Keydana, Götz, Wolfgang Hock & Paul Widmer (eds.) 2021, Comparison and Gradation in Indo-European (The Mouton Handbooks of Indo-European Typology, 1). Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.

The ability to compare is fundamental to human cognition. Expressing various types of comparison is thus essential to any language. The present volume presents detailed grammatical descriptions of how comparison and gradation are expressed in ancient Indo-European languages. The detailed chapters devoted to the individual languages go far beyond standard handbook knowledge. Each chapter is structured the same way to facilitate cross-reference and (typological) comparison. The data are presented in a top-down fashion and in a format easily accessible to the linguistic community. The topics covered are similatives, equatives, comparatives, superlatives, elatives, and excessives. Each type of comparison is illustrated with glossed examples of all its attested grammatical realizations. The book is an indispensable tool for typologists, historical linguists, and students of the syntax and morphosyntax of comparison.

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Adam, Nina 2024, Optimal clitic positioning in Czech and beyond. Clitic syntax, morphology, and prosody from a constraint-based perspective. PhD thesis, Göttingen.

This thesis treats the placement of clitics in Czech from a constraint-based perspective. After having established the set of unambiguous second-position clitics in the language, the placement patterns and their interaction with information-structurally induced movements are described. Based on this data, it is argued that Czech clitics cannot occupy a fixed syntactic position. Instead, conflicting constraints lead to varying output positions depending on the syntactic context. Since Czech clitics do not require a prosodic host, these constraints refer only to syntactic domains. The analysis is extended to further Slavic languages, including Serbo-Croatian. It is shown how the constraint-based approach can be applied to this language, where prosodic domains do play a role for clitic placement.

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Höhn, Georg to appear, Preposition allomorphy in Calabrian Greek (Greko) and Standard Modern Greek and its theoretical implications. Languages (special issue on Greek morphosyntax).

The article argues that the alternation between the prepositions asce ‘from’ and an ‘from’ in the south Italian Greek variety Greko and a similar alternation between the preposition se ‘in, to, into’ and the allomorph s- found in both Greko and Standard Modern Greek represent instances of contextually conditioned allomorphy sensitive to a linearly adjacent definite article. Alternative approaches in terms of portmanteaux or making use of hyper-contextual rules for Vocabulary Insertion are shown to be unable to account for the data, supporting the need for allowing reference to linear adjacency relations in morphosyntactic theories of allomorphy.


Keydana, Götz 2023, Language change and the actuation problem: grammaticalization in Vedic Sanskrit.Journal of South Asian Languages and Linguistics 10/1, 1-17. doi: 10.1515/jsall-2023-1007.

One of the structures denoting the future in Sanskrit is the so-called -tā́-future, based on an agent noun and a present tense copula. Typologically, this grammaticalization path is unique. In this paper, this astonishing fact is tied to another unique feature of hysterotone -tŕ̥-nouns, their situative semantics, which forces a presupposition relating the event depicted by the noun to another event taken from the context. In ambiguous contexts, this relation could be (re-)interpreted by hearers as one between the event and the speech act itself. The grammaticalization, then, is hearer-based and triggered by semantic reanalysis. The process is essentially identical to phonemicization. The scenario developed in this paper thus further strengthens the position that grammaticalization is ontologically not distinct from other types of language change based on speaker–hearer interaction.

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Keydana, Götz 2023, Constituent structure in non-informant languages: Evidence from inscriptions. In Theresa Roth, Emmanuel Dupraz & Valentina Belfiore (eds.): Schriftkonventionen in pragmatischer Perspektive. Akten der Arbeitstagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft (Brüssel, 13.—14. September 2018). Leuven: Peeters, 268—294.

Non-standard writing offers a unique window into the knowledge of speakers about language structure. This is especially welcome with respect to ancient languages. In this paper I illustrate the relevance of writing by looking at punctuation in the Tabulae Iguvinae and in Attic dedicatory inscriptions. I show that punctuation reflects prosodic and, to a lesser degree, syntactic structure, thus allowing for insights otherwise unobtainable without recourse to judgements of native speakers.

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Keydana, Götz 2021 [2023], Accent or intonation? The vocative in Vedic. With an excursus to Greek. Historische Sprachforschung 134, 196-213.

From the point of view of accentology the Vedic vocative is remarkable for two reasons: In clause-initial position, its first syllable bears an udātta irrespec- tive of word accent. In all other positions, the vocative has anudātta throughout. These striking tonal patterns, however, do not reflect word accent. Rather, they are a means to render intonational patterns like the vocative chant with an initial high boundary tone and a low tone in parentheticals respectively. Similarly, the seeming deaccentuation in finite main clause verbs is a way of marking the low tone associated with the right boundary of assertive utterances. Regarding word level accent, vocatives do not differ from nominatives. The calling contour proposed for Vedic clause-initial vocatives is also attested in Greek, which, however, underwent a change in historic times leading to the introduction of a vocative particle as a host for the chant-initial high tone.

