Meetings 2008-2009

Here’s a list of this years meetings. You can find the
corresponding abstracts with the search tool in the right sidebar. All
meetings start at 16.15 sharp!

Prosodic realization of Information Focus in Wenzhou Chinese

By Franzisca Scholz

The main goal of my project is to find out more about Information Structure, which means the ways in which a speakers guides the hearer through the information he or she is conveying during the speech act. The mechanisms of this phenomenon have primarily been studied for languages that use prosody for this purpose, such as English and Dutch. In these languages, accentuation and deaccentuation of constituents in the sentence are used to direct the hearer’s attention to the most informative parts of an utterance, and it can be assumed that most languages use some aspects of their phonological system to mark this function.
Tone languages, which use prosodic features on the word level to disambiguate meaning distinctions, have proven both a challenging and a fruitful research subject for the investigation of Information Structure: On the one hand, the prosody of the language is for large parts occupied with lexical disambiguation, but on the other hand, tone languages have been shown to use other mechanisms, such as lengthening and voice modality, to mark similar Information Structure categories as European languages.
My investigations center on Wenzhou Chinese, a southern dialect which differs in many respects both from Standard Chinese and from the surrounding dialects of the area. It provides an elaborate tone system on the word level, but as soon as words are combined into sentences, a lot of the underlying tonal distinctions are cancelled out in a process that has been little understood so far. The investigation of this process promises many insights for prosody research, and thereby for the investigation of how Information Structure is conveyed across languages.
During my talk, I will present some first insights gathered from a picture description task that I conducted with a native speaker of Wenzhou, with the aim to find out more about the prosodic realization of Information Structure. My objective is to present the experimental setup with its advantages and disadvantages to further the planning of the experiments for this summer’s field trip to Wenzhou.

The style of political speeches: a linguistic approach

Since classical antiquity, attention has been paid to the question how politicians and other public speakers can effectively construe their message. Although it is generally known that style can make or break a speech, at the same time a systematical investigation of style turns out to be troublesome. An explicitly formulated method of analysis is often lacking, which raises questions about the consistency and validity of these analyses.
In my paper, I will report on a new line of linguistic-stylistical research which aims at altering this situation. I will present a method for analyzing style in a more systematic way. The method contains classical-rhetorical as well as linguistic categories of analysis. I will especially argue that ‘style’ is not only a matter of ‘foregrounded’ rhetorical figures and tropes, but can also be found in ‘inconspicuous’ linguistic means which are neglected in most stylistical studies. This will be illustrated by using examples from the Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Cognitive linguistics will function as the theoretical framework.



Linguistic Ingenuity & Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) in Multilingual Africa: A case of Kenya

Speaker: Sandra Barasa

Date: 5 February 2009

Location: van Wijkplaats 4, zaal 004


CMC language in Sub-Saharan Africa is a recent phenomenon and has hardly been researched into despite the region being highly multilingual and a host to diverse linguistic groups. Most CMC studies have focused on English, European and Asian languages.

Herring 1996 defines CMC as communication that takes place between humans via the instrumentality of computers (and mobile phones). CMC has shrunk the world by enabling almost instant communication over space and time. It can either be synchronic (where communicators can ‘dialogue’ by being available at the same time) or asynchronic (where the communicators need not be available at the same time but the receiver can access the message later on).

In this talk, I would like to give a description of the creativity of language as used in text CMC by the youth generation in Kenya. My focus is on text drawn from Email, Instant Messaging (IM), Social Network Sites (SNS) and Text Messaging (SMS).

Additionally, I would like to propose several factors that this creativity can be attributed to and finally, advance a counter-argument against the increasing outcry that CMC is leading to the deterioration of language.



Emotional meaning extraction – speech and music

Recognizing emotional signals and responding appropriatly to them is vital for survival. It has therefore been claimed that processing of emotional information has priority in the human brain. Experiments showing that emotional information is processed fast and even without awareness give some support for this idea.

Both prosody and music can convey emotional information through the structuring of sound.
How does the human brain extract emotional meaning from acoustic signals? And does the brain extract emotional meaning from music and speech in a similar way or are there separate circuits?

A recent study claims to have found evidence that emotional information in music is indeed extracted very quickly and that this emotional information can interact with the semantic system.

In this talk, I would like to discuss a collaboration project that aims to replicate and extend this study. Two experiments are proposed to address the following questions:

  • is the fast emotional meaning-extraction from music reliable?
  • can fast emotional meaning-extraction also be found for emotional prosody?
  • does emotional information extracted from music and prosody indeed interact with the semantic system?

In addition to answering these questions the proposed experperiments may shed some light on the automaticity of emotional processing in general and the extent to which both acoustic media for emotional expression have a shared neural representation.

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.¡¦