Mapping Syntax - Universals, Variation, Acquisition, and Change

The Workshop

This year marks 25 years since the publication of Luigi Rizzi’s (1997) ‘The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery’, one of the foundational works of the cartographic enterprise (cf. i.a. also Belletti 1990, Cardinaletti 1997, and Cinque 1999), a research programme which has had a profound and enduring influence on linguistic research regarding language universals, variation, acquisition, and change (see Cinque and Rizzi 2009 and Shlonsky 2010 for recent overviews).

To mark the 25th anniversary of Rizzi (1997), a workshop will take place in Oxford from the 16th to 18th of November. The aims of the workshop are to consider the major achievements of the cartographic enterprise over the last three decades and to provide a forum for presenting novel research which showcases the enduring potential of cartography in the decades to come.

The workshop will have keynote talks from the following invited speakers:

Professor Adriana Belletti (University of Siena)
Professor Cristiano Chesi (IUSS Pavia)
Professor Guglielmo Cinque (University Ca’ Foscari Venice)
Professor Naama Friedmann (University of Tel Aviv)
Professor Cecilia Poletto (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, University of Padua)
Professor Luigi Rizzi (Collège de France)
Professor Fuzhen Si (Beijing Language and Culture University)

Programme and Book of Abstracts

A final programme is now available here and the book of abstracts is available to download here.


Registration is open via the University of Oxford’s Webstore. Please follow this link to register as a workshop participant.

Call for Abstracts

Thirty-minute presentations are welcome on any area of cartography, particularly those with ‘big picture’ cross-linguistic implications. The workshop will focus in particular on:

  • Cartographic achievements and challenges. What are the principal empirical, theoretical, and methodological advances in cartography over the past three decades and what do these tell us about how language is structured in the human mind? Where does the cartographic enterprise make demonstrably distinct predictions from core functional category-oriented Minimalism (e.g. Chomsky 2000) and when have these predictions been confirmed or proven false by the data? How can the potentially very rich inventory of features and corresponding projections posited in most cartographic approaches (e.g. Kayne 2005) be reconciled with the central role of economy constraints assumed within Minimalism since Chomsky (1995)? Are cartography and Minimalism genuinely complementary approaches (Cinque & Rizzi 2009) or do the two approaches ultimately rest – to a degree or in their entirety – on incompatible assumptions regarding the structure of the Faculty of Language?
  • New Empirical Domains. Though some early cartographic research drew on data from non-Indo-European languages (Cinque 1999; Speas & Tenny 2003; Aboh 2004), do analyses of familiar phenomena from Indo-European languages require rethinking when confronted with data from elsewhere? Looking specifically at seminal cartographic maps of the left periphery (Rizzi 1997; Rizzi 2001; Rizzi 2010; Benincà & Poletto 2004), the Tense-Aspect-Mood field (Cinque 1999; Cinque 2006), the vP domain (Belletti 2001; Belletti 2004; Belletti 2006), and the extended nominal expression (Giusti 1996; Giusti 2006), do we find that particular domains require more extensive revision than others when faced with data from grammars showing major typological distinctions (i.e. Pearce 1999; Huang, Li & Li 2009; Collins 2019)? Do such systems in fact require us to weaken central cartographic assumptions about the universal hierarchy of projections which form the clausal spine (Wiltschko 2014)?
  • Cartography in diachrony. What is the value of cartographic approaches for historical- diachronic linguistics? How can cartography inform debates around universality and directionality in syntactic change (Lightfoot 1997; Longobardi 2001; Roberts & Roussou 2002)? Does cartography elucidate ongoing controversy over exogenous and endogenous causes of language simplification and complexification and how these might be applied to syntax (Trudgill 2011; Walkden & Breitbarth 2019)? Does the ‘bundling’ of certain properties in historical stages of languages give us new insights into the universality or variability of certain morphosyntactic properties (Poletto 2014; Wolfe 2021)?
  • Cartography in acquisition. Does cartography help us develop novel and falsifiable predictions in acquisition theory? How does experimental and observational acquisition data confirm or lead us to revise hypotheses based on adult language competence? What is the potential of the ‘Growing Trees’ hypothesis put forward in Friedmann, Belletti, and Rizzi (2021) under which child language acquirers successively acquire competence in utilising structure ‘upwards’ along the clausal spine?


The workshop will take place in person at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. The workshop will run from Wednesday 16th to Friday 18th November, with a formal banquet on the Thursday night.

Abstract Submission 

Abstracts submission is now closed and successful authors have been contacted.


The workshop has been generously supported by the British Academy, the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics at the University of Oxford, and St Catherine’s College, Oxford.

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