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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 vortragen.



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





Vergangene Semester


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