Prof. Dr. Uli Sauerland

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)

Prof. Dr. Uli Sauerland ist Stellvertretender Direktor des Leibniz-Zentrums Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft. Er leitet den Forschungsbereich 4 ‚Semantik & Pragmatik‘ und folgende Programme und Projekte:

Die zentrale Frage von Uli Sauerlands Forschung ist, wie Menschen Sätzen eine Bedeutung geben. Er integriert Ergebnisse aus dem Spracherwerb, der Feldforschung und anderen Quellen, um mathematisch explizite Modelle dieser menschlichen Fähigkeit zu entwickeln. Seine Expertise hat dazu beigetragen, die Diagnostik von Sprachstörungen und die Verständlichkeit medizinischer Leitlinien zu verbessern.


MGK Integrated Graduate School
A05 Modeling meaning-driven register variation


Schützenstraße 18, 10117 Berlin

+49 30 20192 570


Publications & Presentations


  • Pescuma, Valentina Nicole; Serova, Dina; Lukassek, Julia; Sauermann, Antje; Schäfer, Roland; Adli, Aria; Bildhauer, Felix; Egg, Markus; Hülk, Kristina; Ito, Aine; Jannedy, Stefanie; Kordoni, Valia; Kühnast, Milena; Kutscher, Silvia; Lange, Robert; Lehmann, Nico; Liu, Mingya; Lütke, Beate; Maquate, Katja; Mooshammer, Christine; Mortezapour, Vahid; Müller, Stefan; Norde, Muriel; Pankratz, Elizabeth; Patarroyo, Angela Giovanna; Plesca, Ana-Maria; Ronderos, Camilo R.; Rotter, Stephanie; Sauerland, Uli; Schulte, Britta; Schüppenhauer, Gediminas; Sell, Bianca Maria; Solt, Stephanie; Terada, Megumi; Tsiapou, Dimitra; Verhoeven, Elisabeth; Weirich, Melanie; Wiese, Heike; Zaruba, Kathy; Zeige, Lars Erik; Lüdeling, Anke; Knoeferle, Pia  (2022) Situating language register across the ages, languages, modalities, and cultural aspects: Evidence from complementary methods In: Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    In the present review paper by members of the collaborative research center ‘Register: Language Users’ Knowledge of SituationalFunctional Variation’ (CRC 1412), we assess the pervasiveness of register phenomena across different time periods, languages, modalities, and cultures. We define ‘register’ as recurring variation in language use depending on the function of language and on the social situation. Informed by rich data, we aim to better understand and model the knowledge involved in situation- and function-based use of language register. In order to achieve this goal, we are using complementary methods and measures. In the review, we start by clarifying the concept of ‘register’, by reviewing the state of the art, and by setting out our methods and modeling goals. Against this background, we discuss three key challenges, two at the methodological level and one at the theoretical level: 1. To better uncover registers in text and spoken corpora, we propose changes to established analytical approaches. 2. To tease apart between-subject variability from the linguistic variability at issue (intra-individual situation based register variability), we use within-subject designs and the modeling of individuals’ social, language, and educational background. 3. We highlight a gap in cognitive modeling, viz. modeling the mental representations of register (processing), and present our first attempts at filling this gap. We argue that the targeted use of multiple complementary methods and measures supports investigating the pervasiveness of register phenomena and yields comprehensive insights into the cross-methodological robustness of register-related language variability. These comprehensive insights in turn provide a solid foundation for associated cognitive modeling.
  • Sauerland, Uli  (2022) Quantifying the Register of German Quantificational Expressions: A Corpus-Based Study In: Measurements, Numerals and Scales [DOI] [ViVo]
  • Sauerland, Uli; Alexiadou, Artemis  (2020) Generative Grammar: A Meaning First Approach In: Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    The theory of language must predict the possible thought—signal (or meaning—sound or sign) pairings of a language. We argue for a Meaning First architecture of language where a thought structure is generated first. The thought structure is then realized using language to communicate the thought, to memorize it, or perhaps with another purpose. Our view contrasts with the T-model architecture of mainstream generative grammar, according to which distinct phrase-structural representations—Phonetic Form (PF) for articulation, Logical Form (LF) for interpretation—are generated within the grammar. At the same time, our view differs from early transformational grammar and generative semantics: We view the relationship between the thought structure and the corresponding signal as one of compression. We specify a formal sketch of compression as a choice between multiple possible pronounciations balancing the desire to transmit information against the effort of pronounciation. The Meaning First architecture allows a greater degree of independence between thought structures and the linguistic signal. We present three arguments favoring this type of independence. First we argue that scopal properties can be better explained if we only compare thought structures independent of the their realization as a sentence. Secondly, we argue that Meaning First architecture allows contentful late insertion, an idea that has been argued for in Distributed Morphology already, but as we argue is also motivated by the division of the logical and socio-emotive meaning content of language. Finally, we show that only the Meaning First architecture provides a satisfying account of the mixing of multiple languages by multilingual speakers, especially for cases of simultaneous articulation across two modalities in bimodal speakers. Our view of the structure of grammar leads to a reassessment of priorities in linguistic analyses: while current mainstream work is often focused on establishing one-to-one relationships between concepts and morphemes, our view makes it plausible that primitive concepts are frequently marked indirectly or unpronounced entirely. Our view therefore assigns great value to the understanding of logical primitives and of compression.
  • Presentations