new congregation!!!

On ocotber 30, Tanja Temmerman will present her work in the PhD Discussion Group. Come one, come all!! The meeting will be held in room 130 in the Lipsius. We’ll start at 16.15 sharp, as we’ll have to leave the room by five. Here’s the abstract:

 (Embedded) left dislocation in southern Dutch
In this talk, I focus on left dislocation in southern Dutch. Firstly, I introduce previously undiscussed data of embedded left dislocation (ELD) in southern Dutch. Although it is generally assumed that all left dislocation except Romance/Greek Clitic Left Dislocation (CLLD) is limited to root contexts (cf. e.g. Cinque 1990), the southern Dutch example in (1) provides evidence to the contrary. In ELD, the left peripheral constituent, coindexed with an IP-internal demonstrative, precedes both the complementizer and the fronted WH-phrase.

(1) a. Ik  denk [den   Bert]i dat   diejeni  nen   boek gekocht eeft.
         I    think  the    Bert   that  DEM     a       book bought  has
        ‘I think that Bert has bought a book.’
     b. Ik  vraag  mij      af  [den   Bert]i wa    dat   diejeni gekocht eeft.
         I   ask     myself off  the    Bert   what  that  DEM    bought  has
         ‘I wonder what Bert has bought.’              [southern Dutch ELD]

Furthermore, I present d-HTLD (Hanging Topic Left Dislocation with a demonstrative) in southern Dutch main clauses and show how its properties resemble those of ELD. I conclude that ELD is embedded d-HTLD. d-HTLD is illustrated in (2).

(2)    [Diejen boek], den Bert heeft diejen gisteren    teruggebracht.
          that    book   the Bert  has   DEM    yesterday returned
         ‘Bert has returned that book yesterday.’         [southern Dutch d-HTLD]

The aim of my talk is not to give a definite analysis of left dislocation in southern Dutch, but mainly to discuss some of the problems the analysis faces:

(i) How do we reconcile the fact that ELD and d-HTLD show reconstruction behaviour (for Condition A, for Variable Binding,…), cf. (3a), with the observation that they are insensitive to islands (any island, weak or strong, can be violated, cf. (3b))?

(3) a. Ik  denk [zijni   eerste artikel] dat   elke   taalkundigei dat    slecht vindt.
         I    think  his     first    article   that  every linguist         DEM  bad    finds
        ‘I think that every linguist does not like his first article.’
     b. Ik  denk  [Eva] dat   ik het  gerucht  gehoord heb   dat  die   in de  gevangenis  zit.
         I    think  Eva   that  I  the  rumour  heard     have that  DEM in the prison         sits
        ‘I think I heard the rumour that Eva is in prison.’           [southern Dutch ELD]

(ii) There is another instance of left dislocation in southern Dutch, viz CLD (Contrastive Left Dislocation), exemplified in (4). Can the analysis of ELD and d-HTLD be extended to CLD, dealing both with the similarities and the differences between these constructions?

(4)    [Diejen boek], diejen heeft den Bert gisteren   teruggebracht.
         that     book   DEM    has   the  Bert yesterday returned
        ‘Bert has returned that book yesterday.’              [southern Dutch CLD]

(iii) Southern Dutch left dislocation shows an intricate pattern of reconstruction for Condition C. Of course, the analysis should properly handle these data as well.

Previous meetings

Here’s a list with the speakers, dates and subjects of previous meetings (taken from the old site). For some of these talks (mainly the more recent ones), abstracts are available. You can search them or select the category "previous" from the "categories"column on the right.

