Research interests

I got my training in both English linguistics and general-comparative linguistics and hence I seek to combine these two perspectives in order to investigate principles that drive the organization and use of linguistic knowledge. I’m particularly interested in the acquisition, change and typological distribution of grammatical structures, and in how these can be modelled by quantitative-statistical methods. These interests ultimately derive from my commitment to usage-based theories of language, to constructions as primary units of representation, and to a view of language as a complex adaptive system (CAS).

In addition to these foci, a major professional interest of mine is the teaching of language and linguistics to future generations, particularly the linguistic education of future teachers of English. I have concerned myself intensively with designing teaching materials that invite students to discover the joy of investigating a language profoundly and the relevance of this approach for their future careers as language teachers.

Recent research projects

Usage- and construction-based approaches to parasitic gaps in English
Ongoing joint work with Caroline De Becker and Sergei Monakhov

Latinate morphology in English in a network model of linguistic knowledge
Ongoing joint work with Sergei Monakhov and Holger Diessel

Usage-based explanations of grammatical coding asymmetries
This project (PI: Martin Haspelmath), which I worked in from July 2016 to March 2019, sought to establish systematic correspondences between coding asymmetries in grammatical categories and the frequency distributions of the respective category values involved (e.g. singular versus plural forms). A key issue is the diachronic implementation of such frequency effects and its interaction with other functional principles of linguistic organization. The project website can be found here.

Within this project and beyond, I have been particularly concerned with ...

  • Role-reference associations and coding asymmetries in argument structure (e.g. differential argument marking, inverse constructions, indexation, etc.)
  • Signal management at clause boundaries (e.g. differential reduction of clause-linkage morphology)
  • Theoretical issues, e.g. the relationship between functional-adaptive motivations and language change

Complement clauses and complementation systems in typological perspective
Based on my 2014 dissertation, I've been involved with preparing a cross-linguistic database on complementation structures and various studies based on it. Of particular interest are distributional analyses of complementation systems, such as distributional patterns of complement clauses over different semantic and syntactic matrix-clause environments and their specific relationships to closely associated construction types like relative and purpose clauses.

Principles of linearization in complex-sentence constructions
This long-term project (PI: Holger Diessel) examines the structure and development of complex sentences in a sample of more than 100 languages with world-wide coverage. The primary focus in this project is on the linear organization of complex sentences, i.e. the position of subordinate clauses vis-à-vis their respective attachement sites (i.e. matrix clauses), and it is investigated how and why their position systematically correlates with structural and functional properties of the respective construction. A current concern of our work is with cross-constructional patterns of clause ordering, i.e. how the positions of different types of subordinate clauses align with or depart from each other in the development of complex-sentence systems.

Culture-specific variation in the L2 motivational self-system [with Gregor Kachel]
In this project, we used Gregor's questionnaire data on Nepalese learners of English in order to examine culture-specific aspects of the structure of L2 motivation, extending and modifying Kormos and Csizér's (2008) quantitative approach to this question.

Presentations and talks

Complex words as the shortest path in the network of lexical knowledge [joint paper with Sergei Monakhov and Holger Diessel in the theme session "Grammatical Constructions and the Usage-Based Model" (16th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference), Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, August 2023]

Typological aspects of complementation and the limits of grammatical complexity [invited talk, Amsterdam Centre for Language and Communication, University of Amsterdam, March 2023]

Subjects tend to be encoded only once: Corpus-based and grammar-based evidence for an efficiency-driven trade-off [joint paper with Aleksandrs Berdicevskis and Ilja A. Seržant at the "19th International Workshop on Treebanks and Linguistic Theories", Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, November 2020]

Methodological developments linguistic typology: Sampling methods, family biases and mixed-effects modelling [invited plenary talk, ERC group Deixis Network, University of Jena, October 2018]

Syntactic determinants of the development of articles: A cross-linguistic investigation. [paper at the “Syntax of the World’s Languages 8”, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales Paris, September 2018]

Coding asymmetries in complex sentences from a typological perspective. [paper at the 2nd Vielfaltslinguistikkonferenz, Humboldt University Berlin, March 2018]

Typological 'markedness' and tense-aspect systems. [presentation at the workshop on Actionality Classes, Leipzig University, January 2018]

Signalreduktion und Nullkodierung in der Satzverbindung. [paper at the workshop on Zero Coding/Nullkodierung, University of Bremen, January 2018]

