Research Group “Systems of Nominal Determination in Contact (SyNoDe)”

The Systems of Nominal Determination in Contact (SyNoDe) Research Group focuses on the syntax and semantics of different types of nominal determiners, pronouns or noun phrases (with a focus on indefinites, partitives and weak definites, cf. e.g. Beyssade & Pires de Oliveira, eds. 2013) with regard to their syntactic distribution, referential properties (mass/count distinction, kind denotation, island sensitivity) and coming into being as the potential result of language contact.

Nominal Phrase (NP) structures are an ideal target for areal and diachronic research because they tend to be best attested in ancient, endangered languages or databases built up from very short messages, as even very short inscriptions or badly damaged inscriptions/texts usually have complex NPs. Objects under investigation are bare nouns (cf. e.g. Kabatek & Wall, eds. 2013), different types of noun phrases / nominal determination with respect to their possibility to receive special case-marking (Spanish DOM, esp. in Latin America, cf. e.g. Stark et al., eds. 2005), and partitive pronouns and determiners (or indefinites; cf. e.g. Hoeksema, ed. 1996; Dobrovie-Sorin & Beyssade 2004; Ihsane 2008; also Stark et al., eds. 2007).

A special interest lies in the investigation of the elements in question not (only) in standard languages, but in dialectal varieties of different Indo-European languages, particularly those in close contact with each other (horizontal) and with the respective standard varieties (vertical language contact). One major interest is the gathering of new data (DOM: new database for Latin American Spanish) and the exploitation of existing databases (such as ALAVAL for Francoprovençal, complemented by fieldwork, especially in endangered languages and varieties (e.g. Occitan, Francoprovençal, Romansh). Another primary interest is to uncover potential language contact phenomena.

In order to assure the accurate recognition of factual parallels (see Poplack & Levey 2010) between two seemingly identical phenomena in two different, but geographically adjacent languages/varieties, the focus of our research is on fine-grained and very detailed syntactic and semantic analyses of the gathered material as well as on addressing this data from a diachronic perspective.


Beyssade, Claire, Roberta Pires de Oliveira (eds.) (2013). Weak definites across languages: theoretical and experimental investigation. Vincennes (= Recherches Linguistiques de Vincennes 42).

Dobrovie-Sorin, Carmen & Claire Beyssade (2004). Définir les indéfinis. Paris: CNRS Editions.

Hoeksema, Jacob (ed.) (1996). Partitives: studies on the syntax and semantics of partitive and related constructions. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Ihsane, Tabea (2008). The layered DP in French. Form and Meaning of French Indefinites. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kabatek, Johannes & Albert Wall (eds.) (2013). New Perspectives on Bare Noun Phrases in Romance and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Poplack, Shana & Stephen Levey (2010), „Contact-induced grammatical change“, in: Peter Auer & Jürgen Schmidt (eds.), Language and Space – An international handbook of linguistic variation. Vol.I: Theories and methods, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 391-419.

Stark, Elisabeth, Klaus von Heusinger & Georg Kaiser (eds.). Specificity and the evolution/emergence of nominal determination systems in Romance. Selected papers from the international workshop NEREUS II, October 2004 in Berlin, Konstanz: Universität Konstanz ( = Konstanzer Arbeitspapiere zur Sprachwissenschaft, 119).

Stark, Elisabeth, Werner Abraham & Elisabeth Leiss (eds.) (2007). Nominal determination. Typology, context constraints, and historical emergence, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.