Nominal Modification

The Research Training Group on Nominal Modification at the Goethe University Frankfurt

Home » GK Colloquium: Ruby Sleeman and Lydia Grohe

GK Colloquium: Ruby Sleeman and Lydia Grohe

Ruby Sleeman and Lydia Grohe will give two short talks on Jan. 23 at 4pm in SH 2.106.

Ruby Sleeman: Ordinal numerals in dialects of Dutch

I will present a synchronic study of the derivation of ordinal numerals from cardinal numerals in several different dialects of Dutch, combining a dialectological and a formal linguistic approach. Ordinals are formed with one of two ordinal suffixes, –de or –ste, both of which occur in all Dutch varieties. However, there is variation among several dialects in Flanders (Belgium): they exhibit stem-suffix combinations which differ from those in Standard Dutch (SD), giving forms like zeven-ste and twaalf-ste for SD zeven-de and twaalf-de. The thesis investigates the patterns of this variation and offers motivations for those patterns. Novel data acquired through an online questionnaire show that there are three patterns: SD, a core Flemish pattern and a transitional pattern in between. These patterns show a clear geographical distribution. I propose that the distribution of the two suffixes can be largely explained by syllable weight in the transitional system and that an analysis in terms of the final stem consonant cannot capture all the facts. The interaction of phonological, morphological and semantic factors in the paradigm of cardinal and ordinal number words provides an interesting microvariational puzzle.

Lydia Grohe: The acquisition of double prenominal modifiers

Nominal phrases with two prenominal adjectives are attested in child language already before age 3 (e.g. das schöne goldene album, ‘the beautiful golden album’, Hannah (2;8), Bittner 2008), pointing to children’s early ability to use adjectival modification productively. How children at this age interpret these structures is unclear, however. More generally speaking, it is open how children acquire the ability to interpret double prenominal modifiers, and whether their syntax and their semantics differ from the adults’ representations.

Focusing on the syntactic representation of double prenominal modifiers, Hollebrandse & Roeper (2014) suggest ‘conjunction’ as a default stage in the acquisition of recursive hierarchical structures, i.e. children assume first that the two adjectives are coordinated as [[big (and) green] ball] and not hierarchically structured as in [big [green ball]]. However, experimental research to date (Hubert 2009) is lacking clear evidence to support or reject the conjunction analysis with respect to double adjectives.

The first experiment aims at shedding light on the underlying syntactic structure of double modifiers in preschool children’s representations by employing nominal ellipsis. Children will be tested on their ability to reconstruct nominal ellipsis in structures such as Der Mann kauft einen großen grünen Ball und einen kleinen ___ (‘The man is buying a big green ball and a small (one)’). Following Hollebrandse & Roeper (2014), preschool children are predicted to use the conjunction strategy. That is, given that the underlying structure of the first conjunct is [[big (and) green] ball], they should not be able to reconstruct the gap as [green ball].

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