Processing typology and cross-linguistic variation in NP structure: An assessment of Hawkins’ efficiency predictions. [paper at the 3rd Usage-Based Linguistics Conference, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, July 2017]

Methodische Entwicklungen in der Vielfaltslinguistik: Möglichkeiten typologischer Modellbildung für intragenealogische Stichproben. [paper at the Diversity Linguistics Conference, Leipzig University, March 2017]

Signal reduction at clause boundaries. [paper at the 39th Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society, Saarland University Saabrücken, March 2017]

Motivating the distributional behaviour of S- and A-clause complements. [paper at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea, University of Naples, August 2016]

Complement clauses and complementation systems from a cross-linguistic perspective. [talk in the Diverstiy Linguistics Seminar, University of Leipzig, August 2016]

Exploring distributional patterns in complementation systems. [paper presented at a workshop on New Developments in the Quantitative Study of Languages, University of Helsinki, August 2015]

Complement clauses and complementation systems from a cross-linguistic perspective. [invited talk, University of Zurich, May 2014]

Word order correlations in the domain of complex sentences: Syntactic processing and/or grammaticalization? [with Holger Diessel; paper presented at the 10th Biennial Conference of the Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT 10), University of Leipzig, August 2013]

Pre- and postverbal complement clauses: A mere ordering alternative? [with Holger Diessel; paper presented at the 10th Biennial Conference of the Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT 10), University of Leipzig, August 2013]

Complex sentences: Clause order, syntactic structure and grammaticalization. [with Holger Diessel; invited talk, MPI Leipzig, August 2012]

Linear and morphosyntactic structure in complementation systems. [with Holger Diessel; invited talk, Workshop on Complementation in Eurasian Languages, University of Mainz, November 2011]

Pre- and postnominal relative clauses: Syntactic structure and diachronic evolution. [with Holger Diessel and Katja Hetterle; invited talk, University of Freiburg and FRIAS, May 2011]

The distribution of complementation constructions over argument-structural space. [invited talk, Workshop on the Fine Structure of Grammatical Relations, University of Leipzig, December 2010]

Competing motivations for the linear structuring of complex sentences. [with Holger Diessel and Katja Hetterle; paper presented at the Workshop on Competing Motivations, MPI Leipzig, November 2010]

Frequenzeffekte aus diachron-universalistischer Perspektive. [invited co-dicussant (with Martin Haspelmath) at a workshop of the Graduiertenkolleg DFG GRK 1624 "Frequenzeffekte in der Sprache" (University of Freiburg), November 2010]

Linearization and syntactic structure in complex sentences. [with Holger Diessel and Katja Hetterle; paper presented at the Syntax of the World’s Languages IV, Lyon, September 2010]

The relationship between clausal subjects and objects in typological perspective. [paper presented at the 6th International Contrastive Linguistics Conference, Berlin, September 2010]

Avertive constructions: Cross-linguistic convergence in the symbolization of experience. [paper presented at the 3rd UK-Cognitive Linguistics Conference, Hatfield/GB, July 2010]

New directions in the study of diachronic change. [Linguistics Colloquium, FSU Jena, July 2010]

Typologizing sentential subject constructions. [paper presented at the 8th Biennial Conference of the Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT 8), Berkeley/USA, July 2009]

The grammar of positive and negative purpose: Towards a usage-based typology. [inivited talk, Max-Planck-Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie Leipzig, June 2009]

Schreiben von Exposés und Forschungsanträgen. [invited talk, Kolloquium für empirische Fachdidaktik, FSU Jena, May 2009, May 2008]

Performance-grammar correspondences and the typology of complex sentences. [Invited talk, Research Centre of English and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, UK. February 10, 2009]

The role of benefactives and related notions in the typology of purpose clauses. [paper presented at a workshop on the Typology of Benefactives and Malefactives, University of Zurich, October 25-26, 2007.]

The acquisition of English purpose clauses. [paper presented in the theme session on Language Acquisition at the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference 10 (ICLC), Krakow, July 2007.]

Ad-hoc reviews

Language, Linguistics, Language and Cognition, English Language and Linguistics, Journal of English Linguistics, Language Sciences, Studies in Language, International Journal of American Linguistics, Folia Linguistica, Constructions and Frames, Linguistics Vanguard, Handbook of Formosan Languages, chapters for edited volumes and awards