Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft

Kolloquium Syntax und Semantik

In dieser Veranstaltung werden Präsentationen zu laufenden Forschungs- und Abschlussarbeiten auf allen Qualifikationsebenen (Bachelor, Master, Promotion) aus den Bereichen Syntax und Semantik gehalten. Zusätzlich gibt es Termine, zu denen eingeladene externe Wissenschaftler*innen vortragen.



Wintersemester 2020/21


Dienstags, 16:15-17:45
BA und Mas­ter Lin­gu­is­tik


03.11.2020 Organisation




01.12.2020 Elisabeth Steinbach-Eicke M.A., HU & FU Berlin

Metaphorical meaning extensions of perception verbs in Hieroglyphic Egyptian

Perception verbs are verbal expressions of the five sensory modalities of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. These verbs tend to expand their prototypical meanings into the semantic fields of emotion, cognition and social interaction via metaphorical meaning extensions. These mappings are deeply embodied and rooted in our sensorimotor experience. They show how the conceptual system of our mind is structured. Visual and auditory verbs are well documented in typological research, but the “proximal” modalities of touch, smell and taste are still rarely considered. My talk will give an overview of the multi-layered levels of meanings of these verbs in Hieroglyphic Egyptian using textual evidence from various text genres over a long time span (3rd–1st mill. BCE).


15.12.2020 Elodie Winckel, HU

French subject islands: empirical and formal approaches

Constraints on non-local dependencies are traditionally called “islands” and explained as syntactic constraints on transformation (Ross, 1967). Very soon, alternative accounts have been proposed. Some scholars, as Erteschik-Shir (1973) proposed that information structure may account for most “islands”. Others, as Kluender & Kutas (1993), proposed that processing factors are causing them. I investigate in this thesis the “subject island” constraint, first defined as a ban on extraction out of sentential subjects (Ross 1967), and later extended to all subjects (e.g. Subjacency in Chomsky 1973). This constraint has been discussed a lot, and many cross-linguistic counterexamples have been produced (see Stepanov 2007 for an overview). Nowadays, some linguists assume that subject island is a syntactic phenomenon and some linguists assume that an illusion of subject island is caused by either cognitive or pragmatic factors. French is a good example of this dichotomy: Godard (1988) worked on relative clauses introduced by dont (‘of which’) and showed that extraction out of NP subjects is acceptable; but Tellier (1990,1991) claimed that dont is a special case which does not violate Subjacency, and that other instances of extractions out of NP subjects would not be acceptable. Furthermore, French is interesting because it does not belong to the typical null-subject languages (so-called pro-drop languages) like other Romance languages, whereas Uriagereka (2012, ch. 2) thinks that all counter-examples to the subject island are in fact a special case of pro-drop. In this thesis, I look at several structures in French involving an extraction out of nominal, infinitival or sentential subjects.

I discuss the Focus-Background Conflict (FBC) constraint (Abeillé et al., 2020). Inspired by former proposals like Erteschik-Shir (1973) and Goldberg (2006), the FBC constraint states that a focussed element cannot be part of a backgrounded constituent, because this would result in a pragmatic contradiction. Subjects are prototypical subjects, therefore backgrounded. The major novelty of this proposal is that it predicts a difference between focalizations (interrogatives, clefts) and relative clauses for subject subextractions. I present eight corpus studies and show the distribution of extractions, as well as other factors such as verb type, restrictiveness and semantic roles. These corpus results confirm Godard (1988): relativizations out of the subject with dont are very frequent and even the most common usage of dont in written French. They also show evidences against Tellier (1991): other relative words than dont are also possible, with attested subextractions out of the subject with de qui (‘of who’), duquel (‘of which’) or avec qu- (‘with wh-’). But there is a clear distinction between subextractions out of subjects in relatives and in interrogatives. There is indeed not a single example of extraction out of the subject in interrogatives. After this, I present 16 experiments, whose results confirm that relative clauses with subextraction from the subject are accepted and do not lead to an increase in reading time, while participants seem to reject extractions out of the subject in interrogatives, and probably also in clefts (even though the results are less clear in this latter case). Comparing all these empirical evidences with the different accounts on subject islands, I conclude that the FBC constraint explains the data best.

I then propose an HPSG analysis of subject islands. I adopt a traceless analysis of extraction (via the SLASH feature) for interrogatives (Ginzburg and Sag, 2001), relative clauses (Abeillé et al., 2007) and clefts (Winckel & Abeillé, 2020). I show how information structure and syntax interact, using Song (2017)’s representation of information structure encoded in MRS semantic objects (Copestake et al. 2005). Finally, I propose a formalization of the FBC constraint.

