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Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft
Institut für Linguistik
D-50923 Köln

Fax: +49-221-470-5947


E-Mail: linda.konnerth[at]uni-koeln.de

Uncovering the dynamics of person marking

A construction-based approach in historical microtypology

This project investigates the diachronic dynamics of person markers. That is, how particular person markers (rather than entire paradigms) change, and more specifically, how this happens in particular constructions. This project offers the first systematic approach to understanding the specific ways in which person markers can and do change over time, through a historical microtypology study.


The South-Central (SC; “Kuki-Chin”) branch of Trans-Himalayan (Sino-Tibetan) is spread across the southern part of Northeast India and adjacent areas of Bangladesh and Myanmar. It serves as an excellent language 'sample' to track the dynamics of person markers. Prior research shows that this branch of around 50 languages displays a remarkable rate of changes in the domain of person marking. At the same time, the tight-knit phylogenetic nature of this branch creates what comes closest to laboratory conditions: A range of variables can be held constant, from overall typological profile to phonological setting to inventories of particular constructions and specific grammatical forms.

Focusing on SC, the project will be able to examine variation both diachronically across related languages as well as synchronically in corpora of individual languages. This gives us a new angle to examine the impact of factors such as tense/aspect, transitivity, sentence polarity, or (socio-)pragmatics, among others. This in turn will provide us with a much deeper understanding of the general interactions between the category of person and other grammatical categories.