Institute of English Linguistics (IfLA)

Project P7 (RUEG)

Information about RUEG project

Intonation and word order in majority English and heritage Russian across speaker populations



Funding Period

3 Years

Principal investigator

Prof. Dr. Sabine Zerbian

Project team

Yulia Zuban, M.A., PhD student

Student assistants

Yuliia Ivashchyk, B.A.

Marlene Boettcher

External cooperation partner

Dr. Tamara Rathcke, University of Kent at Canterbury

Visit of the RUEG Ph.D Day (University of Potsdam)

Seminar at the university of Potsdam

The project is part of the Research Unit "Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations:
A Comparative Approach" (RUEG): The project investigates non-canonical intonation in its relation to syntax (i.e., word order) and information structure (i.e., focus, givenness), focusing on the language contact involving Russian as heritage language and English as majority language. The project looks at the two languages of heritage speakers and compares them to monolingual native speakers, adopting a new approach in research on intonation in heritage languages. Moreover, it investigates intonation in formal vs. informal speech because we know from research on monolingual speech that there are phonetic correlates of register, which need to be differentiated from grammatical aspects of intonation. Finally, intonation will be investigated for different age groups, thereby addressing the question of how stable intonational differences are over (part of) the life span.

In line with RUEG’s overarching approach, the project investigates non-canonical prosody in three Joint Ventures (short: “JV”): addressing the systematicity of new intonational patterns (JVI: “Language Change Hypothesis”), their ccurrence at internal (syntax) versus external (information structure) interfaces (JVII: “Interface Hypothesis”), and, by including further comparisons beyond English-Russian contact, their contact-linguistic source in transfer or general contact-induced change versus language-internal dynamics or general developments (JVIII: “Internal Dynamics Hypothesis”).


RBB Kulturradio (19.12.2017) „Grammatik im Wandel – Wie Zweisprachigkeit Sprachen ändert“ 


  • 08.19 – 09.08.19: The 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences ICPhS (Melbourne, Australia)
  • Topic of the conference: ‘Endangered Languages, and Major Language Varieties’

    Topic of the presentation: “Stressed Pronouns in German Mono- and Bilingual Speech”, Bild1, Bild 2, Bild 3

    At the conference, Prof. Dr. Sabine Zerbian and Marlene Böttcher introduced the Research Unit "Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations" to a broad audience. They presented their original work on stressed pronouns in mono- and bilingual German based on the data collected within the project at the first stage in the research process. The eye-catching results and observations led to thought-provoking and interesting discussions among researchers interested in phonology.

  • 06.19 – 28.06.19: The 12th International Symposium on Bilingualism (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Topic of the conference: ‘The Next Generation’

Topic of the presentation: :“Emerging Grammars for Referent Introduction in Heritage Speakers’ Two Languages”

Zuban, Yulia (P7) and Tatiana Pashkova (P2) gave a talk on referent introduction in the heritage and majority language of bilingual speakers, discussing their contact-linguistic implications. Greek and Russian as heritage languages in Germany and the U.S., and English across bilingual speakers in the U.S., in addition to monolingual controls.


  • 13.05.19 – 14.05.19: Meeting with Dr. Tamara Rathcke(University of Kent at Canterbury)
    •     Topic: ‘Question intonation’

      • The meeting was dedicated to the discussion of question intonation by speakers of three groups: heritage Russian speakers with the majority language English, heritage Russian speakers with the majority language German, and the monolingual Russian control group. The transcriptive inventories (i.e., symbols for pitch accents, boundary tones etc.), their perceptual tolerance as well as the phenomena of truncation, downstep and upstep have been discussed during the effective workflow of data annotation.

  • 31.05.18 – 01.06.18: Meeting of the RUEG Group (University of Potsdam)

Topic: ‘The contribution of P1-P7 projects to the joint empirical basis, research in   collaboration with other projects, engagement with broader society’

The whole group meeting was dedicated to the discussion of the collaborative research with other projects, i.e., distribution of data collection for pilot study, organisation of retreats, lab exchanges, meetings with Mercator professors and mentoring of PhD students. The elevator pitch for planned dissertation of PhDs and research fields of potential additional mentors were discussed in the scope of RUEG expectations. Besides data collection strategy, i.e., recruitment of participants, organizing sessions (in coordination with other projects), organisation of travels, transcription, anonymisation, alignment of data and annotations.

  • 03.05.18: Meeting with Maria Pohle (Projekt Pd in RUEG) (University of Potsdam)

Topic: ‘Methodological issues for the investigation of intonation and word order in majority English and heritage Russian across speaker populations’

The meeting was dedicated to the discussion of methodological support in domains of data collection strategy, corpus building and architecture. 

