Nominal Morphosyntax and Word Position in Heritage-Russian in the Context of Different Majority Languages (RUEG P3)

RUEG P3 is a subproject of the DFG-funded research group "Grammatical dynamics in language contact: a comparative approach" and investigates Russian as a language of origin in Germany. Languages of origin, also known as Heritage languages, are the languages spoken by migrants in their everyday family lives. They stand in contrast to so-called majority languages, i.e. languages spoken by the majority of the population in the host countries. Languages of origin often undermine complex changes and thus differ greatly from the respective standard languages. This makes them particularly interesting for linguists.

RUEG P3 has been located at ZAS since 2018 in Department II and at Institute of Slavic Studies and Hungarian Studies and is run by Luka Szucsich (HU) and Natalia Gagarina (ZAS).

The subproject RUEG P3 "Nominal morphosyntax and word order in Heritage-Russian in the context of different majority languages" ("Nominal morphosyntax and word order in heritage Russian across majority languages") examines the question of whether and, if so, how Russian as a language of origin develops new grammatical patterns in the area of nominal morphological categories and word order in Germany and the USA.

In addition, the project aims at a theoretical modelling of emerging grammatical varieties in relation to the investigated linguistic domains and in general. This is done from the perspective of the three joint ventures within the RUEG:

  • Joint venture I ("speech change hypothesis"), which addresses the question of the systematicity of non-canonical grammatical patterns,
  • Joint venture II ("interface hypothesis"), which deals with the localization of new language developments at internal and external interfaces, and
  • Joint venture III ("Hypothesis of internal dynamics"), which aims to distinguish contact-induced and language-internal grammatical change.

For this purpose, linguistic phenomena from two domains are investigated:

  • the nominal morphosyntax, in particular case, which is assigned to the nuclear grammatical system, but is also related to word order, and
  • Word position phenomena in the left periphery of the sentence on the one hand and verb positioning on the other hand.

The left periphery of the sentence is often associated with the interaction between information structure / discourse and syntax (external interface), while verb positioning (especially in relation to the direct object: head complement vs. complement head) is regarded as part of the core syntax.

We will compare data from Heritage speakers with those of monolingual Russian speakers in Russia, taking into account informal vs. formal and spoken vs. written registers as well as age, following the uniform elicitation procedure within RUEG.

Our results will be compared with those from other RUEG subprojects investigating word order phenomena in other languages of origin (Turkish, Greek, Heritage-German) and in majority languages (German, English), as well as with the findings on morphosyntax in Greek as a Heritage language.

The project will contribute to the understanding of language change in bi- (or multi-) lingual communities taking into account multiple factors (situational / register-related, in relation to different contact-linguistic settings, social, input-related etc.) by pursuing an emphatically comparative approach, on the one hand, and to theoretical explanations of emerging grammatical patterns, on the other.

Cooperation partner:

Tanja Anstatt, University of Bochum
Nina Kazanina, University of Bristol
Maria Voeikova, Institute of Linguistic Research St. Petersburg
Ianthi Tsimpli, Cambridge University
Ludovica Serratrice, University of Reading
Marit Westergaard, UiT The Arctic University