The TÜling talk series is a venue for talks on a wide range of topics in linguistics, with speakers from Tartu, Estonia and elsewhere. Talks take place on Tuesdays, from 4:00–5:15 p.m, either at Jakobi 2-427 or on Zoom (please see below). and are open to everyone, with time after the talks for questions and discussion.

Suggestions for potential speakers are very welcome: if a guest is coming to the university or colleagues in Tartu are interested in presenting a talk, please get in touch with the organisers (contact: virve.vihman@ut.ee). Anyone interested in joining the mailing list is also asked to write to the same address.

Most TÜling talks will take place in Jakobi 2-427. A few will take place on Zoom. This information is specified for each talk individually. Please check our mailing list, the website or Facebook for updated information.
Here is the Zoom link for online talks (passcode 990981).

2022/2023 fall semester programme

Location: Jakobi 2-427

Exceptive constructions: Syntax and Cross-linguistic distribution

Natural language allows us to express universal statements (e.g., All dogs bark), and languages also have means of expressing exceptions to such generalizations, via exceptive constructions (e.g., All dogs bark except chihuahuas). Linguistic means of expressing exclusion have received modest attention from philosophers of language and semanticists, whose focus has been primarily on English. Beyond that small body of work, little is known about exceptive constructions across the world’s languages: how they are built, what their distribution is within and across languages, and how they compare to other constructions expressing comparison or contrast. In this talk, I present and analyze the landscape of exceptive constructions in several natural languages focusing on the structural contrast between free/connected exceptives and phrasal/clausal exceptives. I will then link this exploration to more general issues of ellipsis and case-marking in exceptive phrases. 

On Zoom

Conversation-for-learning ja teised vähestruktureeritud õpikontekstid: tähelepanekud Indiana ülikooli eesti keele programmi näitel

Ettekandes teen ülevaate teise keele omandamise ja teise keele suhtluspädevuse uurimisest interaktsioonlingvistika ja konversatsioonianalüüsi vahenditega ning mitteformaalsetes õpikontekstides (nt. Hellermann et al. 2019; Salaberry & Kunitz, 2019).
Vaatlen vestlusõppe (conversation-for-learning, Kasper & Kim, 2015) kui keeleõppe vormi võimalusi teise keele omandamise uurimiseks, aga ka aktiivse võõrkeeleõppe pedagoogikas.  Analüüsin keele õppimist kui tegevusi konkreetses suhtlussituatsioonis, sh. viitamine varasemale õpikogemusele ja osalemine vestluses aktiivse keeleõppijana, näiteks eneseparandused ning valitud õpiobjektidele (learnables) keskendumine. Peatun ka teistel õppevormidel, mis aitavad luua õppijate kogukonda ja laiendada keeleõppe konteksti väljaspoole klassiruumi.
Kuna andmed on kogutud ameerika üliõpilastelt, kes õpivad eesti keele kursusel ülikoolis, siis tutvustan taustaks põgusalt ka võõrkeeleõppe olukorda Ameerika Ühendriikide kõrghariduses.

Location: Zoom

Cat–human communication: Reports from the Meowsic-project

Domestic cats have an extensive, variable and complex vocal repertoire, and they are able to modify and adapt their voices and call types, for instance to draw the attention of their human caretakers. Still, there are not many phonetic studies on cat–cat and cat–human vocal communictaion. In this talk I will give a brief overview of previous research in this field, and present some of the methods and results from the project Melody in Human–Cat Communication (Meowsic).

Location: Jakobi 2-427

Rahvusvaheline põliskeelte kümnend – kellele ja milleks?

2022. aastal alanud ja 11 aastat kestev rahvusvaheline põliskeelte kümnend on jätkuks 2019. aastal tähistatud põliskeelte aastale. Selle ettevalmistamiseks ja läbiviimiseks on UNESCO kokku kutsunud üleilmse rakkerühma, kuhu kuuluvad mitmete ÜRO allorganisatsioonide, liikmesriikide ja põlisrahvaste esindajad ning mis koordineerib kümnendi raames toimuvaid ettevõtmisi rahvusvahelisel tasandil ja ÜRO liikmesriikides. Ettekandes teen ülevaate põhjustest, miks põliskeelte aastakümme otsustati korraldada, aastakümne eesmärkidest, vahenditest ja ettevalmistustest ning sellest, kuidas on kümnend alanud. Tutvustan ka võimalusi, kuidas keeleteadlased saavad aastakümne tegevustes kaasa lüüa ning arutlen kümnendi eesmärkide saavutamise võimalikkuse üle.

Location: Jakobi 2-427

Trying to escape liability? The role of markers of epistemic modality and evidentiality in potentially defamatory texts in Spanish and French

Languages possess a vast array of devices that modulate in very different ways the responsibility we assume when we talk, such as supposedly, allegedly, visibly, obviously, in my opinion or I guess, among many others. Most of them have been semantically analysed within the linguistic categories of evidentiality and epistemic modality (Nuyts, 2001; Aikhenvald, 2004; among others), and have been pragmatically included among hedges and boosters (Hyland, 2019). Markers of evidentiality and epistemic modality may have a significant impact in potentially defamatory texts: whereas boosting strategies might be seen by lawyers and judges as unambiguous linguistic evidence of the defendants’ commitment towards punishable statements, hedging strategies may help them escape liability.

