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Categories in Grammar – Criteria and Limitations

International Conference from July 2 to 4, 2015, at Freie Universität Berlin about Fundamentals of Grammatical Research

№ 194/2015 from Jun 25, 2015

"Is there a system behind the irregular verbs? Are all levels of grammar alike? And how do infants acquire their mother tongue"? – These and other questions in basic linguistics will be discussed in a workshop from July 2 to 4, 2015, at Freie Universität. About thirty linguists from Germany and abroad will present papers on categories in grammar, their criteria and limitations. They will also be available for discussions and to address questions. The conference is being organized by the Historical Linguistics group at Freie Universität Berlin. It will be held in English. The workshop is public, and there is no charge for admission. No advance registration is required.

"The classification of things is not always straightforward and can often be mainly dependent on culture," said Horst Simon, a professor of historical linguistics at Freie Universität Berlin and initiator of the conference. Because sparrows are birds. So are eagles and penguins. Whales and bats are mammals. And in China tomatoes are served on a plate of fruit for dessert along with melons and peaches. These categorical difficulties also exist in the field of language. "Even though the average classroom might suggest otherwise, upon closer examination there are many grammatical phenomena that do not fit well in the categories, and sometimes not at all," said Horst Simon. This raises fundamental issues with regard to the sense and nonsense of established grammatical categories. The search for answers is not only of theoretical academic interest, but also important for many applications, for example, for automatic language analysis in modern computer applications, or in the organization of textbooks for teaching foreign languages.

Other important questions that the conference participants will deal with include, for example: Is the German word "bausparen" a verb or a noun? Does the sentence "Peter will be in the kitchen." refer to the future or is it a conjecture? Or also: Does Old English have subjects? Are spoken and written language fundamentally different? And: when is a mistake no longer a mistake, but a rarely occurring exception?

Further Information

Time and Location

  • Thursday, July 2 to Sunday, July 4, 2015
  • Freie Universität Berlin, Seminar Center, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin. subway station: Dahlem-Dorf or Thielplatz (U3)


Prof. Dr. Horst Simon, Institute of German and Dutch Languages and Literatures, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel. : + 49 30 838-55478, Email:

Link to the Conference Program               

Conference: Categories in Grammar – Criteria and Limitations