05.01.2021 Chenyuan Deng, HU

Zur Syntax von ‚de‘ in der chinesischen NP

12.01.2021 Nico Lehmann, David Müller, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Verhoeven, Prof. Dr. Aria Adli

Cross-linguistic aspects of register variation: Right-peripheral constituents in German

19.01.2021 Elisabeth Backes, HU

A diachronic perspective on the structure of pseudo-partitives in English

26.01.2021 Yanru Lu, HU

Verbal reduplication in Mandarin Chinese

In Mandarin Chinese, verbs (kan ‘look’) can be reduplicated (kan kan ‘look look’) to express a delimitative aspectual meaning (e.g. Chao 1968; Li & Thompson 1981; Smith 1994; Tsao 2001; Xiao & McEnery 2004), namely that the event denoted by the verb happens in a short duration and/or a low frequency (kan kan ‘look a little bit’). The current study tries to determine a suitable formal and unified analysis for the structure of verbal reduplication in Mandarin Chinese. After introducing its forms and syntactic distribution, I discuss the questions of whether there is a head-copy difference between the two elements and whether it is a morphological or syntactic phenomenon. Further, I discuss the strength and weaknesses of previous analyses, which can be classified into three groups: the reduplicant as a verbal classifier (Chao 1968; Fan 1964; Hong 1999; Xiong 2016; Zhu 1982), the reduplicant as an aspect marker (Arcodia et al. 2014; Basciano & Melloni 2017; Travis 1999, 2000; Yang & Wei 2017) and the postulation of a special reduplication construction (Ghomeshi et al. 2004; Travis 2001, 2003). Finally, I present a preliminary HPSG analysis.

02.02.2021 Julian Rott, HU

On the interaction of the word formation, conceptual stativity and transitivity alternations in the psych domain

A psych situation arises when a person holds a certain mental state due to exposure to some sort of trigger. In many languages, this is lexicalized by psych verbs, which therefore must encode three major ontological components: the experiencer, the mental state and the stimulus. A priori, one could assume that this should give rise to purely stative verbs across languages. However, psych verbs also frequently participate in transitivity alternations similar to the causative alternation. This means that we encounter a triad of stative, inchoative and causative forms of psych verbs which constellate cross-linguistically in different, yet systematic ways. Simultaneously, stative readings of morphologically non-stative forms are also a well-attested feature of the psych domain. We propose that one driving factor in this heterogeneity is the fact that languages derive the a large number of psych verbs from other parts of speech. The verbalizer(s) available to this end create the basis for the resulting alternation patterns (e.g. Turkish umut-lan-mak 'become hopeful' < umut 'hope', Spanish asqu-e-ar 'disgust' < asco 'disgust') and thus significantly impact the transitivity typology (cf. Nichols et al. 2004) and other behavioral features of a given language's psych domain. For basic intransitive forms specifically, the potential coexistence of stative and inchoative forms of equal morphological complexity may obstruct the identification of a basic alternation strategy. This talk presents data from the beginning stages of a typological top-down approach to the impact of the internal structure of psych verbs on the psych alternation.

09.02.2021 Nico Lehmann, Frederic Blum, Elisabeth Verhoeven, HU

CoCoYum: The collaborative Yucatec Maya corpus – A model corpus architecture for indigenous language corpus collection

Cocoyum (CCY), a collaborative, cooperative corpus collection of Yucatec Maya (YM, Yucatán, México), showcases a way to create a holistic, flexible corpus architecture for all types of indigenous language data. While efforts for language documentation and archiving via storing data in repositories has increased, the data often remains scattered and behind technological barriers. We argue for the necessity of easily accessible, searchable, re-usable and flexible corpus collections for indigenous languages with combined efforts from speakers and researchers. The benefit is immense for all researchers and communities who – through joint endeavours and strengthened relationships – gain access to more diverse data, allowing scholars from within and outside communities to run quick and spontaneous corpus searches.

16.02.2021 David Müller, HU

Um überhaupt einen Vortrag zu halten – German überhaupt in purpose clauses (and other subordinate constructions)

In my talk I will present the preliminary outline of my MA. thesis. I will give an overview of three accounts of german ‘überhaupt’ from the existing literature:  Anderssen (2006),  Zobel (2020) and Rojas-Esponda (2014) as well as one account on Question-Focus even by Iatridou & Tatevosov (2016), which also seems relevant. I will try to propose the idea that “überhaupt” in purpose clauses (and maybe in other subordinate conjunctions as well) is best accounted for by some kind of scalar operation that ranks the element in scope of überhaupt lowest on a contextually provided scale similar to ‘minimal sufficiency only’ by Grosz (2012).