Previous studies in the field of Forensic Linguistics have not focused on the strategic role of markers of epistemic modality and evidentiality in cases involving defamation and related language crimes, such as hate discourse or threats, even if there are some notable exceptions, such as the mentions to such items in the judgments analysed by Shuy (2010) or the mitigating strategies identified in threatening discourse by Gales (2011).

The aim of this paper is to transfer specialized knowledge about markers of epistemic modality, evidentiality and related notions to a sample of defamation cases in Spanish and French in order to clarify their role in potentially defamatory discourse and show how useful this linguistic expertise might be to elucidate this type of judgements.

Location: Jakobi 2-427

Finnish prosody: Typology, focus marking and the architecture of grammar

Prosodic focus marking in Finnish is particularly interesting from a typological perspective. First, it provides evidence that Finnish is part of an under-described class of languages that makes no categorical distinctions between pitch movements. It thereby differs both from tone languages, which use pitch differences to make lexical distinctions (e.g. Mandarin má ‘mother’ vs. mâ ‘scold’), as well as from intonation languages, which use pitch to make pragmatic distinctions (e.g. English Now? vs. Now!). Unlike the best-studied European intonation languages, Finnish does not use different types of pitch accents to highlight focused constituents and deaccenting given constituents (e.g. English Who hates flying? – The PROFESSOR hates flying. vs. Does the professor like flying? – The professor HATES flying.). Instead, as I have shown in past work, Finnish prosodic focus marking can largely by characterized in terms of adjustments to phrasing and phrase marking (Arnhold, 2014a, 2016, 2019; Arnhold & Kyröläinen, 2017). Accordingly, Finnish and languages like it (e.g. Kalaallisut, see Arnhold, 2014b; Hindi, see Féry et al., 2016; Turkish, see Güneş, 2014), are classified as phrase languages in the sentence-level prosodic typology of Féry (Féry, 2010, 2017).

Second, like in other Finno-Ugric languages, variation in word order expresses focus and other aspects of information structure in Finnish (Vilkuna, 1989, 1995). This means that there is more than one grammatical tool for marking focus in Finnish, and prosodic and syntactic means can be used in interaction (Arnhold et al., 2016; Arnhold & Féry, 2013; Vainio & Järvikivi, 2007). I will report an ongoing project that investigates the implications of this fact for our conception of the architecture of grammar. In particular, it is commonly assumed that grammar is optimally evolved for communication and thereby efficient, avoiding redundancy (see overview in Reinhart, 2006). Moreover, the overall complexity of grammar is restricted by general cognitive limits (Kortmann & Szmrecsanyi, 2012; Sampson et al., 2009; Yadav et al., 2020). From this follows the prediction of prosody-syntax trade-offs, which this project tests experimentally (also see Arnhold, 2021).

Finally, time permitting, I will present a collaborative research on a case of prosody-only focus marking, namely focus on different constituents within noun phrases in Finnish (also see Arnhold, 2015), Hungarian (with Corinna Langer and Frank Kügler, Goethe-University Frankfurt) and Estonian (with Nele Ots, Goethe-University Frankfurt and University of Tartu).

On Zoom

A computational Typology of Morphological Exponence

The central tasks of morphological analysis are the segmentation of wordforms into component formatives and the identification of exponence relationships between formatives and grammatical meanings. Yet, there is currently no language-independent procedure for doing either. This is a major obstacle for morphological typology, where having comparable analyses is crucial. In this talk, I present a collaborative work with M. Carroll (Australian National University), in which we propose a formal theory of inflectional exponence, a typology of form-meaning relations, and a full implementation, letting us compare fine grained typological measures across diverse languages.

NB! Location: Ülikooli 18-139

Aika on varas and dreams are like movies: Eye movement studies on processing metaphors and similes in L1 and L2

Operating in one’s nonnative language can be challenging in general, but differences between L1 and L2 speakers may be even enlarged in case of figurative language processing. The current eye movement study investigates how Finnish native speakers process figurative language expressions like written metaphors (dreams are movies) and similes (dreams are like movies). A metaphor expresses a relationship of its constituent parts called a topic (dreams) and a vehicle (movies), in similes the relationship is made more explicit by adding the comparative word 'like'. Experiment 1 investigate the processing of such figurative expressions in L2 English. Experiment 2 directly compares the processing of these expressions in L1 Finnish and L2 English. Identical topic–vehicle pairs were used in both the metaphor and simile conditions. After reading, participants evaluated familiarity of each pair. English proficiency was measured using the Bilingual-language Profile Questionnaire and the Lexical Test for Advanced Learners of English. The results of Experiment 1 showed that readers were more likely to regress within metaphors than within similes, indicating that processing L2 metaphors requires more processing effort than processing L2 similes. The familiarity of a metaphor and L2 English proficiency modulated this effect. The results of Experiment 2 will be revealed during the presentation. The results are discussed in the light of current theories on figurative language processing.

