Register and the development of periphrasis in the history of English

Projekt B01 untersucht zwei eng umrissene grammatische Variationsphänomene im (historischen) Englischen. In beiden alterniert eine synthetische Form mit einer periphrastischen (Adjektivgradation, Progressiv) und in beiden Fällen ist die Alternation in der heutigen Sprache wesentlich, aber nicht vollständig, grammatisch determiniert. Die Fälle, in denen dennoch beide Möglichkeiten zugelassen waren oder sind, zeigen eine interessante Registerabhängigkeit. Die Forschungsfragen hier sind: (i) Wie kann Register die Aufnahme einer neuen Form beeinflussen? (ii) Welche Rolle spielt Register bei der Veränderung der Gebrauchsbedingungen? (iii) Was bedeutet das für die Modellierung von Registerwissen.



Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c Artemis Alexiadou

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)



Izabella Rosa Malta

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)


Dan Morris

Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin



Dr. Thomas McFadden

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)


Dr. Giorgos Spathas

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)


Studentische Hilfskräfte

Amy Amoakuh

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)


Publications & Presentations



  • Wiese, Heike; Alexiadou, Artemis; Shanley, Allen; Bunk, Oliver; Gagarina, Natalia; Iefremenko, Kateryna; Martynova, Maria; Pashkova, Tatiana; Rizou, Vicky; Schroeder, Christoph; Shadrova, Anna; Szucsich, Luka; Tracy, Rosemarie; Wintai, Tsehaye; Zerbian, Sabine; Zuban, Yulia  (2022) Heritage Speakers as Part of the Native Language Continuum In:  Frontiers in Psychology [DOI] [ViVo]
    We argue for a perspective on bilingual heritage speakers as native speakers of both their languages and present results from a large-scale, cross-linguistic study that took such a perspective and approached bilinguals and monolinguals on equal grounds. We targeted comparable language use in bilingual and monolingual speakers, crucially covering broader repertoires than just formal language. A main database was the open-access RUEG corpus, which covers comparable informal vs. formal and spoken vs. written productions by adolescent and adult bilinguals with heritage-Greek, -Russian, and -Turkish in Germany and the United States and with heritage-German in the United States, and matching data from monolinguals in Germany, the United States, Greece, Russia, and Turkey. Our main results lie in three areas. (1) We found non-canonical patterns not only in bilingual, but also in monolingual speakers, including patterns that have so far been considered absent from native grammars, in domains of morphology, syntax, intonation, and pragmatics. (2) We found a degree of lexical and morphosyntactic inter-speaker variability in monolinguals that was sometimes higher than that of bilinguals, further challenging the model of the streamlined native speaker. (3) In majority language use, non-canonical patterns were dominant in spoken and/or informal registers, and this was true for monolinguals and bilinguals. In some cases, bilingual speakers were leading quantitatively. In heritage settings where the language was not part of formal schooling, we found tendencies of register leveling, presumably due to the fact that speakers had limited access to formal registers of the heritage language. Our findings thus indicate possible quantitative differences and different register distributions rather than distinct grammatical patterns in bilingual and monolingual speakers. This supports the integration of heritage speakers into the native-speaker continuum. Approaching heritage speakers from this perspective helps us to better understand the empirical data and can shed light on language variation and change in native grammars. Furthermore, our findings for monolinguals lead us to reconsider the state-of-the art on majority languages, given recurring evidence for non-canonical patterns that deviate from what has been assumed in the literature so far, and might have been attributed to bilingualism had we not included informal and spoken registers in monolinguals and bilinguals alike.
  • Oikonomou, Despina; Rizou, Vasiliki; Bondarenko, Daniil; Özsoy, Onur; Alexiadou, Artemis  (2022) Scalar and Counterfactual Approximatives: Investigating Heritage Greek in the USA and Germany In:  Languages [DOI] [ViVo]
    Approximative constructions present special interest for acquisition due to the counterfactual and scalar inferences they give rise to. In this paper we investigate the acquisition of Greek approximatives by heritage speakers in Germany and the USA. We show that while in English and German there is a single lexical item encoding counterfactuality and scalarity, in Greek there are two lexical items which, as we show, have different interpretations. In view of this difference, we test whether the crosslinguistic differences and the interface nature of approximative constructions affect their representation in heritage language. We present a production study and a comprehension study of approximative constructions. Our findings suggest that the two heritage groups do not diverge from the monolingual group in the domain of approximative constructions.
  • 2021

  • Alexiadou, Artemis  (2021) Reanalysis of morphological exponence: a cross-linguistic perspective In:  Journal of Historical Syntax [DOI] [ViVo]
    This paper investigates the complex relationship between Aspect, Voice and verbalizing (e.g. inchoative -v-) morphology. Based on data from previous literature, it discusses data from Greek, Hungarian and English, which lead to new insights into the relationship between morpho-phonological ’packaging’ and syntactic structure. The morpho-syntactic changes it presents suggest that reanalysis of sub-components of words is a process, in which morphological exponents assume new functions and new structural positions within the verbal functional hierarchy. It shows that this takes place in very local relationships between the functional heads that are affected.
  • 2020

  • 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.
  • Oikonomou, Despina; Golcher, Felix; Alexiadou, Artemis  (2020) Quantifier scope and information structure in Greek In:  Glossa: a journal of general linguistics [DOI] [ViVo]
    In this paper, we investigate the availability of inverse scope interpretation in doubly-quantified sentences in Greek. A rather coarse and, as we show, inaccurate empirical generalization is that languages with relatively free word order do not have inverse scope readings, since movement is always spelled-out. In Greek there is little experimental work testing inverse scope with DP-quantifiers and there is considerable disagreement among linguists regarding its availability. Our goal is two-fold: i) to contribute towards a better understanding of the empirical facts and ii) to explore the relation between inverse scope availability and the syntax and semantics of different configurations. As we show, inverse scope is generally acceptable by Greek speakers, with the exception of environments with Clitic Left Dislocation. Our data add up to recent studies in other languages which suggest that the critical factor for the (non)-availability of inverse scope is the properties of each individual construction and not a dichotomy between different types of languages.
  • Presentations


  • Morris, Dan  (2022) Register Influence on the Development of Synthetic and Analytic Alternation in Middle English Comparatives and Superlatives In:  12th International Conference on Middle English [ViVo]
  • 2021

  • Alexiadou, Artemis; Karkaletsou, Fenia  (2021) Synthetic-analytic variation in the formation of Greek comparatives and relative superlativs: A corpus study In:  Workshop on complexity and register (CAR21) [ViVo]

Featured Master's Theses


Sorg, Charlotte (2022) Register sensitivity of expletive negation in English. 2nd supervisor. 

Paul, Alexandra (2022) The most mightiest sort of superlative: A diachronic study of the English double superlative from Early Modern to Present Day English. 1st supervisor.


Backes, Elisabeth (2021) Diachronic analysis of English pseudopartitives: Evidence from Middle English. 1st supervisor.

Koch, Helena (2021) Morphological processes in Polari and modern LGBTQ+ slang on Twitter – A comparative register analysis. 2nd supervisor.


Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c Artemis Alexiadou

Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)