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Description

ViCom investigates the special features and linguistic significance of visual communication. This comprises sign languages as fully developed natural languages which exclusively rely on the visual channel for communication, but also visual means that enhance spoken language such as gestures. It aims at disclosing the specific characteristics of the visual modality as a communication channel and its interaction with other channels (especially the auditory channel) to develop a comprehensive theoretical linguistic model of human communication and its cognitive foundations.

Funding: by the DFG

Runtime: 2022-2025 (first phase)

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Indigenous people belong to the particularly vulnerable groups in the COVID-19 era are disproportionally affected by epidemics and other crises, as acknowledged by the United Nations. Beyond the general problems related to the socio-economic marginalization and the concomitant inaccessibility of health-care services (in particular in rural regions and remote communities), a major threat for indigenous people arises through miscommunication, either due to the sparsity of information material in indigenous languages or due to cultural differences hindering the interpretation/application of the recommended health measures; see recent reports on Latin American indigenous people in. Dissemination of reliable COVID-19-related information, adapted to cultural and linguistic background of indigenous peoples is a major priority in the current crisis. The major aim of the present project proposal is to determine what role the linguistic and cultural background of indigenous people from Latin America plays in dissemination of relevant information about COVID-19 propagated by high-impact news outlets (henceforth the Reference Corpus).

Funding: by the DFG

Runtime: 1.04.2022-31.03.2023

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Description

Human societies are characterized by sophisticated social relationships and intense collaboration, and their complexity is seen as unique within the animal kingdom. Several facets, however, can also be found in nonhuman primates, the majority of which also lives in differentiated, complex social groups. Thus, the ability to maintain relationships and regulate social behavior at the individual and the group level appears to be a shared and adaptive trait within the primate order. What is still disputed is whether the socio-cognitive processes that play a role in communication and the regulation of social relationships in humans and nonhuman primates differ only in degree, or in kind. To study the understanding of social relationships in this RTG from an interdisciplinary perspective, we bring together developmental, cognitive, personality and social psychologists, behavioral and cognitive biologists as well as linguists, and aim to bridge the gaps between the scientific disciplines.

Funding: by the DFG

Runtime: since 2015

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A nine-month-old infant can recognize human intentions, for example, she correctly imitates intended but accidentally unfinished or distorted adult’s facial movements. This is a cognitive skill that the most advanced AI technology lacks. But what are intentions and how do they manifest themselves in human behaviour? Philosophy and psychology have pondered over these questions for centuries and come to the consensus that our capacity to intend and, more importantly, recognize and share intentions of others constitutes the foundation for social behaviour. Natural languages have multiple ways to mark the presence or absence of intentions ranging from a dedicated ‘out-of-control’ morpheme in Lillooet (Salish) and different case marking for subjects of intentional and unintentional actions in Hindi/Urdu to the availability of a co-referential interpretation in subjunctive constructions and nuanced distribution of polarity sensitive indefinites in European languages. It would seem that understanding how natural languages express intentions is a pressing task for linguistics. However, modulo a few notable exceptions, manifestations of intentions in natural languages have mostly been understudied in linguistics. The project is the first systematic inquiry into the issue. Its goal is to answer two principal questions: How is the presence or absence of intentions encoded in natural languages? and Why is it encoded in these particular ways?

Funding: by the DFG

Runtime: 2021-2024

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  • Claudine Chamoreau (Paris, PI)
  • Marie Benzerrak (University of Göttingen, PhD student,)
  • Stavros Skopeteas (University of Göttingen, PI)
  • Elisabeth Verhoeven (Humboldt University Berlin, PI)

Description

This project investigates (a) the syntactic variation (word order and ergativity) and (b) the variation in the expression of information structure of selected Chibchan languages of Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras. These languages display an array of relevant differences (e.g., variation in word order flexibility and in the discourse sensitivity of ergative marking) that minimally differ between languages. Hence, they offer minimal pairs in order to test hypotheses with respect to the role of syntactic variation on the expression of discourse concepts (i.e., contextual effects that are independent of grammar).