Location: Zoom

Minority (language) policies and politics in Poland – a downward spiral?

Despite its truly multicultural past and multilingual heritage, contemporary Poland belongs to the most homogeneous countries in Europe, as far as ethnolinguistic diversity is concerned.

However, that multicultural past constitutes one of the myths eagerly referred to as an excuse for the actual – and currently exercised and projected – ethnic and linguistic top-down policies of the state, intensified by the still increasing politicization of minority issues.

A brief outline of the ethnolinguistic history and heritage of Poland will be presented with a focus primarily on the sociolinguistic, legal, and political developments of the last three decades. In the presentation, the interrelations between the former factors and the ethnolinguistic vitality indices will be reviewed with the example of several case studies.

Postponed to spring semester.

Location: Jakobi 2-427

Iconicity, and why arbitrariness is not a design feature of language

Language is traditionally thought to be arbitrary. In describing his foundational “Principle I: The Arbitrary Nature of the Sign,” Ferdinand de Saussure (1916) discussed how the same concept can be expressed with completely different word forms, such as English tree versus Latin arbor. This seems to clearly evidence that form most often does not directly correspond to meaning. Iconicity, the resemblance between form and meaning, was argued to be marginal, confined to a small number of onomatopoeias, such as English bang and beep. Following Saussure, Hockett (1960) characterized arbitrariness as a “design feature” of language, something that distinguishes human language from animal communication systems. The importance of arbitrariness has been “the received view” for decades (Perniss et al., 2010), with iconicity held to be of secondary status.

In this talk, I will argue that iconicity may be a better candidate for a “design feature” than arbitrariness. The first part of my talk will be empirical, focused on evidence showing that iconicity is widespread in spoken and signed languages, where iconicity has also been evidenced to perform important functions in acquisition and evolution. The second part is more theoretical, where I will outline how discussions often confuse ‘arbitrariness’ with ‘conventionality’ (cf. Keller, 1998), or conflate the idea of alternative structures (tree versus arbor) with the separable idea of non-iconicity (Planer & Kalkman, 2021; Watson et al., 2022). Following Flaksman’s (2017, 2020) notion of “de-iconicization”, I will make a case for arbitrariness being epiphenomenal, the result of moving away from originally iconic forms via regular processes of language change. From this perspective, arbitrariness is not itself an evolutionary target. Moreover, whereas the empirical evidence shows that speakers and signers often use iconicity at various levels of linguistic analysis, it seems hard to conceive that language users would actively strive to be arbitrary in most everyday conversations. Taken together, all of this argues for reconsidering the status of arbitrariness vis-à-vis iconicity.

Location: Jakobi 2-427

“‘Daylighting' teachers' language skills for pre-primary level initiatives: An analysis of teachers' reflections on their Võro, Estonian, and Russian abilities, kindergarten needs, and language support for Võro Language Nest and Dual Language Immersion Kindergarten Programs”

The burying of language diversity in schools through repressive policies and practices is an all too familiar global phenomenon. In an effort to understand the efforts to redress this “burying” and to advance educational environments supportive of multilingualism, I embrace the metaphor of daylighting – the contemporary urban practice of uncovering long-hidden waterways to restore and rehabilitate ecological diversity for collective betterment. The concept of “linguistic daylighting,” derived from this metaphor, refers to the process of revitalizing, or supporting, linguistic diversity in schools by removing a range of obstructions (such as laws, policies, and policies), which suppressed and/or obscured multilingualism in the spaces of public education. Daylighting, through thoughtful planning, support, and funding helps to create a socio-/cultural ecosystem supportive of a thriving multilingualism.

Part of a larger, ongoing research project on linguistic daylighting in the public schools in the U.S. Southeast, this presentation takes up this concept in the Estonian context through an examination of recent efforts at the pre-primary level to support multilingual educational environments. In particular, I consider the ways two daylighting efforts – the Võro Language Nest and the Dual Language Immersion Kindergarten Programs – center and depend upon the existing language abilities of “in-house” (i.e., already employed in that kindergarten) teachers. These kindergarten teachers’ abilities in Võro and Russian, though never before tapped for pedagogical programs, have been daylighted and proven to be a central, yet time-sensitive resource in these initiatives.

In this talk, after introducing the linguistic daylighting concept, I will share my analysis, based largely on interview data collected from 2013-2019, of these teachers’ essential linguistic resources. I consider key episodes of language “burying” in their lives given the complex historic role of schools in suppressing, or supporting, their language use as well as the consequences of family language policy. I also examine the teachers’ experience of daylighting including their reflections on language ability and the role of support from the larger kindergarten collective, class parents, and initiating institutions (e.g., Võro Institute and Innove). I conclude with thoughts on the time-sensitive nature of these daylighting projects as well as the unfinished business of linking daylighted kindergartens with basic school programs.