  • 20 May 2008, Elizabeth Koier & Elena Tribushinina, Subjectification in adverbs: Two case studies
  • 6 May 2008, Erik Schoorlemmer, Definiteness marking in Germanic DPs
  • 29 April 2008, Michaël Peyrot, Is it possible to apply the theory of the relative stability of language elements to dead languages?
  • 8 April 2008, Roland Hemmauer, Derivational interdependencies in Katwena
  • 25 March 2008, Rinus Verdonschot, Multiple phonological representations in Japanese kanji: cascading activation after all?
  • 11 March 2008, Katerina Soucková, Pluractional verbs in Hausa
  • 26 February 2008, Camelia Constantinescu, On Romanian (sub)comparatives
  • 16 October 2007 – Pepijn Hendriks, Foreign sources, questionable reliability? On a German source for Russian data, Location – LIPSIUS/204
  • 30 October 2007 – Leo Wong, Structuring of event by postverbal particles in Cantonese, Location – LIPSIUS/204
  • 13 November 2007 – Juliette Huber, Referring to space in Makalero, Location – LIPSIUS/204
  • 27 November 2007 – Froukje Henstra, Trying to look at you was in the language of Horace Walpole and his friends: Some issues and results concerning the use of Social Network Analysis, Location – LIPSIUS/204
  • 11 December 2007 – Robin Straaijer, BE or HAVE variation in the letters of Joseph Pristley, Location – LIPSIUS/203
  • 7 June 2007, Tijmen Pronk, Verbal aspect in Slovene
  • 12 April 2007, Assimakis Tseronis, What can the semantics of stance adverbials tell us about their pragmatic effect on the burden of proof?,
  • 29 March 2007, Jenneke van der Wal, ‘Is the preverbal position in Makhuwa a topic-position?’
  • 15 March 2007, Karlijn Navest, ‘John Ash: descriptive or prescriptive grammarian?’
  • 4 January 2007, Annemie Verbist – ‘The Role of Perceptual Salience in the Acquisition of Principle B: Evidence from Cochlear Implanted Children’
  • 30 November 2006, Anne-Christie Hellenthal – on fieldwork on Sheko
  • 16 November 2006, Elena Tribushinina – ‘Co-extension in the domain of dimensional adjectives’
  • 2 November 2006, Stella Grillia ‘What can topics tell us about foci?’
  • 15 June 2006, Annemie Verbist ‘The role of the antecedent’s accessibility in the acquisition of Dutch object pronouns’
  • 1 June 2006, Alwin Kloekhorst ‘A problem of the Hittite verbal system’
  • 11 May 2006, Stephen Laker ‘Doubling of consonants in Northumbrian Old English’
  • 13 April 2006, Luis Vicente ‘Exceptional cases of preposition stranding under sluicing’
  • 30 March 2006, Assimakis Tseronis ‘What is Pragma-dialectics and what do I do with it? On the analysis of argumentative discourse in general, and on the qualification of a standpoint and the burden of proof, in particular’
  • 2 March 2006, Stella Grillia ‘Focus and Topic Constructions in Greek’
  • 16 February 2006, Anita Auer ‘The fate of the English inflectional subjunctive’
  • 2 February 2006, Sander Steeman ‘Plurality in Sandawe (Tanzania)’
  • 15 December 2005, Kristina Riedel ‘Agreement and Argument Structure in Sambaa’
  • 1 December 2005, Erik Schoorlemmer ‘Agree and existentials’
  • 17 November 2005, Birgit Bexten ‘Salience in Hypertext. How multiple preferred centers contribute to coherence in hypertext.’
  • 20 October 2005, Frank Landsbergen and Mika Poss ‘Dutch between German and English’

Stella Grillia, What can topics tell us about foci?

There is an ongoing debate about focus and topic. More specifically, there is an open question whether focus and topic should be encoded in syntax. This question is answered in different ways. For example, Rizzi 1997, 2002 argues that information structure should be encoded into syntax, whereas Reinhart 1996 argues that focus should be interpreted in the interface. In this talk, I am going to discuss constructions like the one given in (1).

(1)   Tis         triantafilies potizi         i             Maria.

the_acc roses_acc    water_3sg the_nom Mary_nom

¡¥The roses, Mary waters.¡¦

What I will show is that preverbal objects in Greek are foci sitting in a topic position. Evidence for this claim comes from an experiment on anaphora resolution and a questionnaire.



Reinhart, T. 1996. Interface Economy. In C. Wilder, H. Gaertner, M. Bierwiscg (eds). The role of economy principles in linguistic theory. Berlin: Akademische Verlag.

Rizzi, L. 1997. The fine structure of the left periphery. In L. Haegeman (ed). Elements of Grammar. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Rizzi, L. 2002. Locality and left periphery. In A. Belletti (ed) . Structures and beyond. The cartography of syntactic structures, vol. 3. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Elena Tribushinina, Co-extension in the domain of dimensional adjectives

In this talk I will deal with the problem of near-synonymy by looking at two Russian adjectives: nizkij ¡¥low¡¦ and nevysokij ¡¥unhigh¡¦. It has been suggested in literature (Raxilina 2000; Sharoff 2004) that the two adjectives display a complementary distribution: nizkij is used with reference to entities shorter than a human being, whereas nevysokij applies to referents that are as tall or taller than humans.

A corpus study has shown that this is not quite so. Nizkij can also modify nouns whose referents are taller than humans (36% in the Russian National Corpus), and nevysokij can be employed with reference to entities lower than people (12%). The corpus data suggest that the two adjectives are co-extensive in the sense proposed by MacLaury (1997), i.e. they provide two different views on the same category. Nizkij represents a dominant vantage with an overall focus on similarity. Nevysokij is a recessive vantage, whose primary focus is EGO. As a result, the former adjective is more frequent and is used for a broader range of referents, whereas the use of the latter is largely confined to objects commensurate with a human being.


MacLaury, R.E. (1997). Color and Cognition in Mesoamerica: Constructing Categories as Vantages. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Raxilina, E.V. (2000). Kognitivnyj analiz predmetnyx imen. Semantika i sočetaemost¡¦. Moscow: Russkie slovari.

Sharoff, S. (2004). How to handle lexical semantics in SFL: a corpus study of purposes for using size adjectives. In: S.Hunston, G.Thompson (eds.) Systemic Linguistics and Corpus. London: Equinox.

Anne-Christie Hellenthal, on fieldwork on Sheko

In my presentation I will discuss some morphemes from Sheko, an Omotic language spoken in Ethiopia. The morphemes I will focus on are -ke and -me, which occur sentence finally. I analyse them as declarative markers, but their semantics include more than just mood.

