<OT> CfP: Workshop on "Optimality Theory as a General Cognitive Architecture"

Rutgers Optimality Archive roa@ruccs.rutgers.edu
Fri Apr 22 10:53:56 PDT 2011

Optimality Theory as a General Cognitive Architecture
Workshop held at the 33rd annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
July 20, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts

Tamas Biro (t . s . biro @ uva . nl)
Judit Gervain (judit . gervain @ parisdescartes . fr)

Call for Participation and Call for Posters:

Harmony Theory (Smolensky, 1986), introduced exactly 25 years ago, became 
one of the most popular current approaches to linguistics in the form of 
Optimality Theory (OT, Prince and Smolensky 1993). While most people in 
the OT camp focus on particular linguistic problems, the underlying 
motivations of the theory warrant a constant connection between OT and the 
(computational) cognitive sciences. The aim of this workshop is to discuss 
the place of Optimality Theory (and related approaches: Harmony Grammar 
and the ICS Architecture) within the cognitive sciences at large.

In "The Harmonic Mind" (2006), Smolensky and Legendre repeatedly allude to 
the possibility of applying their ICS Architecture to a broad spectrum of 
domains in (higher) cognition, while maintaining the connection between 
higher (abstract) level description and lower (neural) level processing. 
At the same time, some scholars have already adopted Optimality Theory to 
specific, non-linguistic phenomena, including culture and ethical decision 
making. Thirdly, experimental and computational OT research often tackle 
issues that fit nicely into the cognitive psychological tradition, thereby 
building new bridges between linguistics and other cognitive domains.

Yet, it is sad to see the lack of opportunities for scholars working on OT 
as a general cognitive architecture to share their ideas. Even less 
collaboration is going on between the OT-camp and those employing utility 
function-based models in computational biology, psychology or economics. 
Therefore, the workshop offers a meeting point to those applying OT to 
non-linguistic domains, as well as an opportunity to discuss the place of 
OT, HG and ICS within the cognitive sciences.

The half-day-long workshop consists of a key-note address by Paul 
Smolensky, as well as by papers delivered by Petra Hendriks, Lotte 
Hogeweg, Geraldine Legendre and Giorgio Magri. Additionally, the workshop 
will also feature a poster session.

We thus seek posters describing new results and addressing, primarily, 
though not exclusively, the following issues:

* Optimality Theory and Harmony Grammar as general frameworks of 
(higher) cognition.
* OT/HG-style analyses of phenomena belonging to (primarily, 
non-linguistic) domains that have not yet employed OT.
* The connection of linguistic OT/HG to the study of other (higher) 
cognitive functions.
* OT compared to HG, from theoretical-mathematical and 
cognitive-neuroscientific perspectives.
* OT/HG-style formalisms compared to utility function-based approaches 
from a mathematical-computational perspective; their place in explaining 
the brain/mind.
* Relating connectionist and symbolic approaches: the ICS Architecture 
and its eventual alternatives.
* Ontogenetic aspects of OT/HG approaches (learnability).
* Phylogenetic aspects of OT/HG approaches (including historical 
change, evolutionary models, etc.).

1-page-long abstracts are solicited by May 20, to be sent to Tamas Biro (t 
. s . biro @ uva . nl). Notification of acceptance is due by May 31.

Further information, including a longer description of the workshop is 
getting gradually available on the website of the workshop: 

And a final (informal) note:

One of the aims of the workshop is to gauge ongoing work and eventual 
interest in using OT beyond linguistics, either in other domains, or as a 
general cognitive architecture. Therefore, if you cannot join us in Boston 
for whatever reason, but you are nevertheless interested in contributing 
to the theme of the workshop, for instance in the form of a paper in an 
eventual volume coming out of the meeting, then you are still extremely 
welcome to contact us.

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