Institute of English Linguistics (IfLA)

Project P8 (RUEG)

Information about RUEG project

Dynamics of information structure in language contact



Funding Period

3 Years

Principal investigator

Prof. Dr. Sabine Zerbian, University of Stuttgart

Prof. Dr. Shanley Allen, Technical University of Kaiserslautern

Dr. Oliver Bunk, Humboldt University of Berlin

Project team: University of Stuttgart

Yulia Zuban, M.A., PhD student

Student assistants: University of Stuttgart
External cooperation partner: University of Stuttgart

Prof. Dr. Tamara Rathcke, University of Konstanz

Project team: Technical University of Kaiserslautern

Tatiana Pashkova, M.A., PhD student

Student assistants: Technical University of Kaiserslautern

Leah Doroski, BA; Fiona Wong, BA; Hanna Kim, BA; Mark Murphy; Chris Allison, BA; Janie Johnson, BA.

External cooperation partner: Technical University of Kaiserslautern

Prof. Dr. Johanne Paradis, University of Alberta

Project team: Humboldt University of Berlin

Dr. Oliver Bunk, Humboldt University of Berlin

Student assistants: Humboldt University of Berlin

Erica Conti, BA; Birte Bravemann, BA; Guendalina Reul, BA; Myrto Rompaki, BA.

External cooperation partner: Humboldt University of Berlin

Prof. Dr. Jana Gamper, University of Giessen

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" (RUEG2). This project investigates the dynamics in the linguistic expression of information structure in the repertoires of heritage language speakers. Its research questions directly emerge from pertinent findings from the first phase of the Research Unit “Emerging Grammars” (RUEG1). The project will investigate three areas relevant for information structure: (i) introduction of new referents, (ii) topic constructions, and (iii) focus and prosody. We will investigate these phenomena in selected subcorpora of the RUEG corpus, which comprises mono- and bilingual speakers of German, English, Russian, Greek and Turkish. The intricate interplay of (morpho)syntax and intonation for the expression of information structure has been shown to be open to new developments in the language contact contexts in which we collected data in RUEG1. In this project, we will make information structure the central focus of our research, investigating the interplay of information structure with syntax and intonation in a comparative perspective, and relating our research questions to the new Joint Ventures (short: ‘JV”) of the Research Unit:

  • What linguistic developments characterise heritage speakers’ repertoires in the linguistic expression of information structure? (→ JV4)
  • What role do different communicative situations play for linguistic patterns or variation in this domain? (→ JV5)
  • What impact does language contact and bilingualism have for the emergence of new linguistic means and/or patterns in the linguistic expression of information structure? (→ JV6)

P8-internal meetings:

13.07.2021 (online meeting)
In this meeting we discussed P8's contribution for the upcoming retreat in October. Our group agreed to split the presentation slot in order to  address first results of different projects, namely: (a) intonation of V3 structures in German, (b) left dislocations in English, also drawing on preliminary results from German and Russian, (c) new referent introduction in English, and (d) prosody of contrastive adjectives in Russian and English. 
18.06.2021 (online meeting)
This meeting addressed the prosody of V3 structures in German. The Berlin group shared some unclear cases of German V3 structures and discussed some prosodic aspects (pitch accent placement and phrasal boundary cues). The Stuttgart group shared insight on the annotation of spontaneous prosody and important acoustic cues for boundary phenomena. 
08.06.2021 (online meeting)
During this second P8 meeting, the whole group again discussed left dislocations. The Stuttgart group shared some unclear cases of Russian left dislocations they came across during annotation. The annotation scheme was extended to capture Russian specific cases. The Berlin and the Stuttgart group agreed to meet separately to discuss German Prosody.
11.05.2021 (online meeting)
During the kick-off meeting the Project P8 decided to meet regularly to discuss current work and next steps. The first meeting was concerned with left dislocation. The Kaiserslautern and the Berlin group shared their experience in annotating the data. The Berlin group also addressed the interest to talk about the prosody of German V3 sentences in more detail. The group decided to meet again once a month to keep in touch.


RUEG-internal retreats and workshops attended by P8:

23.06.2021 (online retreat)

Topic: Workshop on RUEG Corpus Structure and Use

This RUEG internal workshop addressed the architecture of our RUEG corpus and possible research questions related to our data. Martin Klotz and Gajaneh Hartz from the Project Pc introduced the corpus tool ANNIS along with its query language. An important aspect was to draw from prior work and research questions within the past years. Attendees were encouraged to engage with the corpus and practiced helpful queries. There was also time to talk about specific research questions by the individual projects. It was also the first time the prosodic sub corpus was presented for the whole RUEG group. The workshop brought together new and long-standing RUEG members following the kick-off meeting in April.