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Yu, Yidong 2023, Optionality, variation and categorial properties: The case of plural marking in Yucatec Maya. In Kopf, Kristin & Thilo Weber (eds.), Free variation in grammar: empirical and theoretical approaches. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 284-314.

In this paper, I propose a semantic account of the optionality of plural marking in Yucatec Maya (Mayan; Mexico) which pins the variation in plural marking on the variation in noun denotations (Chierchia 1998; Borer 2005; Deal 2017; Moroney 2021). I argue that this optionality is not a free variation. I further argue that the noun denotations vary between apportionable and generic, which is manifested in the option of a pseudopartitive operation (Selkirk 1977; Higginbotham 1994) available at the final stage of the interpretation of the nouns in the semantics. The fact that, by this account, the computation of Yucatec constructions that involve counting yields correct results provides further supporting evidence for the proposed analysis.

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Blaha Pfeiler, Barbara & Stavros Skopeteas 2022, Sources of convergence in indigenous languages: Lexical variation in Yucatec Maya. PLOS ONE 17(5): e0268448. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0268448.

Linguistic variation in space reflects patterns of social interaction. Gravity models have been successfully used to capture the role of urban centers in the dissemination of innovations in the speech community along with the diffusion of variants in space. Crucially, the effects of the factors of a gravity model (distance and population size) depend on language situation and may result from different sources, in particular processes of vertical and horizontal convergence. In the present study, we investigate lexical variation in contemporary Yucatec Maya, an indigenous language of Mexico, spoken in a situation of generalized bilingualism. This language situation lacks some crucial ingredients of vertical convergence: ...

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Keydana, Götz 2022, Back to the root — and away again! In Fellner, Hans, Melanie Malzahn & Theresa-Susann Illés (eds.): Zurück zur Wurzel: Struktur, Funktion und Semantik der Wurzel im Indogermanischen. Akten der 15. Fachtagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft vom 13. bis 16. September 2016 in Wien. Wiesbaden: Reichert. 131-146.

The root is a concept developed by the ancient Indian grammarians; it is strikingly absent from the ancient western tradition. Following the reception of the Indian grammatical tradition in the late 18th century this concept had a formative influence on morphological thinking in Indo- European linguistics and beyond. This paper, which draws on data from Vedic Sanskrit and, to a lesser degree, PIE, is an attempt at rehabilitating the western word-based approach to morphology. In the first part I deconstruct the notion of the root as a phonological domain. I reject the notion of root constraints and demonstrate that phonological processes never target roots. In the second part I show that word-based morphology is far superior in describing morphological competence than constructive root-based models. I conclude that the root is hardly a realistic linguistic concept. Rather, it tends to obfuscate important generalizations and may eventually lead to undue premises (mis-)guiding our understanding of the early attested languages and of PIE.

Polyanskaya, Leona 2022, Cognitive mechanisms of statistical learning and segmentation of continuous sensory input. Memory and Cognition 50, 979–996.

Two classes of cognitive mechanisms have been proposed to explain segmentation of continuous sensory input into discrete recurrent constituents: clustering and boundary-finding mechanisms. Clustering mechanisms are based on identifying fre- quently co-occurring elements and merging them together as parts that form a single constituent. Bracketing (or boundary- finding) mechanisms work by identifying rarely co-occurring elements that correspond to the boundaries between discrete constituents. In a series of behavioral experiments, I tested...

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Polyanskaya, Leona, Héctor M. Manrique, Arthur G. Samuel, Antonio Marín, Azucena García-Palacios & Mikhail Ordin 2022, Intermodality differences in statistical learning: Phylogenetic and ontogenetic influences. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1511(1), 191-209.

In Basque–Spanish bilinguals, statistical learning (SL) in the visual modality was more efficient on nonlinguistic than linguistic input; in the auditory modality, we found the reverse pattern of results. We hypothesize that SL was shaped for processing nonlinguistic environmental stimuli and only later, as the language faculty emerged, recycled for speech processing. This led to further adaptive changes in the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying speech processing, including SL. By contrast...