2021/2022 spring semester programme

Uut lõunaeesti keelesaartest ja nende keelest

Viimane Eesti ja soome-ugri keeleteaduse ajakirja erinumber koondab uusimaid uurimusi lõunaeesti keelesaartest, nende ajaloolisest kujunemisest, keelest ja kultuurist. Ettekandes antakse ülevaade kogumikus esitatud põnevaimatest uurimistulemustest, näiteks Petri Kallio uuest lõunaeesti keelepuust, kus esimene hargneb leivu keel, ning Anna Stafecka ülevaatest läti murdealadest, kus on ilmsed läänemeresoome mõjud. Selliseid mõjusid on palju suuremal alal kui see, kus viimased leivu ja lutsi murrete kõnelejad elasid. Uldis Balodise artiklist selgub, et lutsid ei olegi veel välja surnud jms. Kaks kogumiku artiklit käsitlevad ka Lõuna-Pihkvamaal paiknenud Kraasna keelesaare eripära. Neist on näha, milline oli eesti kirjakeelest puutumata jäänud lõunaeesti keel. Tutvustatav lõunaeesti keelesaarte andmestik on oluline lisandus eesti ja laiemalt läänemeresoome keeleala tervikpilti.

Kognitiivse pinge indikaatorid hääles ja kõnes

Varasemad foneetilised uurimused on leidnud, et lausealgulised intonatsioonitipud on pikemates intonatsioonifraasides (mis vahetevahel kattuvad kirjakeelest tuttavate lausetega) kõrgemad kui lühemates intonatsioonifraasides [1-3]. Uurimuse eesmärk on testida ideed, et lausealgulised intonatsioonitipud kõrgenevad seoses suurema mentaalse pingutusega, mis tuleneb pikemate ning keerulisemate lausete kavandamisest. Palusin katsest osavõtjatel kirjeldada pilte, mis kujutasid sihitislikke tegevusi (nt. lööma). Tegevusse oli alati kaasatud kolm elusat ja/või elutut tegelast. Osalejad õppisid enne katset kasutama kolme tegelase nimetamiseks nimisõna mitmust (nt „Mees tõmbab eesleid“) või rinnastatud nimisõnu (nt „Mees tõmbab eeslit ja kitse“). Tulemuseks saadi pildikirjeldused, mis olid kas lühikesed või pikad. Katse teises osas paluti pilte kirjeldada nõnda, et pildi kirjeldamise vältel tuli meeles hoida kolme nimisõna, mis ei olnud pildi sisuga seotud. Pärast pildi kirjeldamist nägid osalejad ühte verbi ning neil tuli otsustada, kas selle verbi ja meeleshoitud sõnadega on võimalik teha kolm erinevat lauset. Mäluülesande eesmärk oli kasvatada mentaalset pinget. Kui pikad laused nõuavad rohkem vaimseid ressursse, siis peaks mentaalse pingutuse mõju olema suurem pikemates kui lühemates lausetes. Mentaalse pingutuse mõju kõneloomele diagnoosin kõnetempo, lausepikkuse, põhitooni ning silmaliigutuste mõõtmise abil. Sellisena loob uurimus eeldused lause intonatsiooni kognitiivsele uurimisele ja aitab paremini mõista (verbaalse) töömälu rolli kõneloomes.


[1] Asu et al., Speech Prosody, 2016.
[2] Liberman, M. & J. Pierrehumbert. Studies in Phonology, 1984.
[3] J. Yuan & M. Liberman. Speech Communication, 2014.

Northeastern Romani dialects: An areal perspective

Northeastern Romani (NER) is a cluster of closely related dialects spoken in Northeastern Europe (Poland, Belarus, Russia, and the Baltic countries) since the 16th century, cf. (Tenser 2008). Being in contact with Slavic, Baltic and to some extent Fenno-Ugric languages, NER developed several features shared with other languages of the area. In my talk I will give an overview of such innovations, e.g., subject-marking in negated existential constructions, nominative-instrumental alternation in predicative nouns, development of verbal modifiers (preverbs and verbal particles), participle-based resultatives, patterns of predicative possession and some others. I will also assess what areal features (defined in Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Wälchli 2001; Wiemer et al. 2014) proved to be resistant to borrowing in NER. An explanation of the distribution of areal innovations in NER will be offered from the point of view of sociolinguistics and structural properties of Romani itself.


Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria, and Bernhard Wälchli. 2001. The Circum-Baltic languages. An areal-typological approach. In: Dahl, Östen and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (eds.), Circum-Baltic Languages, Vol. 2: Grammar and Typology. Amsterdam, 615-761.

Tenser, Anton. 2008. Northeastern group of Romani dialects. Ph.D. thesis. The University of Manchester.

Wiemer, Björn, Il’ja Seržant & Aksana Erker. 2014. Convergence in the Baltic-Slavic contact zone (Triangulation approach). In: Besters-Dilger, Juliane, Cynthia Dermarkar, Stefan Pfänder; Achim Rabus (eds.), Congruence in Contact-induced Language Change (Language Families, Typological Resemblance, and Perceived Similarity). Berlin, 15-42.

Communicative context and the evolution of language: The case of the patent specification genre, 1711 – 2011

Although there is now a well-established tradition of applying generalized evolutionary theoretical models to the study of language change (e.g. Croft 2000), this research has tended to focus on the evolution of languages at a very high level of generality. However, studies of register, genre and stylistic variation have demonstrated that language varies systematically depending on the communicative contexts in which it is used (Biber & Conrad 2019). This insight is clearly relevant to evolutionary models of language change: these communicative contexts are the cultural environments within which language evolves, much like the physical environments within which species evolve. Each particular communicative context shapes the language used within it in non-arbitrary ways, making language choices ever more well adapted over time for the expression of meaning in that particular cultural domain.

