Through the formal analysis of the traditional items of language – word, phrase, the utterance or the discourse – and the study of a wide range of different languages, the researchers at the Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle (LLF) investigate the cognitive system of the language in its entirety.

Enlightened and eager for collaborations, the LLF is member of the Labex EFL – Empirical Foundations of Linguistics (2011-2021), and is involved in many collaborations, either on a local or international scope.

The variety of the theoretical approaches and of the languages studied shape the special features of the research led at the LLF. The researchers share a common ground of beliefs:

  • Description, analysis, formalism and theorization form linguistics ;
  • The analysis of linguistic data is possible relatively regardless of the theoretical models ;
  • The analysis grows by a deep comparison of languages.

Academic status and history

The Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle is a Research unit (UMR7110) under the supervision of both the National Center for Scientific Research and the Ministry for Higher Education and Research. The LLF is associated to the University of Paris-Diderot and counts nowadays 13 CNRS researchers, 4,5 engineers and administratives, 17 university lecturers and researchers and 39 PhD students. Since March 2011, Olivier Bonami is at the head of the government body.

Founded in 1972 by Antoine Culioli, at first as an associated research team, then as an associated research unit, the LLF has been managed by Jean-Claude Milner (1990-1999), Jean Lowenstamm (1999-2005), Alain Kihm (2005-2011) and Anne Abeillé (2011-2016).


The studies of the LLF fit into a variety of theoretical paradigms which come under formal linguistics.

The syntactic studies fall within the minimalist program (MP) or within constraint grammars (CG): head-driven phrase structure grammars (HPSG), construction grammars, lexical-functional grammars (LFG), tree-adjoining grammars (TAG).

A lot more of studies are led at LLF:

  • Study of the discourse within the remit of the Discourse Representation Theory ((S)DRT);
  • In formal pragmatics and formal semantics: the theory of generalized quantifiers, formal semantics of dialogue, MRS & UDRT-approaches;
  • In morphology: word and paradigm approaches, distributive morphology (DM) and lexematic morphology;
  • In phonology: government phonology (GP), constraint-based phonology, autosegmental and metrical phonology

A lot of studies are related to interfaces (morphology-syntax, prosody-syntax, semantics-syntax, etc.).

The enunciative paradigm, linked to the Theory of the Predicative and Enunciative Operations (TOPE), is studied as well.