23.02.2021 Marie Christin Walch, HU



Vergangene Semester


Sommersemester 2020
Dienstags, 16:00-18:00
BA und Mas­ter Lin­gu­is­tik


21.04.2020 Organisation

28.04.2020 Organisation

05.05.2020 Paola Fritz-Huechante

Spanish transitive psychological verbs: Insights from their scalar structure

Transitive experiencer object (TEO) verbs in Spanish (e.g. molestar ‘bother’, alegrar ‘make happy’) have been analyzed (in their eventive reading) as telic causative change of state verbs, similar to well-known instantiations of this aspectual type, e.g. secar ‘dry’, limpiar ‘clean’ (e.g. in Alexiadou & Iordachioaia 2014). Both types of verbs share basic semantic and scalar characteristics: they possess an affected argument (the object) which undergoes a change in a property. This property is associated with the adjective meaning that is related to the verbs’ semantic core, e.g. the state of being bothered or the state of being dry. The process of change the object goes through leads to a natural culminating endpoint (Dowty 1979), which is necessary for a particular set of transitive change of state (TCoS) verbs (such as e.g. secar ‘dry’) making them be perceived distinctively telic. Crucially, also TEO verbs have been described as telic CoS predicates where the experiencer object undergoes a culminating change. However, Spanish data shows that the point where the (culminating) change occurs is set differently for the two types of verbs. The point of culminating change has an impact on the verbs’ scalar structures (which are inherited from the meaning of the adjectives which are related to the verbs) and consequently on their telicity. The main goal of this talk is to show that the relation between the event structure and the scalar structure of the gradable properties of TEO verbs differs from that of telic TCoS verbs. Specifically, we will see that TEO verbs are associated with a lower closed scale (similar to other lower closed scale verbs such as wet, cf. also Kennedy & McNally 2005), which is different from telic TCoS verbs, which possess an upper closed scale. It will also be shown that the specific scalar structure of these two subtypes results from where the natural bound is located in the related adjectives.

12.05.2020 Julian Rott

Psych, Incorporated? – Towards a typology of alternating psych constructions

Psych verbs are well-known for their structural variability both within and across languages. They describe force-dynamically exceptional relations in which a conceptually open, often non-human stimulus combines with a necessarily animate and usually humanexperiencer. Consequently, either entity may be framed as the situation’s initiator, a choice which bears directly on syntax and creates cross-linguistic variability in linking and diathetic alternations (Dowty 1991, Croft 1991, Nichols et al. 2004). At the same time, the processes which hold between these entititeshave an outcome which is largely intangible despite strongly impacting the affected entity, often entailing social ramifications of some kind (cf. Johnson-Laird & Oatley 1989). It follows that compared to events which are independently observable, the conceptualization and lexicalization of psych processes is bound to be more strongly culturally informed, and therefore highly cross-linguistically heterogeneous (Wierzbicka 1986, Boster 2005).

The internal structure of psych predicates has long figured in typological research, with several different strategies emerging. Likewise, the investigation of alternating structures in psych verbs has been gaining substantial traction in recent years. However, these strands of research have so far interacted very little: Research on psych expressions is not concerned with alternations (see e.g. Matisoff 1986, Bouchard 1995), while studies on alternating psych verbs largely limit themselves to the internally uniform verbs of the Standard Average European type (Pesetsky 1995, Alexiadou & Iordăchioaia 2014). The aim of this talk is discuss the development of a model that captures both of these perspectives in a unifiedway. This is indicated becausethe internal structure of psych predicates can be shown to directly impactthe way alternations can play out. Consequently, the binary oppositionof causative/inchoativeformsproposed intypological accounts such asHaspelmath (1993) andNichols et al.(2004) can be expanded by incorporating multiple psych-specific alternation sub-types.

19.05.2020 Berry Claus

Three semantic/pragmatic accounts of framing effects: use conditions | truth conditions | counterfactual alternatives

The term framing effect refers to the well-established finding that choices and judgments are systematically altered by changing the description of options or states of affairs (e.g. stating the expected consequences of a disease control program in terms of survival rate vs. death rate). Framing effects have been extensively investigated in cognitive psychology and behavioral economics. However, in the linguistic literature, they have received only limited attention. On the other hand, research on framing effects has largely neglected the role of language. Yet, the very basis of framing effects is linguistic variation. In the talk, I will look at framing effects from linguistic perspectives. I will discuss three semantic/pragmatic accounts that attribute the source of framing effects either to a difference in use conditions, or to a difference in truth conditions, or to a difference in counterfactual semantic alternatives. For each account, I will present novel findings from experimental pilot studies. Finally, and presumably, I will sketch future directions and plans.