Funding: ANR-DFG

Runtime: 1.09.2021-31.08.2024

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Description

In view of two empirical phenomena: (i) allocutivity, and (ii) imperatives with a2nd person (2P) subject, recent literature argues that the utterance addressee is represented syntax-internally. However, the addressee representation sunderlying each of the phenomena differ. Allocutivity, defined as verba lagreement with the addressee, underlies an argumental representation of the addressee located in the speech act phrase labeled as the Adr (Miyagawa 2012). In contrast, imperatives host a Jussive Phrase, which encodes the addressee via a 2P feature and is restricted to imperative clauses only (Zanuttini2008). This project aims to understand why these two phenomena, both of which involve syntactic reference to the addressee, should be analyzed differently. With the goal of providing an account of the addressee in syntax, this project asks the following question: how specific is the notion of addressee inimperatives, and can it be unified with the freely available Adr, also responsible for allocutivity?

Funding: by the DFG

Runtime: 2021-2024

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IDEAlISM is a three-year project in theoretical and experimental semantics-pragmatics, investigating the interaction between dynamic effects and alternative-based inferences, across spoken and signed languages, as well as gestures. The project is funded by the AHRC and the DFG bilateral agreement.

Funding: The project is funded by the AHRC and the DFG bilateral agreement.

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  • Elliott Lash (University of Göttingen, PI)
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    Funding: by the DFG

    Runtime: 12.2020-30.11.2023

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Description

In order to understand a text it is not sufficient that a reader can extract the information contained in it, he or she also has to identify to whom a piece of information is attributed. This can generally be different types of entities: the author, the narrator or discourse entities introduced in the text. While there are linguistic devices for signalling attribution, these are not always free of ambiguity. (Sometimes intentionally so.) The project aims at (automatically) identifying and analysing three types of attribution phenomena which are particularly relevant for literary texts: (i) free indirect discourse, (ii) reflective passages and (iii) overt-narrator passages. The general applicability of the developed methods will be tested on factual texts from the journalism domain.

Funding: Ministry of Science and Culture Lower Saxony

Runtime: Since 2019

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The project combines insights from literary studies, linguistics, computational modelling and quantitative as well as qualitative text analysis to (i) elaborate and formalise a comprehensive concept of reflective passage, (ii) identify and classify such reflective passages in narrative fiction and (iii) explain their patterns of occurrence in roughly 350 years of literary history. To this end, the project builds on previous work for identifying reflection automatically in other text types as well as work on detecting related phenomena such as genericity and epistemic status and extend and combine these in a linguistically informed machine learning framework for finding author/narrator-attributed and character-attributed reflective passages in narrative fiction.

Funding: within the DFG SPP 2207 Computational Literary Studies by the DFG.

Runtime: Since 2019

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Goal of this project is to model variation in Yucatec Maya. From the empirical point of view, this goal involves modelling variation in geographical space and in time (as well as their interactions), based on data collections from 80 different locations on the peninsula of Yucatán. The analytical challenge is to explain the structural sources of linguistic features that depend to each other and co-vary – either in space or in time. The project conducts individual studies on lexical variation, numeral classifiers, definiteness, discontinuous noun phrases, and various phonological phenomena of Yucatec Maya.

Funding: DFG-CONACYT

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Description

This DFG-funded project concentrates on the yet unanswered fundamental question on whether or not grammar is intrinsically asymmetric or symmetric yielding a variety of surface asymmetries such as the preponderance of subject-verb orders over verb-subject orders and (nearly) uniform movement to the left periphery of the clause. One of the main questions addressed is to what extent left-right asymmetries in language may reduce to the ban on rightward movement and whether this ban is intra- or extra-grammatical in nature. There will be a specific focus on sign language, as it has been claimed that rightward movement is generally possible in sign languages, suggesting that the ban on rightward movement must be modularity-specific and cannot be a core property of syntax.