Topic: ‘Russian intonation’

The meeting was dedicated to the discussion of Russian Intonation and its transcription inventories (i.e., symbols for pitch accents, phrase accents, boundary tones) and their perceptual tolerance. Dr. Rathcke in her presentation 'Autosegmental-metrical approaches to modelling Russian intonation: Evidence and issues' discussed a relevant phenomenon of truncation in Russian Intonation.


  • 12.19 – 06.12.19 RUEG Retreat December (Technische Universität Kaiserslautern)

          Topic: ‘Nominal Structure Retreat’    

      • Retreat was dedicated to discussion of several areas related to nominal structure: case, gender and number, determiners, possessors, new vs. given referent marking, complexity of NPs, word order, types of NPs. Results were presented for relevant patterns related to nominal structure for each of the five RUEG languages. Yulia Zuban gave a talk on word order, information structure and intonation in heritage Russian in the USA. In particular, she presented her findings with respect to word order in heritage and monolingual Russian: Corpus 0.2.0; position of new referents: HSs_US and monolinguals; expression of contrast: HSs_US and monolinguals.
  • 02.04.19 – 05.04.19: RUEG Retreat April (University of Mannheim)

Topic: ‘Central RUEG issues, transfer activities. Workshop Code-switching’

Retreat was dedicated to the discussion of central RUEG issues and transfer activities. The PhDs in coordination with PIs and Mercator fellows discussed and planned RUEG-internal issues, i.e., DGfS 2020, Alberta, AIM, publications etc. Besides, the participants participated in Workshop Code-switching, where different types of code-switching and clues to bilingual processing (cross-linguistic influence, contact-induced language change) were presented by Mercator fellows and invited researchers.

  • 04.09.18 – 07.09.18: RUEG LangSit Data Collection Retreat (University of Potsdam)

Topic: ‘Uniformity across languages and countries. Data Collection Workshop. Transcription & Annotation Workshop’

Retreat was dedicated to the discussion of challenges and solutions the elicitors might face when eliciting LangSit data. The practicalities such as recruitment and scheduling of participants, consent forms, technical and language issues, registers, chitchats were discussed in coordination with other projects.


  • 27.02.19 – 01.03.19: ‘Transcription & Annotation Workshop, Part 3’ (University of Mannheim)

During this workshop, the steps of POS tag corrections, their annotation, problems and solutions have been outlined and discussed in coordination with other projects. Besides, the participants participated in the effective workflow of database normalization, its further development and improvement.

  • 05.12.18 – 07.12.18: ‘Transcription and Annotation Workshop, Part 2’ (University of Potsdam)

During this workshop, the participants discussed first sets of transcribed samples and some problematic data. Besides, the universal transcription guidelines and the normalization guidelines have been further developed and improved. Further steps of annotation have been outlined.

  • 06.09.18 – 07.09.18: ‘Transcription & Annotation Workshop, Part 1’ (University of Potsdam)

During this workshop, the participants practiced the synchronized transcription of given data using different computer software packages for the scientific analysis of speech as well as software tools for creating, managing and analyzing spoken language corpora.

Data collection:

  • 27.02.19 – 31.03.19: Second data collection in the USA

27.02-10.03: Recruitment of heritage Russian speakers through social networking services (Facebook, CouchSurfing, Craigslist etc.), Russian language meetups, language exchange meetups (Mundo Lingo etc.), Russian day care centers, shops, restaurants, supermarkets, libraries, students clubs in New York City (NYC) (the boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx).

11.03-31.03: Data elicitation from the older speaker group (22-36).

  • 24.09.18 – 25.10.18: Data collection in the USA, Part 1

24.09-04.10: Recruitment of heritage Russian speakers through Russian schools, churches, kindergartens, cultural institutions in the Greater Washington area (Virginia, DC, Maryland, Baltimore).

05.10-25.10: Data elicitation from the younger speaker group (14-17).

Summer School:

PhD student Yulia Zuban visited the RUEG lectures on language contact, language acquisition, corpus linguistics, heritage languages and registers. The lectures enabled the listeners to acquire useful experience in analyzing the language contact involving different languages and provided the background for adopting new approaches in research on heritage languages.

  • ‘Grammatische Kombiniererinnen: Linguistinnen sind Sprachveränderungen bei bilingualen Menschen auf der Spur‘, in a journal "Forschung & Leben" (University of Stuttgart)


SoSe 2018. Advanced Phonology: Intonation in Language Contact (LA Bachelor / Master /GymPO; BA HF; MA Angl.; MA Wi.päd.) Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Sabine Zerbian


MA / BA Theses:

Herrmann, Jelena. 2018. Phonology of Code-Switching: A study of Russian-German bilinguals. MA thesis, University of Stuttgart.

Further information

Yulia Zuban

Yulia Zuban

Research Associate (Project RUEG P7)

Sabine Zerbian
Prof. Dr.

Sabine Zerbian


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