26.05.2020 Till Kulawik

Relative clauses in languages of the First Persian Empire

The starting point for this presentation are relative clauses in two languages of the ancient Near East: Babylonian and Elamite, which differ in several aspects from relative clauses typically found in Indo-European languages. I then contextualise these two constructions both grammatically and historically, highlighting grammatical phenomena such as suffixaufnahme and the construct state as well as outlining the linguistic landscape of the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC–330 BC) and discussing implications for the further development of Indo-European languages in the same region.

09.06.2020 Felix Bildhauer und Roland Schäfer

Beyond Multidimensional Analysis: Probabilistic Register Induction for Large Corpora

The analysis of the register in which a corpus document is written is prominently associated with Biber’s (1988; 1995) Multidimensional Analysis (MDA). We present an approach superficially similar to MDA but which solves three major conceptual problems of MDA by using Bayesian inference to uncover registers or – rather potential registers. First, in Biber’s MDA, registers are associated discretely with documents, and each document can only instantiate one specific register, whereas we allow registers to be associated probabilistically with documents, and we allow mixtures of registers in single documents. Given that many linguistic phenomena are now understood as being probabilistic in nature (cf. Schäfer 2018), we suggest that this is a much more realistic assumption. Second, we assume the surface features to be associated with registers in a probabilistic manner for similar reasons. Third, we do not use a catalogue of registers assumed to exist a priori, but instead we merely infer potential registers (pregisters) via clusters of surface features. The question of which pregisters actually correspond to registers with an identifiable situational communicative setting will be dealt with in a future stage of the project using theory-driven evaluation and experimental validation. Given our assumptions about the nature of the mapping between features and pregisters and pregisters and documents, an obvious algorithm to use is Bayesian inference in the form of Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA; Blei et al. 2003; Blei 2012) as used in Topic Modelling. In our approach, we deal with pregisters instead of topics and with distributions of lexico-grammatical surface features instead of lexical words. The LDA algorithm otherwise performs an exactly parallel inference task. We first show how we extended the COReX feature extraction framework (Bildhauer & Schäfer in prep.) developed at FU Berlin and the IDS Mannheim in order to provide a large enough number of features for the LDA algorithm to work. We then present first results and discuss how we tuned the LDA algorithm and the feature set to lead to interpretable results. In order to be able to interpret the pregisters found by LDA, we extract the documents which most strongly instantiate the inferred pregisters. We introduce the PreCOX20 sub-corpus of the DECOW German web corpus, in which those prototypical documents are collected for further analysis w.r.t. their situational communicative setting.




Biber, D. (1988). Variation across Speech and Writing. CUP.

Biber, D. (1995). Dimensions of Register Variation: A Cross-Linguistic Comparison. CUP.

Bildhauer, F. & R. Schäfer (in prep.) Automatic register annotation and alternation  modelling.

Blei, D. M (2012). Probabilistic topic models. Communications of the ACM 55(4), 77-84.

Blei, D. M., A. Y. Ng & M. I. Jordan (2003). Latent Dirichlet Allocation. Journal of Machine Learning Research 3, 993-1022.

Schäfer, R. (2018). Probabilistic German Morphosyntax. Habilitation thesis. HU Berlin.


23.06.2020 Roland Schäfer

Grammatische Variation zwischen Individuen und Situationen: Perspektiven für Linguistik und Bildungsspracherwerb

30.06.2020 Jian Ma, Universität zu Köln

Agensprototypikalität und Rollenprominenz in der Passivbildung im Deutschen und Mandarin-Chinesischen

07.07.2020 Jana Bajorat

Der Einfluss von Gegebenheit auf Wortstellung im Ika (Chibcha, Kolumbien)

Das Ika (Chibcha-Sprache) wird im Norden Kolumbiens von ca. 33.000 Personen gesprochen. Es ist eine Sprache mit kanonischer AOV-Wortstellung, die jedoch andere Wortstellungen wie OAV, AVO und OVA zulässt.