In this talk we will present some preliminary findings from an ongoing project that aims to develop an evolutionary account of how texts in one very specific genre have changed over time in response to cultural pressures. The genre in question is that of the patent specification.

Patenting is the branch of intellectual property law relating to innovations in industrial technology, and the patent specification genre lies at the heart of the entire patenting process. It is the genre in which a prospective patentee describes their invention in detail and explains why they believe it is worthy of intellectual property protection. Once it has been submitted for inspection, the specification then becomes the main focus of the patent officer’s technical assessment of the inventor’s claims; and if the patent application is successful, the specification finally becomes the means by which the inventor’s knowledge is made available to the public, both during the period of patent protection and in perpetuity after the expiry of the patent itself.

The data for our study consist of a diachronic corpus of British patent specification texts ranging from the publication of the world’s first specification in 1711 to the present day, with one patent selected at random per year. The project is divided into two main phases. Phase 1 (which is now complete) focuses on changes in the rhetorical structure of the patent specification genre over the last three centuries, using a combination of move structure analysis (Swales 1990; Biber et al 2007; Samraj 2014) and string edit distance techniques (Navarro 2001). Phase 2 (which is still in progress) focuses on changes at the lexico-grammatical level, with  particular reference to aspects of register and phraseology.

Our expectation was that the diachronic changes revealed by our analysis would conform either to the classic neo-Darwinian ‘phyletic gradualist’ model of evolutionary change, or to the alternative ‘punctuated equilibrium’ model proposed by Eldredge & Gould (1972). In practice, however, our results do not fit comfortably into either of these two models, but rather combine aspects of both. Specifically, we find that the patent specification genre is subject to constant and gradual change throughout its existence, but also that this constant and gradual contour is 'punctuated' by abrupt and dramatic shifts at four clearly identifiable points in time. Accordingly, we argue that the evolution of the patent specification genre is best described, following Malmgren et al (1984), as an instance of ‘punctuated gradualism’.


Biber, D. & Conrad, S. (2019). Register, genre, and style. 2nd. Ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D., Connor, U., & Upton, T. A. (2007). Discourse on the move: Using corpus analysis to describe discourse structure. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Croft, W. (2000). Explaining language change: An evolutionary approach. Harlow, UK: Longman.

Eldredge, N., & Gould, N. E. S. J. (1972). Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism. In T.J.M. Schopf (Ed.), Models in paleobiology (pp. 82-115). San Francisco, CA: Freeman Cooper & Co.

Malmgren, B. A., Berggren, W. A., & Lohmann, G. P. (1984). Species formation through punctuated gradualism in planktonic foraminifera. Science, 225(4659), 317-319.

Navarro, G. (2001). A guided tour to approximate string matching. ACM computing surveys (CSUR), 33(1), 31-88.

Samraj, B. (2014). Move structure. In K.P. Schneider & A. Barron (Eds.), Pragmatics of Discourse (pp. 385-406). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Swales, J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Liikumiskiiruse väljendamisest eesti keeles
(Jakobi 2-107)

Tension-filled repertoires: A Bakhtinian perspective

This talk is based on my latest book project that adopts a Bakhtinian perspective to account for the use of English in multilingual university settings. Bakhtin's view of language as dialogic, multi-voiced, and imbued with social tensions (e.g. 1981, 1984, 1986) has inspired many directions in research concerned with bilingualism and bilingual education. For example, numerous studies conducted over the last decade have drawn on the umbrella concept of heteroglossia* to explore the interplay between different codes. Other aspects of Bakhtin’s work, such as the role of unitary language, language contact or relationships between genres, have received less attention. Bakhtin’s interest in the dialogic and heteroglossic features of written discourse makes his theoretical insights particularly relevant to explore multilingual practices mediated by literacy.

The author’s linguistic repertoire is key in creating ‘a dialogue of languages’ (Bakhtin, 1981: 294) in written discourse. In order to explore how this dialogue is experienced, my talk will zoom in on two aspiring 'translingual authors', i.e. authors who write in more than one language or a language other than their L1  (Kellman 2000, Pavlenko 2014). Informed by recent bilingualism research which draws its inspiration in Bakhtin (e.g. Busch 2017, Pavlenko 2006; 2014), my study combines the analysis of sample texts and interviews with their authors to unveil tensions between the desired and present linguistic repertoires. I will show that such tensions also drive multilingual creativity, as writing in English can be experienced both as 'emancipatory detachment' (Pavlenko, 2014: 280) and as a straitjacket.

* The term heteroglossia was introduced by English translators of Bakhtin to cover three inter-related concepts: ‘raznorechie’ (разноречие, diversity in speech), ‘raznoyazychie’ (разноязычие, diversity in language) and ‘raznogolosie’ (разноголосие, diversity in voicedness).

