Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Slawistik und Hungarologie

Vorträge im Sommersemester 2019


  • 15.04.: Mojmir Dočekal (Brno) (Zusammenarbeit mit Iveta Šafratová): Czech high degree constructions: experimental data from Czech swarms


The swarm alternations (The mosquitoes swarmed in the room/The room swarmed with mosquitoes) have been noted in many natural languages and linguists in the last 40 years proposed various analyses accounting for their syntactic/semantic properties like high degree inferences of particular swarms, polarity constraints, etc. We want to add to the swarm-research both i) new (Czech) experimental data concerning their degree semantics and polarity behavior; ii) a new formalization of some of the ideas from especially Hoeksema (2009); those ideas which are supported empirically both by our experiments and previous empirical observations.


  • 06.05.: Daria Seres (UAB): The expression of genericity in languages without articles: The case of Russian


In my talk I am going to discuss the ways of expressing genericity (both nominal level and sentential level) in Russian (a language without articles) as compared to English and Romance (languages with articles).

I will briefly refer to the theory of definite kinds by Borik & Espinal (2015, 2019), who propose that the direct reference to kinds as abstract sortal concepts is carried out by means of morphophonologically singular but semantically numberless nominals. This is a case of nominal level genericity.

Then I will focus on the indirect reference to kinds, i.e. by means of a maximal sum of individuals that represent this kind. A bare plural NP in Russian has almost an unlimited distribution and interpretation. However, its generic reading only arises in certain environments: in argument positions of kind-level predicates, in subject position of characterizing sentences (in terms of Krifka et al. 1995) and in object position of subject-experiencer verbs (SEVs) (Seres & Espinal 2018). The generic reading is not a feature of a bare plural NP; it appears on the sentential level.

The generic interpretation of generic bare plurals in Russian (which raises in the above-mentioned environments) is similar to definiteness in two respects: 1) bare plural nominals are interpreted as maximal sums (cf. total / inclusive interpretation of generic nominals in Declerck 1988, Laca 1990, Lyons 1999); 2) such nominals are identifiable (in a broad sense as generics are present in a shared mental catalogue of conceptual information). Both the effects are of pragmatic nature.

The default interpretation of bare nominals in Russian is indefinite (in line with Heim 2011), other interpretations (definite and generic) are derived pragmatically.


  • 20:05.: Olga Steriopolo (ZAS): An analysis of gender in Ninilchik Russian


This work presents a first morphosyntactic account of the category gender in Ninilchik Russian, a highly-endangered dialect of Russian, within the framework of Distributed Morphology. Furthermore, it compares gender in Ninilchik Russian with that of Contemporary Standard Russian. I show that, unlike Standard Russian, Ninilchik nouns have no grammatical gender features on the nominal head. Masculine is the default grammatical gender. Human nouns, however, can be assigned feminine gender through the context, which is determined by the natural gender (sex) of the referent. The investigation is multi-disciplinary. The anticipated results will be of interest to theoretical linguists, language typologists, language-area specialists, and language educators. Since Ninilchik Russian is on the verge of extinction, the findings will also be relevant to the fields of education and endangered language documentation, maintenance, and revitalization.


  • 27.05.: Uwe Junghanns (Göttingen): Wortstellungstypologie, Grammatik und Informationsstrukturierung


Wortstellungstypologisch werden slavische Sprachen für gewöhnlich als SVO-Sprachen klassifiziert (vgl. Siewierska & Uhlířová 1998). Diese Charakterisierung ist vor dem Hintergrund der Annahme variabler Kopf-Positionierung (Haider 2018) in Frage gestellt worden (Haider & Szucsich 2018). Eine grundsätzliche Klärung scheint geboten. Für die slavistische Linguistik ist (i)herauszustellen, dass nur formale Ansätze die Beziehung zwischen Linearisierung und syntaktischer Hierarchie explizit machen, nicht aber traditionelle Grammatiken. (ii) VP-Strukturen müssen begründet werden, unter anderem auf Grund von muttersprachlicher Intuition (“neutrale” Abfolge) und Beobachtungen zum statistisch dominanten Muster. Außerdem gilt es (iii) den Zusammenhang zwischen Basiskonfiguration und Möglichkeiten der Informationsstrukturierung, insbesondere der Realisierung der Fokus/ Hintergrund-Gliederung auszuloten.

Der Vortrag beginnt mit Heuristiken, die helfen, die neutrale Konstituentenordnung zu bestimmen. Einzelne slavische Sprachen werden dann im Detail in den Blick genommen – ausgehend von der unmarkierten Ordnung werden Varianten gezeigt. Ein weiterer Teil beschäftigt sich mit den neueren typologischen Überlegungen und bringt hier einige kritische Anmerkungen. Die für slavische Sprachen so markante Variabilität der Oberfläche bedarf, wie sich zeigt, gesonderter Behandlung, da dies ein weites, zu differenzierendes Feld ist. Auf Motivationen für overte Umordnungen, die zu Varianten führen, kann nur verwiesen werden. Schließlich ist festzustellen, dass unter die übliche typologische Klassifikation zwei slavische Sprachen wohl nicht fallen.