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Bril, Isabelle & Stavros Skopeteas 2021, The syntax and prosody of focus in Northern Amis (Formosan). Faits de Langues, 52.1: 61-87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/19589514-05201004

This article outlines the strategies for expressing focus in Northern Amis (Formosan). Three types of focus constructions are examined: cleft constructions, focus markers and emphatic lengthening. Focus by clefting is subject to the well-known nominative-only constraint on extraction and relativization found in Formosan and Philippine type languages, such that a clefted constituent must be the syntactic pivot of the verb in the relative clause containing the presupposition, and its semantic role is co-indexed by the appropriate voice marker on the verb...

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Greif, Markus & Stavros Skopeteas 2021, Correction by Focus: Cleft Constructions and the Cross-Linguistic Variation in Phonological Form. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 648478. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648478.

A challenging issue of cross-linguistic variation is that the same syntactic construction may appear in different arrays of contexts depending on language. For instance, cleft constructions appear with contrastive focus in English, but in a larger array of contexts in French. A part of the cross-linguistic variation may be due to prosodic differences, since prosodic possibilities determine the array of focus structures that can be mapped onto one and the same syntactic configuration. In the present study, we compare languages with flexible nuclear-accent placement (English, German), with languages that do not use this prosodic strategy (French, Mandarin Chinese)...

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Müller, Gabor, Emese Bodnár, Stavros Skopeteas & Julia Marina Kröger 2021, On the Impact of Case and Prosody on Thematic Role Disambiguation: An Eye-Tracking Study on Hungarian. Language and Speech, 64(4): 930-961. doi: 10.1177/0023830920974709.

Thematic-role assignment is influenced by several classes of cues during sentence comprehension, ranging from morphological exponents of syntactic relation such as case and agreement to probabilistic cues such as prosody. The effect of these cues cross-linguistically varies, presumably reflecting their language-specific robustness in signaling thematic roles. However, language-specific frequencies are not mapped onto the cue strength in a one-to-one fashion. The present article reports two eye-tracking studies on Hungarian examining the interaction of case and prosody during the processing of case-unambiguous (Experiment 1) and case-ambiguous (Experiment 2) clauses...

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Höhn, Georg 2021, Towards a consistent annotation of nominal person in Universal Dependencies. Proceedings of the Fifth Workshop on Universal Dependencies (UDW, SyntaxFest 2021). Sofia: Association for Computational Linguistics. 75–83.

On the basis of four small scale studies on corpora of English, German and Modern Greek, this paper points out problems with the lack of annotation guidelines for adnominal pronoun constructions like "we linguists" in treebanks employing the Universal Dependencies framework. I propose that a more uniform strategy of annotating these constructions will improve the internal consistency of corpora and better facilitate crosslinguistic comparability. Specifically, I argue against the use of the APPOS(ition) relation for these constructions and in favour of employing the DET(erminer) relation as a default annotation strategy.

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Ordin, Mikhail, Leona Polyanskaya & Arthur G. Samuel 2021, An evolutionary account for inter-modality differences in statistical learning. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1486(1), 76-89.

The cognitive mechanisms underlying statistical learning are engaged for the purposes of speech processing and language acquisition. However, these mechanisms are shared by a wide variety of species that do not possess the language faculty. Moreover, statistical learning operates across domains, including nonlinguistic material. Ancient mechanisms for segmenting continuous sensory input into discrete constituents have evolved for general-purpose segmentation of the environment and been readopted for processing linguistic input. Linguistic input provides...

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Ordin, Mikhail & Leona Polyanskaya 2021, The role of metacognition in recognition of the content of statistical learning. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 28(1), 333-340.

Despite theoretical debate on the extent to which statistical learning is incidental or modulated by explicit instructions and conscious awareness of the content of statistical learning, no study has ever looked into the metacognition of statistical learning. We used an artificial language learning paradigm and a segmentation task that required splitting a continuous stream of syllables into discrete recurrent constituents. During this task...

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Höhn, Georg 2020, The third person gap in adnominal pronoun constructions. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 5(1): 69.

The lack of third person adnominal pronouns in English-type languages (*they linguists) is argued to be an effect of contextually conditioned allomorphy between the exponents of the definite article and third person pronouns within a pronominal determiner structure. A crosslinguistic survey of 82 languages finds that the third person gap is crosslinguistically relatively rare and may be restricted to Europe and surrounding areas. The survey also suggests a potential interaction between the third person gap and the availability of distinct articles, as expected on the proposed analysis. The paper also discusses issues raised by the third person gap for alternative analyses, including those advocating an NP-analysis.

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Keydana, Götz 2020, Accentual mobility in Vedic. In Repanšek, Luka, Harald Bichlmeier & Velizar Sadovski, vácām̐si miśrā́ kr̥ṇavāmahai: Proceedings of international conference of the Society for Indo-European Studies and IWoBA XII, Ljubljana 4-7 June 2019. Baar: Hamburg. 355-366.

