Light verbs from a cross-linguistic perspective
Fredrik Heinat
Type: Postdoc (forskarassistent)
Running: 2010–2014
Funded by: Stockholm University

In this project, I investigate the interaction between syntax, morphology and semantics. I am particularly interested in what is called light verbs, such as ‘take’ in ‘take a bath’. What is special about these verbs is that they change both our intepretation of noun phrases and the aspectual interpretation of actions, that is, how we perceive of the internal process or structure of an action or state. Compared to “ordinary” verbs such as ‘bathe’, the light verb makes it possible to interpret the noun phrase ‘bath’ as a predicate; i.e., as a process rather than an object which would be te normal interpretation of nounphrases. The light verb construction ‘take a bath’ also differs from ‘to bathe’ in how we percieve the internal temporal structure of the action. This type of verbs appears to exist in most languages. The aim is to account for the special properties of light verbs, and any contrasts between languages, within linguistic theory.

Participant perspective as an inflectional category in Chibchian, Nambikwara and Mayan langauges
Henrik Bergqvist
Type: Postdoc (forskarassistent)
Running: 2010–2014
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

The project aims to describe and define an inflectional category which primarily expresses the status of information for the discourse participants. Such a grammatical expression specifies how information, broadly defined, is grounded with regard to the speech participants. The working hypothesis is that the semantic description of the expression is done in terms of symmetries between the discourse participants, where an event can be symmetrically accessible (i.e., the speaker assumes that the listener already knows something about the event) or asymmetrically accessible (the speaker assumes that the listener is unaware of the event).

The investigation is expected to throw light on the intersection of semantics and pragmatics, as well as the difference between epicstemic modality and participant perspecives as a grammaticalised intersubjective expression.

The languages on which the investigation is based are taken to have this category, and the project also entails an amount of fieldwork on at least one of the languages.

Principia Creolica
Mikael Parkvall
Type: Research project
Running: 2010–2012
Funded by: The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation

The aim of the project is to demonstrate that creoles are descended from pidgin languages, and – contrary to what has been claimed – that they represent a highly specific case of language development.

Linguistic archaeology on New Ireland, Papua New Guinea
Eva Lindström
Type: Research Project
Running: 2010–2012
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

Kuot is a language spoken by some 1000 people on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific. It is an isolate, with no demonstrable relatives, and it is endangered as children are not learning it. The project has two interrelated aims.
1. To document the vocabulary of Kuot and make it available in dictionary versions suitable both for the Kuot community and for linguists.
2. To investigate the multi-layered traces of contact accumulated during the many centuries of interaction between Kuot speakers and Austronesian- (Oceanic-)speaking neighbours, preserved in the vocabulary, sound system and to some extent the grammatical structures of Kuot. Sifting through these layers of influence and interpreting their sociocultural context constitutes the archaeological metaphor of the title.

Swedish emblems – a study of symbolic gestures’ meaning, function, and potential variation
Tove Gerholm
Type: Postdoc
Running: 2010–2011
Funded by: Faculty of Humanities, Stockholm University

The goal of the project is to describe and define the symbolic gestures known as emblems. More specifically, it aims to i) elucidate the relationship between emblems, spoken language and other gestures in a material of child–child, child–adult, and adult–adult interaction; ii) investigate how emblems vary with sociolinguistic parameters such as type of conversation, topic, age and context, using tools from Conversation Analysis; and iii) analyze the meaning of emblems by correlating the interpretation of emblems in interactional data with their interpretations in de-contextualized decoding tests.

Hot and cold – universal or language-specific?
Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm (PI)
Magnus Sahlgren
Type: Research project
Running: 2009–2011
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

Can language systems have unrestricted variation in the number of expressions they have for temperature, what these mean, where they come from, and what extended meanings they have? If they can, why is that? Are there universal temperature concepts? These and similar research questions form the basis of this project, where we study terms for temperature, their uses, meanings and grammar in a number of languages from different families and geographic areas. The project will establish what variation there is, and identify recurrent patterns in the data. We will also seek explanations for such patterns, in neurophysiology and climate as well as linguistic structure, language history and culture. Link to project information.

