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URPP Language and Space

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. Le Bruyn & Zwarts 2014) 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 in databases built up from very short messages, as even very short inscriptions or severely damaged inscriptions/texts usually have complex NPs. Items 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, Kabatek 2016; DOM in Portuguese and Romansh), and partitive pronouns and determiners (or indefinites; cf. e.g. Hoeksema, ed. 1996; Beyssade&Dobrovie-Sorin 2014; Ihsane 2008; also Stark et al., eds. 2007; Ihsane/Stark, to appear).

Particular interest lies in the investigation of the respective elements not (only) in standard languages, but also in dialectal varieties of different Indo-European languages, particularly those in close horizontal contact with each other and in vertical contact with the respective standard varieties. In this context, there is a special emphasis on the gathering of new data (DOM: new database for Latin American Spanish; partitive determiners: new database for Francoprovençal, Northern Italian and French) and the exploitation of existing databases (such as ALAVAL for Francoprovençal, complemented by fieldwork, especially in the case of endangered languages and varieties; e.g. Occitan, Gascon, Francoprovençal, Romansh as well as Slavic varieties such as Torlak in the TraCeBa and the Ill-bred sons project). SyNoDe is part of several research networks (PARTE, DiFuPaRo) and has organized a series of international workshops and conferences.

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.)(2005). 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.

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