Funding: by the DFG.

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  • Kenyon Branan (Leibniz-ZAS, Berlin, PostDoc)
  • Thomas McFadden (Leibniz-ZAS, Berlin, PI)
  • Sandhya Sundaresan (Göttingen, PostDoc)
  • Rob Truswell (Edinburgh, PI)
  • Hedde Zeijlstra (Göttingen, PI)
  • Description

    This project investigates issues of selective opacity as they apply to A and A-bar dependencies across adjuncts and complements. We will develop an algorithm of path-based locality which is built on a framework of clausal structure-building (based on feature-checking under sisterhood) and structure-enrichment (involving a principled dependency between feature-checking and feature-valuation) to derive selective opacity effects, and to understand the nature of syntactic locality more broadly.

    Funding: jointly funded by the German DFG and the AHRC of the UK.

    Runtime: 2021-2023

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  • Olga Kellert (University of Göttingen, PostDoc)
  • Guido Mensching (University of Göttingen, PI)
  • Cecilia Poletto(Goethe University Frankfurt, PI)
  • Silvia Rossi (Goethe University Frankfurt, PostDoc)
  • Description

    The project ‘Quantification in Old Italian’ investigates the system of quantifiers of Old Italian with respect to the syntactic and semantic behavior of quantifiers. The Old Italian system will be compared to Modern Standard Italian and to Modern Tuscan varieties. It will thus also contribute to understanding the relationship between diachronic and diatopic variation.

    Funding: by the DFG.

    Runtime: 2015-(end of) 2022

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  • Marco Coniglio (University of Göttingen, PI)
  • Chiara De Bastiani (University of Göttingen)
  • Anabel Recker (University of Göttingen, PostDoc)
  • Heike Sahm (University of Göttingen, PI)
  • Jan Christian Schaffert (University of Göttingen)
  • Description

    The WiN project aims to investigate a representative parallel corpus of short narrative texts, printed in Northern Germany between 1480 and 1500. More specifically, the focus of the investigation lies on the transmission strategies employed by the printers, to be interrogated via digital techniques. The employed corpus is built as a multi-layer parallel corpus of mundane narrative texts in High German, and their translation in Low German. It will be converted to be visualized on the ANNIS (Annotation of Information Structure, Krause & Zeldes 2016) platform, from which it can be searched and investigated. The corpus will be digitalized so as to be examined in an interdisciplinary approach, not only within the framework of the current project, but also for later usage. Diverse annotation layers will be applied in order to allow for different literary and linguistic queries.

    Funding: Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur (+ Göttingen Centre for Digital Humanities)

    Runtime: January 2016 - (extended to) June 2022

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  • Nivedita Mani (PI)
  • Daniele Panizza (PostDoc)
  • Markus Steinbach (PI)
  • Hedde Zeijlstra (PI)
  • Description

    In this DFG-funded project we address the following key questions: (i) Why and how does logical strength determine the availability of scopal interpretations? (ii) Is there a semantic filter that blocks the syntactic mechanism switching the scope of the operators? (iii) Is this behavior due to the interplay of pragmatic inferences (e.g. scalar implicatures) that are known to be governed by logical strength? (iv) Does prosodic intonation ultimately signals which interpretation is conveyed by the speaker? Research on language acquisition constitutes an optimal mean to obtain insights aimed to addressing the questions above, in that it allows to identify the different phases in which children acquire relevant grammatical aspects may control scope ambiguities (pragmatic strengthening, prosody, etc.). So, the extent to which scope shift is linked to pragmatic inferencing, prosody and other processing factors can be revealed by how children cope with these phenomena in interaction. The present proposal involves a series of six experiments with adults and 4- to 5-year-old children to collect offline semantic judgments and online eye tracking data. The results will lead to a novel and better understanding of scope ambiguity and its interaction with syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic principles and processing factors.

    Funding: by the DFG.

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