16.04.2021 (online retreat)

Topic: Kick-off Meeting RUEG2

During this retreat the whole RUEG2 group met for the first time, including PIs, PhDs and student assistants. A key aspect was to get to know each other and discuss future plans within the second research phase of RUEG2. The speakers Heike Wiese and Shanley Allen along with the coordinator Pia Linscheid presented the timeline for RUEG2, and chaired discussions on a collective publication and additional experiments. The new project Pt concerned with transfer of RUEG related findings introduced itself to the whole group. The Project Pc presented the current state of the RUEG corpus along with further steps for the upcoming release. In a separate meeting of P8 the following common research topics were discussed: “Left dislocation” and “Prosody of V3 constructions.” The team from Stuttgart additionally discussed the “Prosody of contrastive adjectives“.


  • 09.07.2021 Research colloquium “Phonology,” University of Stuttgart.

Topic of the presentation: Intonation of yes-no questions by heritage speakers of Russian in the US and Germany (Zuban, Yulia, Rathcke Tamara & Sabine Zerbian).

Yulia Zuban presented the study on intonation of yes-no questions by heritage speakers of Russian residing in the US and Germany (further HSs) that was carried out together with Tamara Rathcke and Sabine Zerbian. The results of the study revealed that, on the one hand, HSs of both groups were similar to the monolingual speakers regarding the intonation pattern of yes-no questions (i.e., placement of the nuclear pitch accent and its type). On the other hand, HSs significantly differed from monolingual speakers in some terms (e.g., HSs produced significantly more pitch accents than monolinguals on the subject and object constituents, HSs in the US produced upstepped accents on the verb significantly more frequently compared to the monolinguals). The results of the study are discussed with reference to the linguistic knowledge of Russian by HSs.

  • 14.06.2021 Course "Herkunftssprachen" at the institute of German linguistics, University of Stuttgart.

Topic of the presentation: RUEG Project. Word order in heritage Russian: What drives the difference between heritage speakers and monolinguals? (Yulia Zuban)

Yulia Zuban gave a talk about the RUEG project (ist goals, methodology, topics, investigated languages, etc) and word order in heritage Russian in the US. The results of the word order study revealed that heritage speakers in the US differed from monolinguals regarding the frequency of some word orders (SVO and OVS), but not the others (SOV, OSV). Heritage speakers produced significantly more SVO and less OVS orders than monolinguals, but they only did so in some particular situations, i.e., written and formal. The differences between heritage speakers and monolinguals could not be easily attributed to transfer from English, but they are rather a result of lack of formal instruction of heritage speakers in Russian.

  • 18.06.2021 Research colloquium “Phonology,” University of Stuttgart.

Topic of the presentation: Word order, information structure and intonation in heritage Russian in the U.S (Yulia Zuban)

Yulia Zuban presented some of her results for the dissertation related to the word order, information structure and word order in heritage Russian in the US. The results of the study revealed that heritage speakers (further HSs) and monolinguals were similar regarding the distribution of frequent referent combinations across frequent word orders. However, two groups significantly differed from each other regarding the frequency of the contextually infelicitous combinations of referents (new-before-given). Specifically, HSs produced significantly more contextually infelicitous combinations of referents than monolinguals across different word orders as well as in SVO order separately. Besides, HSs were found to produce new-before-given referents in every communicative situation showing some register-levelling processes. Monolinguals produced new-before-given referents in almost every situation except for the formal written possibly showing some language internal developments. Alternatively, monolinguals could have been influenced by the type of formal speech elicited in the study. Finally, HSs and monolinguals used similar prosodic strategies to express new preverbal contextually infelicitous subjects in the SVO utterances. HSs were similar to the monolinguals probably due to an ample input in spoken Russian that they received from birth. The results of the study are discussed with reference to the Interface Hypothesis (Sorace 2011, Sorace & Serratrice 2009).

Yulia Zuban and Maria Martynova presented a poster on the word order patterns of heritage speakers of Russian in the US and Germany as well as monolingual speakers of Russian. A special emphasis was given to the methodology of the study as well as the explanation and discussion of the results that could not be easily attributed to language transfer.

  • 04-29.04.2021 Manchester Forum in Linguistics (online) (
  • Topic of the presentation: Word order in heritage Russian: Transfer effects? (Maria Martynova, Yulia Zuban, Luka Szucsich, Sabine Zerbian & Natalia Gagarina)

Maria Martynova and Yulia Zuban gave a talk on the word order patterns produced by the heritage speakers of Russian in the US, Germany and monolingual speakers of Russian. The results of the study showed that heritage speakers in Germany did not differ from the monolingual speakers of Russian. However, the heritage speakers in the US differed from monolinguals by generally producing significantly more SVO orders. Split of the clauses into main and embedded revealed further interesting results. In main clauses heritage speakers in the US and monolinguals were similar to each other. In embedded clauses, however, heritage speakers in the US significantly differed from monolinguals by predominantly producing SVO orders. The increase of SVO could not be easily attributed to the transfer effects from English, instead it might rather be a result of syntactic complexity which favors the unmarked SVO order, and which is amplified by the language contact situation.


Further information

This picture showsYulia Zuban

Yulia Zuban

Research Associate (Project RUEG P8)

This picture showsSabine Zerbian
Prof. Dr.

Sabine Zerbian

Professor Phonology

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