The situation here goes too far. Lithuanian language standardization as an exercise of power

Although nationalism and prescriptivism are known to probably all Western communities, Lithuania seems to stand in a rather sharp contrast with respect to linguistic values, language correction practices and the role language norm-setters play in society and for official language policies. In this paper, I will show how language regimentation framework, developed during the Soviet regime, became an integral part of the official language policy in the post-Soviet Lithuania. The main focus will be on construction of a linguist authority in language planning discourse as well as propaganda of prescriptivism in mother tongue education.

Remarks on inference and assumption in Finnish

Inference and assumption are evidence types that have been labeled as [+PER] and [-DIR] by Plungian (2010). Usually, the differences between these information sources are based on whether the speaker’s claim is based on some observable evidence (inference) or not (assumption) that is not directly related to the claim that the speaker makes. These kinds of definition have been proposed, for example, by de Haan (2001) and Aikhenvald (2004), and also Plungian defines these evidence types in a similar way.  

In my talk, I will discuss the notions of inference and assumption in Finnish. I will show that the previous definitions do not fully capture the real nature of inference and assumption (in Finnish or in more general terms), but other features need to be taken into account. In addition to the mere observable/non-observable nature of the speaker’s evidence, the temporal relations between the claim and the evidence along with whether the available evidence allows naturally one or more readings will be discussed. It will also be shown that inference and assumption differ from all other evidence types in their highly subjective nature; the speaker has freedom to use either one of them according to how reliable s/he finds the available evidence to be. 

The notions of inference and assumption will be discussed in light of Finnish particles näköjään (inference) and varmaan (assumption), which were studied with the help of a questionnaire study. The use of these particles is largely determined by how much responsibility the speaker can take for his/her claim. It is also interesting that in general, the use of the particle varmaan is twice as common as the use of näköjään.  


Quantity and tone perception by Estonian and Chinese native speakers: Preliminary results
Jakobi 2-427

Long-term language experience (one’s native language, L1) affects the brain’s pre-attentional processing of acoustic features (i.e., duration and pitch) to a considerable extent. Estonian is a quantity language in which the two syllables of a disyllabic word could occur in different ratios, and Estonians use both duration and pitch cues to perceive words. Mandarin Chinese, on the other hand, uses the language-specific pitch patterns, i.e., lexical tones, to distinguish lexical meaning.

In this talk, I will present the preliminary results of our EEG experiments on how Estonian and Chinese native speakers perceive acoustic features in their respective L1 and L2 (Chinese language for Estonian subjects and vice versa). We used mismatch negativity (MMN), the brain’s ability to automatically discriminate between processing of a frequent and a rare stimulus, as a tool. Both Estonian (N=60) and Chinese (N=60) subjects listened to L1 and L2 words. An optimal MMN paradigm was adopted where the deviants differed from the standard in terms of duration, pitch, or both duration and pitch.

For the Estonian word stimuli, the Estonian subjects showed a larger MMN to both the duration change and the pitch change than the Chinese subjects. Meanwhile, the Chinese subjects showed a right laterization to both the duration change and the pitch change, suggesting that the Chinese subjects processed the Estonian words as acoustic rather than linguistic information. For the Chinese word stimuli, the Chinese subjects showed a larger MMN with an earlier onset to the pitch difference than the Estonian subjects. Instead of eliciting an enhanced MMN in the native Chinese speakers, the duration change elicited comparable MMNs in both groups, suggesting that duration is not stored in the phonological knowledge of the Chinese subjects. Together, our results showed that long-term language experience, i.e., duration and pitch components in the Estonian language and the lexical tone in Mandarin Chinese, has an effect on the brain’s auditory perception abilities.


Continuity of Livonian: Experience of critically endangered language

In my presentation, I will address issues such as the ways of the preservation and development of endangered languages in the modern world and some experience in working with Livonian. Multiple factors affect speakers of endangered languages in language life. I will show which are the current important aspects of Livonian language vitality based on my research within the community and activists for promotion and maintaining Livonian language and culture. 

Parseltongue: an application of linguistics

Parseltongue, in the Harry Potter books and films, is the fictional language which allows humans and snakes to speak to each other. No samples of the language are offered in the books, and so when the producer of the second Harry Potter film decided to include a scene with Parseltongue he needed the spoken language to be created. This talk will discuss the creation of fragments of Parseltongue, including what the rationale was for adopting particular phonetic and other features. In presenting Parseltongue I will mention for comparison two other ‘conlangs’ (constructed languages) and also show how the creation of a made-up language draws on all levels of the analysis of human languages. In the case of Parseltongue some imaginative reasoning is also needed based on how snakes might shape the shared language. The process constitutes a somewhat unusual application of linguistic knowledge, one which touches on both the differences and the underlying commonalities found in human languages.

