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).


Recent research projects

Usage-based explanations of grammatical coding asymmetries
[ERC grant project; Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Martin Haspelmath]

This project, which I joined in July 2016, seeks 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.

Complement clauses and complementation systems: A cross-linguistic study of grammatical organization
This is the title of my PhD dissertation, which I completed at the University of Jena in 2014. The dissertation aims to lay the foundation for an empirically broad study of complement clauses in the world's languages, substantiating, extending and developing previous survey work on the topic (e.g. Noonan 1985|2007, Dixon 2006). I have compiled a database of the major complementation patterns from 100 languages, which allows for examining cross-linguistic patterns of (dis)similarity in the grammatical organization of complement clauses and complementation systems. The individual chapters of the dissertation explore similarities in the internal structure of complement clauses, in the ways in which complements distribute over various semantic and syntactic classes of complement-taking predicates, and in the possible diachronic sources from which distributionally similar complements emerge. To this end, I make extensive use of exploratory, pattern-detecting statistical techniques such as CFA, NeighborNet analyses, HA-clustering, MDS and others. Of particular phenomenological interest are complements that function as the 'subject' (in a comparative sense) of mono- or polyvalent predicates, as these show particularly interesting typological properties that have not yet been examined in a systematic fashion; the dissertation aims to make a first step into this direction, which I'm currently extending and preparing for several publications.

Principles of linearization in complex-sentence constructions
[partly funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG); Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Holger Diessel]

This long-term project 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 Stöber, MPI Leipzig]
In this project, we use Gregor's questionnaire data on Nepalese learners of English in order to examine culture-specific aspects of the structure of L2 motivation, replicating and reassessing Kormos and Csizér's (2008) quantitative approach to this question.


Presentations and talks

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]

Crossing bridges: On the role of adverbial clauses in complementation systems. [paper at a workshop on Adverbial Relations and Clause Linkages, Syntax of the World’s Languages VII, National Autonomous University of Mexico, 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.]

Why students hate grammar…and why it’s actually quite interesting. An introduction to studying languages. [invited speaker, Tag der Wissenschaften, Albert-Schweizer-Gymnasium Ruhla, July 2006.]


Ad-hoc reviews

Linguistics, English Language and Linguistics, Language Sciences, Studies in Language, International Journal of American Linguistics