Der Einfluss von Gegebenheit auf Wortstellung wurde sprachübergreifend untersucht mit dem Ergebnis, dass tendenziell gegebene Information neuer Information vorausgeht („given things first-principle“, bspw. Neelemann & van de Koot 2016). Das bedeutet für AOV-Sprachen, dass bei gegebenem Agens sich nichts an der Wortstellungändert und dass bei gegebenen Objekt dieses vorangestellt wird. Letzteres kann syntaktisch gesehen als eine A-Bewegung (und keine A'-Bewegung) bzw. A-scrambling analysiert werden (siehe bspw. Neelemann & van de Koot 2008, 2016; Skopeteas & Fanselow 2009).

Im Rahmen eines Experiments wurde der Einfluss von Gegebenheit auf die Wortstellung im Ika untersucht (Feldforschung April/Mai 2018 in Pueblo Bello, Cesar, Kolumbien; Experiment „Visibility“ aus dem Questionnaire on Information Structure(QUIS, Skopeteas et al. 2006: 39ff)). Dabei zeigte sich, dass bei gegebenem Agens die kanonische Wortstellung AOV beibehalten wird und dass bei gegebenem Objekt, welches für die OAV-Wortstellung über das Agens scramblen müsste, diese OAV-Stellung zwar häufiger ist, jedoch nicht obligatorisch. Außerdem wird das gegebene Argument – Agens oder Objekt – häufig mit dem Topikmarker =ri markiert, wodurch sich theoretisch zwei syntaktische Strukturen ergeben: Scrambling ohne Markierung (A-Bewegung) oder Topikalisierung (A'-Bewegung).

Das Vortragsthema ist Teil des Promotionsprojekts „On the Interaction Between Argument Structure and Information Structure in Ika (Chibchan, Colombia)“, betreut durch Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Verhoeven und Prof. Dr. Juan Diego Quesada.




Neeleman, Ad & Hans van de Koot. 2008. Dutch scrambling and the nature of discourse templates. The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 11(2). 137–189.

Neeleman, Ad & Hans van de Koot. 2016. Word order and information structure. In Caroline Féry & Shinichiro Ishihara (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Information Structure, 383–401. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Skopeteas, Stavros et al. 2006. Questionnaire on Information Structure (QUIS): Reference Manual (Interidisciplinary Studies on Information Structure. Working Papers of the SFB 632 4). Potsdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam.

Skopeteas, Stavros & Gisbert Fanselow. 2009. Effects of givenness and constraints on free word order. In Malte Zimmermann & Caroline Féry (eds.), Information structure: Theoretical, typological, and experimental perspectives (Oxford linguistics), 307–331. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Wintersemester 2019/20




In dieser Veranstaltung werden Präsentationen zu laufenden Forschungs- und Abschlussarbeiten auf allen Qualifikationsebenen (Bachelor, Master, Promotion) aus den Bereichen Syntax und Semantik gehalten. Zusätzlich gibt es Termine, zu denen eingeladene externe Wissenschaftler vortragen.


Ort: Dorotheenstraße 24, Raum 1.401

Dienstag, 15:59-17:30
BA und Mas­ter Lin­gu­is­tik


  • 15.10.2019 Ver­ga­be der Vor­trä­ge
  • 29.10.2019 Paola Hu­echan­te & An­to­nio Ma­chi­cao y Prie­mer
  • 05.11.2019
  • 12.11.2019 Elo­die Winckel (joint work with Anne Ab­eillé, Bar­ba­ra Hem­forth and Ted Gib­son): "Focus, topic, and su­b­ex­trac­tion from sub­jects"
  • 19.11.2019 Julian A. Rott: " "A cross-linguistic empirical approach to emotion lexis and syntax"
  • 26.11.2019 Che­nyuan Deng: "No­mi­nal­struk­tu­ren im Man­da­rin Chi­ne­si­schen"
  • 03.12.2019 Jakob Mache: "Se­ri­el­le Ver­ben"
  • 10.12.2019 Se­bas­ti­an Bü­cking: "Un­ab­hängige Kri­te­ri­en zur Va­lenz-​ vs. Kon­struk­ti­ons­bin­dung? – Fall­bei­spiel DP-​und-​Präd-​Struk­tu­ren"
  • 17.12.2019 Matías Guzmán Naran­jo: "Ana­lo­gi­cal blocks in in­flec­tio­nal mor­pho­lo­gy"
  • 07.01.2020
  • 14.01.2020 Frederic Blum: "De-verbal nominalizations in Quechua"
  • 21.01.2020 Tibor Kiss
  • 28.01.2020 John Torr: "A wi­de-​co­ver­a­ge Mi­ni­ma­list par­ser"
  • 04.02.2020 Nico Leh­mann
  • 11.02.2020 Moana Schul­ze