It is a well-established fact about PIE that the language had mobile accentual paradigms in the nominal domain. However, even in Vedic, one of the key witnesses for the reconstructed system, accentual mobility is strikingly restricted. It is the aim of this paper to assess mobility in Vedic from a diachronic point of view and to establish its bearing on reconstruction. In the first part of the paper, we look into root nouns. The second part is devoted to the rare instances of mobility in primary derivatives. It is shown that phonological factors and paradigmatic pressure are the fundamental driving forces behind the Vedic system. As a consequence, the paper calls into question the adequacy of a model based on compositional accent (in the sense of Kiparsky 2010) for Early Vedic.

Ordin, Mikhail, Leona Polyanskaya & David Soto 2020, Neural bases of learning and recognition of statistical regularities. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1467, 60-76.

Statistical learning is a set of cognitive mechanisms allowing for extracting regularities from the environment and segmenting continuous sensory input into discrete units. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (N = 25) in conjunction with an artificial language learning paradigm to provide new insight into the neural mechanisms of statistical learning, considering both the online process of extracting statistical regularities and the subsequent offline recognition of learned patterns. Notably, prior fMRI studies on statistical learning have not contrasted neural activation during the learning and recognition experimental phases. Here, we found that...

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Ordin, Mikhail, Leona Polyanskaya, David Soto & Nicola Molinaro 2020, Electrophysiology of statistical learning: exploring online learning process and offline learning product. European Journal of Neuroscience 51(9), 2008-2022.

A continuous stream of syllables is segmented into discrete constituents based on the transitional probabilities (TPs) between adjacent syllables by means of statistical learning. However, we still do not know whether people attend to high TPs between frequently co-occurring syllables and cluster them together as parts of the discrete constituents or attend to low TPs aligned with the edges between the constituents and extract them as whole units. Earlier studies on TP-based segmentation also have not distinguished between the segmentation process (how people segment continuous speech) and the learning product (what is learnt by means of statistical learning mechanisms). In the current study...

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Ordin, Mikhail, Leona Polyanskaya & David Soto 2020, Metacognitive processing in language learning tasks is affected by bilingualism. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 46(3), 529-538.

We assessed the effect of bilingualism on metacognitive processing in the artificial language learning task, in 2 experiments varying in the difficulty to segment the language. Following a study phase in which participants were exposed to the artificial language, segmentation performance was assessed by means of a dual forced-choice recognition test followed by confidence judgments. We used a signal detection approach to estimate type 1 performance...

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Polyanskaya, Leona, Maria Grazia Busà & Mikhail Ordin 2020, Capturing cross-linguistic differences in macro-rhythm: The case of Italian and English. Language and Speech 63(2), 242-263.

We tested the hypothesis that languages can be classified by their degree of tonal rhythm (Jun, 2014). The tonal rhythms of English and Italian were quantified using the following parameters: (a) regularity of tonal alternations in time, measured as durational variability in peak-to-peak and valley-to-valley intervals; (b) magnitude of F0 excursions, measured as the range of frequencies covered by the speaker between consecutive F0 maxima and minima; (c) number of tonal target points per intonational unit; and (d) similarity of F0 rising and falling contours within intonational units. The results show...

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Skopeteas, Stavros, Elisabeth Verhoeven & Gisbert Fanselow 2020, Discontinuous noun phrases in Yucatec Maya. Journal of Linguistics, First View: 1-40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226720000419.

Languages differ in whether or not they allow discontinuous noun phrases. If they do, they further vary in the ways the nominal projections interact with the available syntactic operations. Yucatec Maya has two left-peripheral configurations that differ syntactically: a preverbal position for foci or wh-elements that is filled in by movement, and the possibility to adjoin topics at the highest clausal layer. These two structural options are reflected in different ways of the formation of discontinuous patterns...

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Adam, Nina 2019, Clitics at the interfaces of grammar: Defining the "first position" in Czech. Proceedings of "Typology of morphosyntactic parameters", vol. 2, iss. 1, Moscow.

This paper is concerned with the nature of the "first position" in Czech, i.e. the position preceding second-position clitics. Although the first position is determined by syntactic constituency, independent of clitic requirements, clitic placement itself cannot be captured purely in the syntax. Even approaches which assume an influence of PF face serious problems. Instead I propose an OT analysis, showing how the first position results from clitic-specific constraints referring to syntactic constituents, as well as from independent syntactic constraints. The prosodically-determined clitic placement in BCMS can be explained using exactly the same constraint types, only referring to different constituents.

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