(1)      bern             foto    n-k¡¦ay-s-a-me.

         tomorrow     photo   1sg-stand.up-caus-fut-[me]

¡¥I will take pictures tomorrow.¡¦

(2)     aakʼasta        yira    a-baʒ-u-ki-#?         dabdabe        a-tsʼaf-ki-ke.

now             what       3sm-do-u-be-q     letter             3sm-write-be-[ke]

¡¥What is he doing right now? He is writing letters.¡¦

Karlijn Navest, John Ash: descriptive or prescriptive grammarian?

John Ash: descriptive or prescriptive grammarian?

According to Leonard, “[t]he notion is abroad that the eighteenth century wrote grammar entirely, as it were, in the imperative mood” (1929:239). However, these eighteenth-century grammars should be interpreted as products of the times in which they were written. The ambitions of middle-class parents for the education of their sons and daughters created a market for grammars in eighteenth-century Britain (Beal 2004:105). In his Grammatical institutes: or grammar, adapted to the genius of the English tongue, John Ash (1724–1779) noted that

THE Importance of an English Education is now pretty well understood; and ’tis generally acknowledged, that not only for Ladies, but for young Gentlemen design’d merely for Trade, an intimate Acquaintance with the Proprieties, and Beauties of the English Tongue, wou’d be a very desirable, and necessary Attainment (1760: iii).

Grammars like that of Ash were aimed at those ladies and gentlemen who did not want to be confused with their social inferiors (Beal 2004:94). Since Ash’s grammar was written in the eighteenth-century we expect it to be prescriptive rather than descriptive. In this paper I will show that neither term is appropriate in characterising his method.


Ash, John (1760). Grammatical institutes: or grammar, adapted to the genius of the English tongue. Worcester: R. Lewis.

Beal, Joan C. (2004). English in modern times. London: Arnold.

Leonard, S[terling] A[ndrus] (1929). The doctrine of correctness in English usage, 1700-1800. Madison: University of Wisconsin (Repr., New York: Russell & Russell, 1962).

Jenneke van der Wal, Is the preverbal position in Makhuwa a topic-position?

The basic hypothesis for my dissertation is that Makhuwa is a discourse-configurational language, meaning that the word order and grammatical structures are determined by the discourse and its information structure. É Kiss (1995) defines a discourse-configurational language as a language which has a particular structural position to express the notion(s) of topic and/or focus. These positions are determined relative to the verb: preverbal and (immediately) postverbal.

As a sub-hypothesis I suggest that the preverbal position is reserved for topic expressions. In order to confirm or disprove this hypothesis I searched the literature for properties ascribed to topics and topic expressions, such as the activation status of the referents (old/new) or the preference to be definite. In this talk I want to discuss some of these properties for the elements found in preverbal position in Makhuwa sentences and get your feedback for this work-in-progress.


Tijmen Pronk, Verbal Aspect in Slovene

The Slavic languages are known for their complex aspectual verbal systems. The systems can vary, depending on the Slavic language you pick. I intend to give a sketch of the Slovene aspectual system, to serve as a case study for Slavic aspectology. Examples I use will come from the standard language and from my own fieldwork material of a Slovene dialect spoken in Austria. Not every verb can be shown to be part of an aspectual pair. Also, the verbal system contains not only an opposition perfect vs. imperfect verbs, but in number of cases also an opposition between iterative and durative imperfective verbs. Finally, there are stative verbs which remain outside the opposition perfective vs. imperfective, but form a semantic class of themselves.

Robin Straaijer, be/have Variation in the Letters of Joseph Priestley

As part of the research project The Codifiers and the English Language: tracing the norms of standard English at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics, I explore The variation of be and have with intransitive mutative verbs in the idiolect of the eighteenth-century English grammarian, Joseph Priestley (1733-1804).
The variation of be and have with intransitive mutative verbs has been extensively studied in a diachronic context. Mats Rydén & Sverker Brorström found a rise in the occurrence of have from 20% around 1700 to 40% at the beginning of the 19th century, with have reaching a “paradigmatic majority” in the first decades of that century (Rydén & Brorström 1987: 196).
In a footnote of his Short Introduction to English Grammar (1762: 63), the eighteenth-century grammarian Robert Lowth (1710-1787) proscribes the use of be with mutative intransitives (Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2006: 553), taking a progressive stance in light of the change in progress.
The alleged descriptivist Joseph Priestley does not appear to lean either way, saying that though strictly speaking be may be more appropriate,
Yet I think we have an advantage in the choice of these forms of expression, as it appears to me, that we use them to express different modifications of the sense. (Priestley 1768: 128)
In order to uncover Priestley’s actual usage, I shall look at the distribution of be and have with intransitive mutatives in his personal correspondence. To this end, I have  compiled a machine-readable corpus of 308 of Priestley’s private letters with a corpus size of 124.403 running words in text.
I investigate the following verbs: advance, arrive, become, come, diminish, get, go, increase, miscarry, recover & return, all of which occur at least 5 times in the corpus. I shall examine Joseph Priestley’s position with respect to the change in progress and, in addition look for diachronic variation in the distribution between be and have during the four decades which the letters cover (1766-1804).