Eestikeelsete sõnade konkreetsus: hinnangute kogumine ja kasutamine
(Jakobi 2-427)

Alates aastast 2021 on käimas projekt eestikeelsete sõnade konkreetsushinnangute kogumiseks. Hinnanguid kogume 40 000le eesti keele kõige sagedasemale sõnale ning projekti lõpuks valmib hinnangute andmebaas, mis on ligipääsetav kõigile, kellel huvi või vajadust on. Sarnaseid andmebaase leiab väga paljudele keelte kohta – suuremad andmebaasid on olemas näiteks inglise ja hollandikeelsete sõnade kohta, väiksemad aga näiteks prantsuse, horvaatia, hispaania, indoneesia ja portugali keele kohta. Loengus annan ülevaate sellest, miks selliseid andmebaase vaja on ning mis üldse on sõna konkreetsus ja abstraktsus. Samuti tutvustan, kuidas meie oma uuringu kokku panime ning räägin ka esialgsetest tulemustest.

2021/22 fall semester programme

Repetition in language - from discourse patterns to grammatical constructions

There are various patterns in the languages of the world which contain a repetition of linguistic material – from English well, well to Latin cucurrit ‘has run’ (vs currit ‘runs’). They can be distinguished by formal aspects (for example, what is repeated, how tightly are the repeated items connected) as well as their functions, which may be pragmatic (for example, used for confirming, correcting, or insisting on a statement), semantic (for example, expressing a degree or quantity), or grammatical (such as the expression of tense or number). While there is extensive research on repetition of material within the boundaries of a word (reduplication in the narrow sense, as in Latin cucurrit), the systematic investigation of the iteration of words and phrases started more recently. A third type of repetitive constructions, often neglected, its cognate constructions, where the same root is repeated in different words. The existence of corpora and corpus-linguistic methods has opened new possibilities for the study of all types of repetitive patterns and constructions.

In my talk I will first give an overview of the phenomenon and aspects of its investigation, and then discuss selected formal and functional aspects in detail on the basis of two case studies: iteration in Latgalian fairytales (guoja, guoja ‘walked and walked’), and cognate constructions in Latvian (runā vienā runāšanā, literally ‘talks in one talking’ = ‘talks without interruption’; runāt runā ‘talk.INF talk.PRS.3’ = ‘they talk indeed’). A common question in these studies is: when does a construction become grammatical, and what distinguishes semantic or grammatical uses of repetition from pragmatic uses?

Stance and engagement in academic discourse: The Baltic perspective

The expression of author stance and the ways to engage with the reader have become one of the key aspects of academic discourse investigations over the past several decades. Numerous cross-linguistic and cross-disciplinary empirical studies have revealed that stance and engagement patterns are reflective of different disciplinary and cultural traditions of academic text construction. Personal pronouns, evaluative lexis, linguistic devices mitigating or strengthening propositions, discourse structuring elements, rhetorical questions and various other elements of stance and engagement have been reported to contribute to the creation of distinct academic identity on both individual and national or disciplinary levels.

This talk will focus on stance and engagement features characteristic to the academic discourse of the Baltic states and on what they can tell us about academic identity of this small geographic region. It is based on the project “Academic Writing in the Baltic States: Rhetorical structures through culture(s) and languages”, currently in progress.

Eesti viipekeel ja selle kasutajad

Viimase mõnekümne aasta jooksul, mil eesti viipekeel on uurijate huviorbiidis olnud, on viipekeele staatus ühiskonnas oluliselt muutunud. Keel, mille kasutamist varem tauniti isegi hariduses, on täna riiklikult tunnustatud ja igapäevaselt pildil. 

Loeng teeb põgusa sissevaate sellesse väiksesse kogukonda, kus eesti viipekeelt kasutatakse, ja uurimustesse, mis ühest või teisest aspektist eesti viipekeelt käsitlevad: kuidas tekivad uued viiped, missugune on eesti viipekeele grammatiline ülesehitus, kuidas keel ajas muutub. Kõrvutame eesti viipekeelt teiste viipekeeltega ja püüame leida tema haru viipekeelte keelepuus. Vaatleme ka seda, missugune mõju eesti viipekeelele on olnud ümbritseval eestikeelsel keeleruumil ja mis ootab eesti viipekeelt ees tulevikus.

Deep clausal embeddings in Finno-Ugric as a typological and theoretical challenge

Finno-Ugric languages form subordinate clauses in various ways – with finite and non-finite verb forms, with and without conjunctions, etc. All these are interesting and have been extensively studied, although the focus of researchers has always been on first-order subordinate clauses, and not on deeper embeddings (such as second- or third-order embedded clauses). Under ‘deeply embedded clause’ I mean a clause (finite, infinitival, converb or participial) which is embedded in a clause, which itself is a subordinate clause, etc – e.g. in the Finnish sentence [Lakia ehdotetaan muutettavaksi niin, [että valtioneuvosto voisi asettaa rajoituksia sellaisten yritysten koolle, [joille kehitysalueen investointitukea voidaan myöntää]]] (VISK § 1168).
Such sentences with several levels of embedding recur in debates for or against recursion as a “fundamental property of human language” which explains the excessive focus of researchers on their formal properties, such as the embedding depth, the position of the embedded clause in the superordinate clause (center-embedding vs. tail-embedding), etc. On the other hand, there are hardly any studies devoted to the grammatical semantics of such deep clausal embeddings in relation to the other clauses in the sentence; a remarkable exception is the recent work of Alexander Letuchiy (2018, 2020), which serves as an inspiration for the present talk.
What are the semantic properties (tense, aspect, modality) of such deeply embedded clauses? Are these properties determined by the immediately superordinate clause, or also by upper clauses in the embedding cycle, or can they be independently assigned – relative to the moment of speech and the reality of certain states of affairs at this moment? And finally – what kind of discoveries of a study on TAM in deep clausal embedding would pose a challenge to the recursion claim.

