Grammatical Relations in Spoken Language Corpora




Scholars with a broadly usage-oriented view on language share the idea that the linguistic structures encountered in human language systems arise from diachronic processes of language evolution that are in turn shaped by considerations of language processing, learning and usage (cf. e.g. Sinnemäki 2014 for an overview). Recent years have seen a steep rise in studies directly addressing issues of processing and learnability in relation to typological distributions of linguistic structures, e.g. in experimental studies from neuro- (Sauppe et al 2021; Bickel et al 2015) and psycholinguistics (Adamou 2017) as well as in artificial language learning experiments (Tal et al 2022; Mansfield et al 2022).

Corpus-based studies (of language usage by adult speakers) related to typological questions have a longer history within the functionalist tradition of linguistics associated with scholars like Wallace Chafe or Talmy Givón (and their associates and successors) as well as Zipf’s (1935) seminal work on frequency distributions and form-frequency correspondences. Larger-scale corpus studies of relevance for typology have examined in particular word order (Greenberg 1963; Dryer 1992; Futrell et al 2015, 2020; Levshina 2019) and marking asymmetries (Greenberg 1966; Levshina 2021; Haspelmath & Karjus 2014), taking efficiency as a core characteristic underlying language use as well as the design of human language systems (cf. Gibson et al 2019 for an overview). Yet, for the most part this work is based on corpora from larger languages (often with a literary tradition and official/standard status in at least one country), and largely on written corpora.

In this workshop we focus on the interrelation of grammatical relations as reflected in the structure of individual languages and their communicative underpinnings in discourse production, and we seek to bring together scholars with a primary focus on corpus-based work. We intend to broaden the perspective on the usage-oriented rationale behind specific structural aspects of grammatical relation systems. We hence seek corpus-based research that includes not only classic discourse-functional factors like topic marking and topic continuity (Givón 1976, 1983; Shibatani 1991) or the converse function of reference establishment (DuBois 1987; cf. Evans & Levinson 2009:440), but also structural (e.g. the interplay of person agreement and pronoun use, cf. Taraldsen 1980; Rosenkvist 2009, 2018; Schnell & Barth 2020), cultural, and social factors (e.g. use of ergative constructions in relation to the social role of speakers in Samoan, cf. Duranti 1994).

We furthermore restrict the purview of this workshop to spoken-language discourse as we see spoken language usage not only as the primary seedbed for the emergence of grammatical relations generally speaking (by way of its primordial form of usage of human languages) and specifically as containing those interactions between prosodic, syntactic and morphological structure that lie behind processes of univerbation and morphologization (Lehmann 2015 [1982]; Bybee 1985).


Invited speakers:

Linda Konnerth (University of Bern)

Henrik Rosenkvist (University of Gothenburg)


Organisers: Katharina Haude (Sedyl, CNRS), Eva van Lier (University of Amsterdam), Sonja Riesberg (LaCiTO, CNRS), Stefan Schnell (University of Zurich)

Please visit the workshop website for all other information :



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