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Rethinking Comparative Syntax (ReCoS)

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics


M Phil Reading Group What’s in a clause and how universal is it? October November 2015

A Masters-level reading group at Cambridge University run by Dr Theresa Biberauer. Texts.


Science Festival March 2015

ReCoS took part in the Cambridge University Science Festival.

Dr András Bárány gave a talk: What is the “language of light”?

Professor Ian Roberts gave a talk on ideas and languages.


M Phil Key Readings in Generative Syntax October and November 2014

A Masters-level reading group in Cambridge University English Faculty run by Professor Ian Roberts and Dr Theresa Biberauer. Texts.


Festival of Ideas October 2014 

ReCoS took part in the Festival of Ideas in October 2014 at the Sidgwick Site of the University of Cambridge.

Professor Ian Roberts gave a talk called Ideas and languages: six more languages that changed the world”.

The ReCoS team organised linguistics themed quizzes, Lingquiztics: 'Blockbusters', 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' and 'Family Fortunes' 


Workshop 'State of the Art in Comparative Syntax' September 2014

ReCoS was involved in a one-day workshop that was part of the 29th Comparative Germanic Syntax workshop (CGSW), held in York, 25-27 September 2014.

The state-of-the-art workshop featured invited talks by David Pesetsky (MIT) and Giuseppe Longobardi (York), with extended commentaries by Professor Ian Roberts (Cambridge) and Professor Anders Holmberg (Newcastle) respectively.

The background and content of the workshop are as follows: The study of comparative grammar has a long and distinguished pedigree. Within Generative Grammar, truly comparative work really began in earnest with the advent of the Principles and Parameters model in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Thirty-five years on, we have accumulated a vast store of knowledge which has both deepened our understanding of crosslinguistic variation and directly informed our understanding of the language faculty. The purpose of this workshop is to consider questions such as the following:

  • What have comparative studies taught us about the origin, extent and significance of syntactic variation, and about the nature of the language faculty and its interaction with other cognitive domains?

  • How do the results of comparative generative work fit with the theoretical assumptions central to work in the minimalist framework and, in particular, with its commitment to a minimally specified Universal Grammar, to the importance of the interfaces, and to so-called ‘third-factor’ effects in shaping the form of grammars?

  • What is the agenda for future work in comparative syntax?

  • Are there methodological lessons to be learned from comparative work so far?


Workshop 'Universals, functional  categories, and implications for language acquisition' June 2014

On 30 June 2014 an interdisciplinary workshop was held in Cambridge,  (English Faculty), jointly organised by Cristina Dye, Anders Holmberg and Theresa Biberauer (as part of the ReCoS project - University of Cambridge/Newcastle University). The programme was as follows:

11.00-12.00   Theresa Biberauer:  Acquiring syntactic categories with minimal (but crucial) help from UG

12.00-13.00   Cristina Dye: Researching the acquisition of grammatical categories: State of the art and theoretical implications

14.00-15.00    David Adger:  Computational simplicity and the hierarchy of functional categories

15.00-16.00    Peter Svenonius: Argument structure and the functional sequence       

16.30- 17.30   Panel discussion


Science Festival March 2014

ReCoS took part in the Cambridge University Science Festival with the event 'Puzzles and patterns in language'.

English Puzzles Theresa Biberauer

Makhuwa Puzzle Jenneke van der Wal

Relative Clauses in Beja Puzzle Tim Bazalgette


Comparative Syntax of English Workshop November 2013

Organised by Dr Theresa Biberauer, Professor Ian Roberts and Dr Jenneke van der Wal.

November 2013, Darwin College


ReCoS at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas October 2013

The programme is available here.

Puzzles referred to below are available here.

Do the limits of my language mean the borders of my world? A talk about interactions between attitudes to language and the creation/maintenance of identities in the current age of the nation-state. Georg Höhn.

Six languages that changed the world. This talk offers a sample of those languages, from Sanskrit to Singlish, via French and Esperanto. Ian Roberts.

Linquiztics: 'Blockbusters', 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' and 'Family Fortunes'  linguistics themed quizzes from the ReCoS team.

Frontiers of linguistic fieldwork. How does a linguist research a new language? An interactive workshop with linguistic brainteasers from various Bantu languages.  Jenneke van der Wal and Andras Bárány.


ReCoS at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas October 2012

A talk by Ian Roberts on "How languages are built" is available here.


Reading Group on FOCUS Spring 2013

In Spring 2013, Dr Jenneke van der Wal ran a reading group on FOCUS. The full reading list is available here.


LAGB Worshop on Case 2012

The 2012 meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain featured a workshop on Case, organised by Dr Michelle Sheehan, Professor Anders Holmberg, and Dr Alison Biggs. The call for papers can be found here.


Open Project Meetings

The ReCoS group regularly holds open project meetings where their ongoing research can be presented to and discussed by the syntax community in Cambridge.


MPhil Parametric Variation Seminar October November 2011

In October and November 2011, the ReCoS group ran a seminar considering the parametric settings of various languages from the perspectives of the hierarchies outlined in the project proposal, starting with well-studied cases such as English and Germanic, and gradually moving on to less familiar languages.


MPhil Null Arguments and Syntactic Theory Seminar Spring 2012

The M Phil syntax Spring 2012 seminar series concentrated on the field of parametric variation seen for null arguments, with each seminar concentrating on different null argument phenomena.



SyntaxLab provides a forum for informal presentation and discussion of syntactic research and work-in-progress, with frequent talks by researchers outside the university.


Bantu Reading Group 2011

In October November 2011, Dr Jenneke van der Wal ran a reading group on Bantu linguistics, covering topics from tonal phonology to object asymmetries in comparative syntax.


Cambridge Biolinguistics Initiative

The Cambridge Biolinguistics Initiative (CBI) is an ongoing interdisciplinary series of seminars, lectures, and reading groups on a variety of issues relating to the biology of language, with a focus on the perspective taken by the Minimalist Program. Details of previous and future sessions can be found on CBI's official blog. CBI is currently organised by two former PhD students on the ReCoS project, Tim Bazalgette and Alison Biggs.