Gautam Vasudevan Ottur

RTG PhD student, member since 2021

Project "Verb series across spoken and sign languages"

My doctoral research project concerns the phenomenon of multi-verb constructions across sign languages and spoken languages. These constructions typically involve a string of verbal elements that combine to express a single event or a sequence of events. In particular, I compare the syntax and semantics of such verb series in my native language, Malayalam, and German Sign Language (DGS). My research endeavours to answer several questions, including what the underlying structure and meaning of these constructions are, how the interpretation of the entire series is informed by the order and meaning of its individual verbs, and how these constructions compare across languages and modalities. More broadly, my research explores general issues of linearity and temporal iconicity in natural language from a cross-modal perspective and aims to situate these issues theoretically within the transformational-generative framework.

Supervisors: Markus Steinbach and Hedde Zeijlstra .


Prior to coming to Göttingen, I obtained a Bachelor's degree in linguistics from McGill University and a Master's degree in linguistics from the University of Amsterdam. While in Amsterdam, I focused on description and analysis of various linguistic issues in Malayalam, including the overlap of the future tense and habitual aspect (Ottur 2021). I wrote my Master's thesis on a syntactic analysis of Malayalam verb series under the supervision of Enoch Aboh. Since then, I have been interested in documenting and explaining linguistic phenomena in lesser-known minority languages, as well as exploring the effects of multilingual environments on grammar. My current work relates to various levels of linguistic abstraction, including prosody, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. I am interested in the cognitive mechanisms that underlie the mapping of conceptual meaning onto form. Through my research, I have developed a strong conviction that the understanding of these mechanisms is contingent upon a panoramic examination of human language, incorporating insights from both the oral-auditory modality and the visual-gestural modality.

Referenced publication:

Ottur, Gautam. 2021. Future tense and habitual aspect in Malayalam. Linguistics in Amsterdam 14(1). 145–159.