The ASU Corpus
Björn Hammarberg
Type: Research facility (language corpus).
Funding: The Swedish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSFR) 1991–94; Magn. Bergvalls Stiftelse; Birgit & Gad Rausings Stiftelse för Humanistisk Forskning; Henrik Granholms stiftelse.
Collaboration: Språkbanken, University of Gothenburg (Lars Borin, Leif-Jöran Olsson.

The ASU Corpus is a longitudinal corpus of transcribed audio-recorded conversations and written texts collected from adult learners of Swedish and supplemented by a comparable material from native Swedes. It was built up in the 1990s within the project Andraspråkets strukturutveckling (ASU) (‘Structural development of the second language’) at the Department of Linguistics, SU, under the direction of Björn Hammarberg and has later been technically updated in collaboration with Språkbanken, University of Gothenburg (Lars Borin, Leif-Jöran Olsson).

The corpus is intended to serve as a database for investigations of Swedish learner language in its phases of development in individual learners, and for comparisons of the Swedish production of learners and native speakers. Ten foreign students at Stockholm University have supplied data at short intervals from the beginner stage in Swedish up to a level where they are studying in Swedish at university level. In addition, a comparable control material has been collected from seven native Swedish students. A parallel design with similar contents for all informants provides for systematic comparisons between different individuals, between learners and native speakers, longitudinally across stages, between speech and writing, and between different activities in conversation and different text types in writing. The corpus comprises about ½ million word tokens of which the major part consists of transcribed oral production. The learners’ and the native informants’ production has been word-tagged. A special user interface, designed within the so-called ITG Platform (Språkbanken, University of Gothenburg) permits searches as well as interactive analysis and editing of search results.

Negation in non-verbal and existential clauses: a typological study
Ljuba Veselinova
Type: Research project
Running: 2006–2010
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

This project has two parts. First, to outline a typology of negation strategies in sentences such as (i) Bridget is not ill (non-verbal clause) or (ii) Green lions don’t exist / There are no green lions (existential clause). Such a typology is needed to complement existing typologies of verbal negation. My other goal is to suggest a functionally based explanation for the observed distribution of negation strategies.

For the first part of the project, a sample of 95 languages from different linguistic phyla and areas of the world is used. A preliminary observation is that using particular negation strategies for existential clauses as in (ii) above is very common, e.g., in Russian where clauses like (i) are negated with the verbal negation particle ‘ne’ (Britt ne bol’na) while clauses like (ii) require the special negator ‘net’ (Zelënyx l’vov net). The only parts of the world which appear not to have special existential negators are western Europe and central and southern parts of South America.

For the explanatory part of the project, I investigate the special negations in language corpora, as well as their development within individual language families. The families studied so far are Slavic and Polynesian.

Processes in Third Language Acquisition Björn Hammarberg and Sarah Williams
Type: Research project.
Running: Intermittently 1990–2009.
Funding: Faculty resources, Stockholm University.

The project is a comprehensive longitudinal case study of an adult multilingual person who acquires a new language (Swedish) through interaction with native speakers. The project deals especially with the multilingual situation, the learner’s acquisitional activities, and the involvement of her different background languages in the process of speaking. The project offers a coherent study of various linguistic phenomena, including the functional role distribution between the background languages, patterns and functions of language switching, word search in interaction, hypothetical construction of words, and articulatory settings in speaking. The main languages involved are English (L1), German (L2) and Swedish (L3). The activation of these languages in the learner’s speech is examined from a cognitive perspective in relation to current models of the speaking process. A longitudinal corpus of NNS–NS conversations covering 21 months from the beginner stage provides the data for these studies. The final report from the project is Hammarberg, Björn (ed.) (2009), Processes in Third Language Acquisition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Finiteness in indirect speech
Andreas Jäger
Type: Postdoc
Running: 2007–2009
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

Languages typically have one or more ways of expressing the difference between direct and indirect citation of the speech of others. This project is a typological investigation of the grammatical effects that arise from the representation of indirect speech in 268 languages from more than 70 language families and five macro areas. The aim has been to find cross-linguistic parallels between form and function in constructions used to represent indirect speech, in particular those which consist in a reporting main clause and a subordinate clause containing the direct utterance. When the speaker makes the choice between rendering the original utterance or reporting it from their own perspective, there are usually grammatical consequences. These can be subsumed under the concept of “finiteness phenomena”, such as special marking on the verb or word order changes, and it is the verb changes that have formed a particular focus in this work.

