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Linguistics symposium on Romance Languages

June 30, 2010

From left, Paul Hirschbuhler, University of Ottawa; Marie Labelle, University of Québec, Montréal; Michael Herschensohn; and Julia Herschensohn.

By Julia Herschensohn, Chair, Linguistics; Organizing Committee Member, Linguistics Symposium

Dr. Herschensohn’s research focuses on second language acquisition. She argues that language acquisition is not simply derived through communicative experience, but rather the resetting of parameters and transfer of already acquired grammatical principles within the lexicon of the new language.

The Linguistics Symposium on Romance Languages was held at the UW in late March—the third time that the UW hosted this important conference. On its fortieth anniversary, the Symposium featured a special parasession, “Sharing and Differing in Romance Bilingual Contact Environments,” with keynote addresses by internationally recognized specialists in Romance linguistics, Maria-Luisa Zubizarreta, University of Southern California; Donka Farkas, University of California, Santa Cruz; and Jurgen Klausenburger, UW. The conference attracted about one hundred participants from nine countries in Europe and the Americas. Eighteen of the fifty-two presentations were authored by Canadian linguists representing the University of Alberta, University of Ottawa, Carleton University, University of Toronto, and University of Québec, Montréal.

The parasession explored how languages in contact—for example, French and English in Canada, Quechua and Spanish in South America, and standard Italian and dialects—assimilate and dissimilate to each other in phonology, morphology, syntax, and other linguistic domains. For example, Michael Freisner of the University of Québec, Montréal, talked about the influence of English loan words on Montréal French vowels.

The symposium continued a decades long tradition of annual conferences on the topic of theoretical Romance linguistics, sponsored and organized by different scholars at North American institutions each year. Widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious annual conference in Romance linguistics, and funded exclusively by the host institution, the Symposium benefited from the support of the Canadian Studies Center to attract participation from prominent senior scholars and graduate students alike. Finally, the publication of selected and refereed research from the symposium will ensure a broad impact on the fields of Romance and general theoretical linguistics.

This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Title VI grant, U.S. Department of Education, Office of International Education and Graduate Program Service.