design element

Topics and research interests

My main linguistic interests are in syntactic and morphological structure, its externalisation and its relation to syntax proper. My own perspective on these issues is largely influenced by Distributed Morphology. Other, syntactic areas of interest include null arguments, nominal structure and nominal modification. Sometimes, I also venture on issues related to the syntax-semantics interface and compositionality. I am generally concerned with comparative matters, but I have also worked on specific aspects of Basque, Modern Greek, Calabrian Greek (Greko) and south Italian Romance varieties, Yiddish, Aromanian, Cypriot Maronite Arabic and Pomak to varying degrees.

A side interest concerns anthropological, historical, political and sociolinguistic aspects of the phenomenon of nationalism and the construction of (national) identities.

Adpositions in interaction with nominal structure

One area of my work is concerned with the way adpositions morphologically/syntactically interact with lower parts of nominal structure - in particular determiners. This is related to questions whether linear adjacency should or should not play a role in theories of morphosyntax and specifically contextually conditioned allomorphy. I have looked at relevant phenomena in the Basque “adverbial case system”. More recently, I have argued that allomorphy effects of prepositions in Standard Modern Greek and Greko suggest sensitivity to linear adjacency with a definite article.

In Yiddish, some prepositions display forms that are contractions with certain definite articles and in some cases prepositional phrases with a definite referent may lack a definite article altogether. In collaborative work with Isaac L. Bleaman, we are investigating the distribution of these phenomena in a corpus of Yiddish stories. A central research question is whether the Yiddish data can be related to theoretical proposals concerning the distribution of preposition-article contractions in German (e.g. im ‘in.the’).

Determiners in Mabia/Gur languages

Together with Alain N. Hien (Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan) I am investigating aspects of the syntactic variation in the marker a found in several Mabia/Gur languages. We are focusing on Dagara, Mòoré and Koromfe for now. In a second phase, we also plan to provide a discussion of the semantic contribution of this marker in Dagara.

Nominal person

My PhD thesis was concerned with adnominal pronoun constructions like we linguists and what they may show about the encoding of (grammatical) person in the nominal domain. I investigated crosslinguistic variation in a sample of some 90 languages from a variety of language families with respect to the internal syntax of these constructions, in particular word order, the interaction of these constructions with articles and person/number restrictions, identifying a number of crosslinguistic generalisations and developing explanations for some of them.

Recently, I have been working on ways to use corpora and tree banks for gaining a better understanding of the language-internal distribution of expressions of nominal person.


Certain languages, apparently a proper subset of null subject languages, allow an apparently third person plural subject to appear alongside first and second person plural agreement morphology on the verb. The most prominent example in the literature is Spanish, but the phenomenon seems to be far more wide-spread. In my Master’s thesis I described some aspects of unagreement in Modern Greek and, in less detail, some other languages, arguing that these structures do not involve an agreement mismatch after all. Instead, I suggest that the (un-)availability of these configurations depends on what parts of nominal structure can or cannot be spelled out, providing a more direct link to the presence of null subjects in those languages.

Semantic composition, nominal structure and attributive linkers

Some languages use “linking” morphemes to mark certain kinds of nominal modifiers, sometimes known as “attributive linkers”. They raise several (morpho-)syntactic questions. What is the syntactic relationship between the modified noun and the modifier? Does the linker form a constituent with the modifier or the modifiee? What is the linkers’ syntactic category? On the other hand, one can also wonder how these linkers relate to the semantic interpretation of syntactic structures. The common view is that Fregean Functional Application drives most of semantic composition, while a distinct process of Predicate Modification kicks in if two elements of the same type are combined. One line of thinking suggests that linkers are a signal for the interpretive system to use Predicate Modification. However, it is at least conceivable that additional functional structure could prevent a situation where the interpretational system has to compose two items of the same type, and that this is the actual function of attributive linkers.

My bachelor thesis on adnominal PPs in Basque and the obligatory presence of the linker morpheme -ko represents an attempt to think in that direction, arguing that the linker is a functional morpheme in the projection of the modifier, facilitating Functional Application to the modified noun.

Identity and Nationalisms

Although this is not my main field of expertise, I am fascinated by the way abstract notions of belonging and groupness have developed historically and what role they play for individuals. In particular, I am interested in the development of the notions of “nation” and “nationality”, and in the way they have come to play such a significant role in how most of us view (and conceptualise) the world and ourselves. Some of these aspects are more anthropological and psychological concerns, others have direct political implications.

On a (socio-)linguistic note, one relevant aspect to this complex is, of course, the role language/s do or do not play in the establishment, maintenance and assertion of particular types of national or ethnic identities.

In this context, but also more generally, I am especially interested in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans and the Black Sea area.


This section contains information and links (where applicable) for papers I have written and talks I have given. Feel free to contact me if there’s anything missing or wrong here.


Presentations and posters