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IS 2009

3 – 4 March 2009
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (K.U.Leuven)
Department of Linguistics

Conference website:

(new submission deadline: January 21)

Key-note speakers

  • Nomi Erteschik-Shir (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel & Harvard University, USA)
  • Robert Van Valin (University of Buffalo, USA & Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany)
  • Michel Charolles (Université de Paris 3 & Laboratoire LaTTiCe, Paris, France)
  • Christine Dimroth (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen, the Netherlands)

Conference Description

Although Information Structure (IS) was introduced in linguistics by the Prague School functionalism [Firbas (1962/1964), Daneš (1964/1968), see Sgall, Hajicová & Panevová (1986), Firbas (1992) and Newmeyer (2001) for an overview], it is only in the last few decades that systematic research on IS has started. By now, many empirical analyses of specific facts involving IS are available [cf., among many others, Charolles' (1997/2003) work on left-dislocated adverbials in French]. From a theoretical point of view, recent research focuses on two major topics: (i) the notional foundations of IS theory [cf. Vallduví (1992), Lambrecht (1994), Erteschik- Shir (1997/2007)], and (ii) the development of models of grammar which account for the interaction between IS, syntax and semantics. For instance, several multi-level integrated models of grammar have been proposed by scholars working in a functional perspective [cf. Pollard & Sag (1994), Bresnan (2001), Jackendoff (2002), Croft (2001), Goldberg (1995), Williams (2003), Van Valin & La Polla (1997)]. Likewise, whereas generative studies used to exclude the influence of the context, IS notions have recently been integrated into the ‘cartographic' approach initiated by Rizzi (1997/2004) [cf. also Haegeman (2003/2004/2006/2007)].

Although the relevance of IS for linguistic analysis is now widely recognized, its precise nature and its position in human language and cognition are still poorly understood. Besides the terminological and conceptual fuzziness that often characterizes analyses on the basis of IS, this can be attributed to two factors. Firstly, there still is a significant gap in the literature between theoretical approaches and descriptive analyses of IS. Whereas the former contain relatively few detailed empirical analyses of linguistic data, the latter either focus on a particular linguistic phenomenon in one or several languages or consider several IS-driven syntactic configurations in a particular language. The second factor goes beyond the purely linguistic side of the problem. At this stage of research it is unclear to which extent phenomena such as topic and focus are purely linguistic notions (i.e. grammar-driven) or belong to specific cognitive mechanisms interacting with language. It is very likely that IS-phenomena cannot fully be captured by linguistics because IS is in part a matter of human cognition. This suggests that linguistic research on IS should be complemented with interdisciplinary psycholinguistic research and vice versa, in order to test the psycholinguistic hypothesis [cf. Levelt (1989)], according to whom IS is absolutely fundamental in language production and prior to (rather than simultaneous with) purely linguistic processes concerning form and meaning [cf. the research projects “Spatial Framing Adverbials : linguistic and psycholinguistic approaches” at the laboratory LaTTiCe Paris & “Information Structure in Language Acquisition” at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen].

The aim of this conference is to bring together linguists and psycholinguists from different theoretical perspectives to discuss the interface between IS, syntax and semantics, as well as the application of psycholinguistic methods to IS phenomena. We invite papers presenting an empirical analysis of specific language facts or more general theoretical papers about the interaction between IS, syntax, semantics and/or human cognition. We particularly welcome contributions which, more or less explicitly, apply ideas of the key-note speakers. A special session will be dedicated to IS in French.

Presentations and abstracts will be in English, except for the session dedicated to French, where presentations may be in French as well.

Guidelines for abstract submission

  • Abstracts are invited for 30-minute presentations plus 10 minutes for discussion.
  • Abstracts should be anonymous and no longer than two pages, including references and examples, with margins of at least 1-inch (2.5 cm), Times New Roman font size 12, single spaced. Submissions are limited to a maximum of one individual and one joint abstract per author.
  • Abstracts should be in English, except for the session on French, where French may be used.
  • The anonymous abstracts (in PDF format) should be sent as e-mail attachments to
  • Mention in the subject field: “Abstract submission” + last name + first name
  • Join separately a file containing: title, author's name and address, affiliation and e-mail address.
  • Deadline for submission = January 21, 2009

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Important dates

  • 21 January 2009: new deadline for abstract submission (by e-mail)
  • 30 January 2009: notification of acceptance (by e-mail)
  • 15 February 2009: deadline for early registration
  • 03 – 04 March 2009: conference

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Conference Organizers

Karen Lahousse
(Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders & Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)
Béatrice Lamiroy
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)
Piet Mertens
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)


For any further question, please contact us by e-mail:
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Conference programme

The preliminary program is available here.

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Faculty of Arts
Blijde-Inkomststraat 21
3000 Leuven
Justus Lipsius zaal

Click here to find a map with the Location of the faculty in the city of Leuven.
When you leave the railway station, the Faculty is just one kilometer away. Take the main street (Bondgenotenlaan) that faces the railway station and the monument. After a few minutes you will pass by the statue of Justus Lipsius. Take the second street on your left behind the statue and continue up Leopold I straat. After 400m you'll reach Ladeuzeplein, a wide open square with the university's main library on your left. The street (Arendstraat) to the left of the library leads you to a small square called Erasmusplein. Here you see a parking space with some trees. The faculty is the huge greyish building just behind it.

Travel advice

Leuven is situated on the main railways lines crossing Belgium. Leuven can be reached with a direct train (about 15 minutes) from the airport Brussels-National Airport. Check timetables for the train at this website.

If you fly into Charleroi Airport ("Brussels South"), there is a bus service to the railway station Brussel Zuid (Bruxelles Midi). From Brussels there are direct trains to Leuven (approx. 30 mins). You can consult the NMBS website for timetables.

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Conference Dinner

On tuesday evening, after the reception, we'll go to an Italian restaurant (called "Per Tutti") near the conference venue, to have dinner à la carte. If you want to join for dinner, please add your name on the list that will be available at the reception desk on tuesday morning. Please note that this dinner is not included in the conference fee.


Conference fee

  • 100 euros (lunch included) for early registration (before 15 February)
  • 120 euros (lunch included) without registration or when paying cash on site


Please send an email to the email address of the congress with the following information :
  • Title, First name, Last name, email address
  • Affiliation
  • Postal address, Zip code, City, Country
  • Private address, if payment made from your private bank account
  • Mode of payment: bank transfer (100 or 120 euro) or cash on site (120 euro)
Make a bank transfer for the conference fee to the following bank account :
  • (in Belgium): 734-0066603-70, Account owner: K.U.Leuven, Name of bank: KBC
  • (international):
    IBAN = BE60 7340 0666 0370
indicating the following structured reference code :
It is absolutely essential that you provide this reference in the payment, otherwise the payment will get lost.

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Leuven offers a broad range of accommodation possibilities, including hotels, bed & breakfasts and hostels. Please make reservations directly with the hotel of your choice.

Of course you can always try to find a room in one of these other hotels. For more information on accommodation in Leuven, please visit the website of the Leuven Tourist Office.

For those that wish to combine their participation in the conference with a visit to Europe's capital, there is also the possibility to look for a hotel in Brussels. Travelling time between the two city centres is half an hour with 4 trains per hour. There are two hotels next to Brussels' Central Station that are also within walking distance from the historical city centre: IBIS and Le Méridien. For further accommodation in Brussels, we refer to the site of the Brussels Tourist Office.

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webpage by Piet Mertens