (1997) has drawn substantial attention to formal analyses of variable usage patterns in language. Research in language acquisition in the context of variable input also has led to insights into the nature of the grammatical systems that underlie childrens’ hypotheses (see Yang 2002 and Miller & Schmitt 2012). Additionally, experimental data shows that discrete acceptability judgments in syntax, drawn from a large sample of speakers, also manifest regular quantitative patterns that can inform us about the nature of the grammatical system (see e.g. Bresnan and Ford 2010).


Now in its third year, the Formal Ways of Analyzing Variation (FWAV) workshop has been a venue for research which pursues formal analyses of linguistic variation, in all domains of grammar (phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics). The purpose of FWAV is to bring researchers together in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms which underlie (and the relationship between) intra-speaker variability, language acquisition, and language change. In contrast with previous years (where FWAV was a one-day workshop integrated into a larger conference), this year’s FWAV3 will be a stand-alone, 2-day conference.

Invited Speaker: Cristina Schmitt, Michigan State University


We invite papers on all aspects of formal analysis of the mechanisms of language variation and change. Research which makes use of annotated historical and synchronic corpora, or the results of which are derived from experimentation, are particularly welcome. We seek papers which address one or more of the following questions:

  • How are language variation and variability encoded in the linguistic system (e.g. multiple grammars, variable rules, etc.)?
  • Can formal models of cross-linguistic parametric variation also deal with intra­speaker variability? Conversely, can formal models of intra­speaker variability make predictions regarding parametric variation?
  • What do formal analyses predict to be possible or impossible, in terms of variation and trajectories of change? What are the limits of variation?
  • How does variability in the input affect language acquisition? How do language processing systems deal with variability?
  • What role does variability play in processes of grammaticalization?
  • Is it possible to establish that apparent variants are truly grammatically functionally equivalent, for an individual speaker?
  • How do we make the best use of statistical tools for formal linguistic analysis in this domain of research?


The organizers of FWAV3 invite abstracts for 20-minute talks (plus 10 minutes for discussion) on research related to the above description. All abstracts should be no more than two pages in length (including examples and references), in 12-point type, US Letter size or A4 paper with 1-inch/2.5cm margins, in PDF format. Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per author.

Please submit your abstract via EasyChair. Once you log in, click on “New Submission” on the upper left corner, and follow the instructions.

Deadline for receipt of abstracts: Monday, February 29, 2016 (11:59pm, PST)

Notification of acceptance: no later than March 20, 2016


FWAV3 is being organized jointly by the City University of New York (the College of Staten Island, Queens College, and The Graduate Center) and Michigan State University. The event will be held on May 18-19, 2016, at The CUNY Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, 10016.


  • Christina Tortora, City University of New York (College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center)
  • Alan Munn, Michigan State University
  • Bill Haddican, City University of New York (Queens College and The Graduate Center)


Adger, David. 2006. Combinatorial Variability. Journal of Linguistics 42.3: 503–530.

Anttila, Arto. 1997. Deriving Variation from Grammar. In Frans Hinskens, Roeland van Hout and Leo Wetzels (eds.) Variation, Change and Phonological Theory, pp. 35–68. Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Anttila, Arto, Matthew Adams and Michael Speriosu. 2010. The Role of Prosody in the English Dative Alternation. Language and Cognitive Processes 25(7,8,9): 946–981.

Boersma, Paul, and Bruce Hayes. 2001. Empirical Tests of the Gradual Learning Algorithm. Linguistic Inquiry 32:45–86.

Bresnan, Joan and Ford, Marilyn. 2010.  Predicting syntax: Processing dative constructions in American and Australian varieties of English. Language 86: 168-213.

Coetzee, Andries W. 2004. What It Means to Be a Loser: Non-Optimal Candidates in Optimality Theory. Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Guy, Gregory. 1991. Explanation in Variable Phonology: An Exponential Model of Morphological Constraints. Language Variation and Change 3(1):1–22.

Guy, Gregory. 1991. Contextual Conditioning in Variable Lexical Phonology. Language Variation and Change 3(2):223–239.

Guy, Gregory and Charles Boberg. 1997. Inherent Variability and the Obligatory Contour Principle. Language Variation and Change 9(2):149–164.

Ingason, Anton Karl, Einar Freyr Sigurðsson and Joel Wallenberg. 2012. Antisocial Syntax: Disentangling the Icelandic VO/OV Parameter and Its Lexical Remains. Paper presented at DiGS14, Lisbon, July 4–6.

Kroch, Anthony. 1989. Reflexes of Grammar in Patterns of Language Change. Language Variation and Change 1: 199–244.

Kroch, Anthoy. 1994. “Morphosyntactic Variation,” in K. Beals et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the 30th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society (Parasession on Variation and Linguistic Theory.), vol. 2, pp. 180–201.

Miller, Karen L. & Cristina Schmitt. 2012. Variable input and the acquisition of plural morphology. Language Acquisition 19: 223–261.

Labov, William. 1969. Contraction, Deletion and Inherent Variability of the English Copula. Language 45: 715–762.

Yang, Charles D. 2002. Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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