Research within typological linguistics
Östen Dahl
Type: Support to leading researchers
Running: 2004–2009
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

The Swedish Research Council supported Östen Dahl’s research on this topic in 2004–2009 within the programme ‘Long-term support to leading researchers’. During this time, Dahl’s research has concerned, inter alia, tense and aspect (the “ecological” semantics of tense and aspect; remoteness distinctions in tense systems); grammatical complexity (a comparison of Elfdalian ?? and Swedish; complexity and grammaticalization; NP coordination as a grammatical resource); grammaticalization processes in Northern Swedish noun phrases; methods for linguistic sampling; geographical variation in typological diversity; animacy and egophoricity; the typology of negation; and the use of parallel corpora in typological research.

Core vocabulary in a typological perspective: semantic shifts and form–meaning correlations
Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm (PI)
Päivi Juvonen (Project Manager)
Type: Research project
Running: 2006–2009
Funded by: INTAS (International Association for the promotion of co-operation with scientists from the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union)
Collaborators: CNRS (France), Tübingen University (Germany), The VINITI Institute (Moscow, Russia), The Institute for Linguistics at the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow), Moscow State Pedagogical University, NIISP (Kiev, Ukraine)

The general aim of the project has been to reveal and describe cross-linguistically recurrent semantic shifts and form–meaning correlations in the core vocabulary of human languages and to achieve a better understanding of the general underlying mechanisms. Core vocabulary is defined partly through presumed universal physical, mental and social activities (body, space, time, perception, motion, etc.); partly by lexical frequency and salience. Within this general aim the project has set up several descriptive, methodological and theoretical objectives. Link to INTAS homepage.

Pioneers of Island Melanesia – on human early prehistory
Eva Lindström
Type: Research project
Running: 2002-2005
Funded by: Swedish Research Council; through the European Science Foundation)
Collaborating members: MPI Nijmegen (NL), LCHES Cambridge (UK), PRM Oxford (UK), MPI Leipzig (DE).

In this cross-disciplinary project researchers from linguistics, archaeology, biological anthropology and genetics collaborate within the ESF programme OMLL. The goal is to investigate what the junction of these sciences can say about the human settling and further spread through the islands of the southwest Pacific, from the first attested presence 40,000 years ago until the arrival of Austronesian speakers some 3,500 years ago. The collaboration also leads to the development of new scientific methods.
Project web page: http://www.eastpapuan.ling.su.se//

Mikael Parkvall
Päivi Juvonen
Type: Research project
Running: 2003-2005
Funded by: The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation

The purpose of this project is studying the limits of human language in terms of compexity, simplicity and expressivity. By means of careful typological study of pidgin languages, the more specific aim is to try and answer questions such as “What is the minimal functional human language like?” and “Are there elements in human languages that do not add new communicative nuances, which have no communicative function of their own, so to speak?”.

Project web page: www.ling.su.se/staff/juvonen/interests.html

Nominal juxtaposition: a cross-linguistic study of a maltreated morpho-syntactic phenomenon
Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm
Type: Research project
Running: 2002-2005
Funded by: Swedish Research Council

A “prototypical nominal juxtaposition” refers to a syntactic construction where two nominals (i.e., nouns with or without modifiers, or full noun phrases) occur side by side, with word order and prosody as the only grammatical markers of their relation. An example is the Swedish construction ‘en kopp kaffe’, which lacks any explicit marker comparable to ‘of’ in the corresponding English phrase ‘a cup of coffee’.

Cross-linguistically, a set of constructions that tend to make use of juxtaposition can be identified, even in languages otherwise generous with explicit morpho-syntactic marking.

Project web page: http://www.ling.su.se/staff/tamm/Juxt-e.html