Oben erwähnte Literatur

Haider, H. (2018): A typology of head positions within a phrase and its syntactic correlates. Submitted.

Haider, H. & L. Szucsich (2018): Slavic languages – “SVO” languages without SVO qualities? Submitted.

Siewierska, A. & L. Uhlířová (1998): An overview of word order in Slavic languages. In: Siewierska, A. (ed.):Constituent Order in the Languages of Europe (= Empirical Approaches to Language Typology; 20.1). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 105-149.


  • 03.06.: Tatiana Nikitina (LLACAN): The syntax of reported speech in Russian and beyond


Despite major recent advances, many aspects of speech reporting –including cross-linguistic variation in the syntax and semantics of the relevant constructions – remain critically underexplored (Spronck & Nikitina 2019). This situation has to do primarily with the general inapplicability of standard elicitation methods to phenomena rooted in discourse (Nikitina 2018). In this talk I introduce a research program that aims at a systematic investigation of properties of speech reporting constructions. While the research program focuses mostly on little-studied African and Turkic languages, it also suggests new directions in the study of still underexplored constructions widely attested in European languages, including such phenomena as the quotative inversion in Russian.

Nikitina, Tatiana. 2018. When linguists and speakers do not agree: The endangered grammar of verbal art in West Africa. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 28(2): 197-220.
Spronck, Stef & Tatiana Nikitina. 2019. Reported speech forms a dedicated syntactic domain. Linguistic Typology 23(1): 119-159.


  • 12.06.: Jurica Polančec (Zagreb): Croatian aspect within Slavic: An overview


The talk touches upon a variety of properties of the Croatian aspect system. The focus will be on the properties known to either vary across Slavic languages or the properties in which Croatian significantly diverges from other Slavic languages. The topics discussed include empty prefixes, po-delimitatives, morphology of secondary imperfectivization, uses of perfective present, expression of habituality and relationship between passive and aspect. The properties of the Croatian aspect are compared with Russian and, to a lesser extent, other Slavic languages.


  • 24.06.: Marijana Marelj (Utrecht): Cognates: Kinsfolk & Lookalikes at the Interfaces


Spanning well beyond their known quirkiness, the realm of cognate objects has proved itself to be a prolific domain for probing into the workings of different modules and their interfaces (see Keyser and Roeper 1984; Zubizarreta, 1987; Jones 1988; Moltmann, 1989, Massam1990, Hale and Keyser, 1993, 2002; Matsumoto, 1996; Mittwoch, 1998; Pereltsvaig 1999, 2001, Kuno and Takami 2004 among others).

In this talk, I start my pursuit by focusing on the existence of the cognate objects of unaccusative verbs - a seemingly impossible set – that will inevitably lead us to probe into nature of argumenthood and challenge the validity of the ontology that denies unergatives their primitive status, thus challenging the so-called Implicit Object Conjecture (see Bobaljik 1993; Hale & Keyser 1993; Ortiz de Urbina 1989; Uribe-Etxebarria 1989). 


  • 01.07.: Radek Šimík (HU & Prag): Interpreting Slavic bare NPs


According to the dominant neo-Carlsonian approach to bare NP semantics, bare NPs start out their lives as properties and can be shifted - as needed - to kinds, individuals, or existential quantifiers. This approach has proved to be too powerful (overgenerating readings) and various proposals have been made to tame it, by blocking certain shifts under certain conditions (Chierchia 1998, Krifka 2003, Dayal 2004, Geist 2010, a.o.). In this talk, I discuss experimental and corpus evidence from articleless Slavic languages that suggests that even the flagship shift of the neo-Carlsonian approach, namely the iota-shift (from properties to individuals), might be too strong. More particularly, the experimental evidence shows no signature of uniqueness or maximality inferences in determinate (referential) bare NPs - in contrast to what would be expected by the iota shift (or sigma shift, for plurals). Bare NPs in Russian and Polish, in contrast to definite descriptions in German, appear to be completely presupposition-free. This result, surprising on the neo-Carlsonian approach, is compatible with Heim’s (2011) suggestion that bare NPs in articleless languages are always indeterminate (existential), even if they correspond to definites.

Showing that Heim’s (2011) suggestion has problems of its own, I put forth a novel proposal under which argumental bare NPs are interpreted by choice functions and are therefore always determinate (of type e), but their reference is - crucially - relativized to situations. Bare NPs relativized to situations existentially introduced in the clause (typically but not only by presentational predicates like ‘arrive’, ‘appear’, ‘create’, etc.) correspond to existential indefinites; bare NPs relativized to (Austinian) topic situations - situations about which an utterance is - correspond to referential definites. The account provides a handle on the traditional observation - supported by corpus evidence - that there is a correlation between clausal position and bare NP interpretation (initial ~ determinate vs. final ~ indeterminate), without exploiting the hard-to-regulate type-shifting operations and with keeping the core semantics of argumental bare NPs constant. The account is also compatible with the experimental results, as it accomplishes bare NP reference without recourse to presuppositionality.