On the semantics and pragmatics of negation and their effects on the structure of negatives in a cross-linguistic perspective

Cross-linguistic typological work on negation has paid most attention to standard negation, i.e. the negation of declarative verbal main clauses. Other aspects of negation that have received at least some attention in large-scale typological studies include the negation of imperatives, the negation of stative (nonverbal, existential, etc.) predications, the negation of indefinite pronouns, abessives, the effects of negation on the marking of NPs, and negative replies to questions – for a recent overview of typological work on negation, see Miestamo 2017. Currently, typological work is underway on various aspects of the typology of negation: e.g., Veselinova’s work on negative lexicalizations and the relationship between negation and TAM, Miestamo & Koptjevskaja Tamm’s work on antonyms, Van Olmen’s work on negative imperatives, and Mauri & Sansò's work on anticircumstantial clauses as well as Miestamo, Shagal & Silvennoinen’s work on negation in dependent clauses.

In typological work, explanations for cross-linguistic generalizations are most often sought in the functional properties of the phenomenon under study. Such explanations include, for example, economy-based explanations of cross-linguistic markedness patterns, e.g. explaining the markedness of the plural by its lower text frequency as compared to the singular. In this talk, instead of first presenting typological generalizations on the structure of negatives and then discussing their possible functional explanations, I will turn the perspective around, start from the functional properties (semantics, pragmatics, processing etc) of negation and see what kinds of negative structures they may give rise to. I will discuss ways in which negation differs from affirmation in its semantics and pragmatics, paying attention for example to the discourse context of negation, and how such differences can be seen as motivating various cross-linguistically recurring structural patterns in negatives. This shift of perspective will help us to see connections between different typological properties of negatives that might otherwise go unnoticed.



van der Auwera, J. & L. Lejeune. 2005. The prohibitive. In M. Haspelmath, M. Dryer, D. Gil & B. Comrie (eds.), The world atlas of language structures, 290–293. Oxford: OUP.
Croft, W. 1991. The evolution of negation. Journal of Linguistics 27(1). 1–27.
Dahl, Ö. 1979. Typology of sentence negation. Linguistics 17. 79–106.
Dryer, M. S. 2013a. Negative morphemes. In M. Dryer & M. Haspelmath (eds.), World atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. http://wals.info/chapter/112/.
Dryer, M. 2013b. Order of negative morpheme and verb. In M. Dryer and M. Haspelmath (eds.), World atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. http://wals.info/chapter/143.
Dryer, M. 2013c. Position of negative morpheme with respect to subject, object, and verb. In M. Dryer and M. Haspelmath (eds.), World atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. http://wals.info/chapter/144.
Eriksen, P.K. 2011. ‘To not be’ or not ‘to not be’: The typology of negation of non-verbal predicates. Studies in Language 35 (2): 275-310.
Haspelmath, M. 1997. Indefinite pronouns. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haspelmath, M. 2013. Negative indefinite pronouns and predicate negation. In M. Dryer & M. Haspelmath (eds.), World atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, http://wals.info/chapter/115.
Holmberg, A. 2015. The Syntax of Yes and No. Oxford: OUP.
Miestamo, M. 2005. Standard negation: The negation of declarative verbal main clauses in a typological perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Miestamo, M. 2014. Partitives and negation: A cross-linguistic survey. In S. Luraghi & T. Huumo, eds., Partitive Cases and Related Categories, 63-86. Mouton de Gruyter.
Miestamo, Matti. 2016. Questionnaire for describing the negation system of a language. Available online via http://tulquest.huma-num.fr/fr/node/134.
Miestamo, M. 2017. Negation. In A. Aikhenvald & R. M. W. Dixon, eds., The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Typology, 405-439. Cambridge: CUP.
Payne, J. 1985. Negation. In T. Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, volume I, Clause structure, 197–242. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stolz, T., C. Stroh & A. Urdze. 2007. WITH(OUT): On the markedness relations between comitatives/instrumentals and abessives. Word 58(2). 63-122.
Van Alsenoy, L. 2014. A New Typology of Indefinite Pronouns, with a Focus on Negative Indefinites. U Antwerp dissertation.
Veselinova, L. 2013. Negative existentials: A cross-linguistic study. Rivista di linguistica 25 (1): 107-145.

Sõnaliigiline varieerumine kaassõna ja adverbi piirialal: kas elliptilisus või tähenduslik diferentseeritus?

Kui kaassõnad moodustavad suhteliselt väikse ja kindlapiirilise sõnaklassi (neid saab loendada sadades), siis määrsõnade klass on nii eesti keeles kui ka teistes keeltes suur ja heterogeenne (loendatakse tuhandetes). Kahe klassi ühisossa kuuluvad sõnad, mis võivad samas tähenduses olla kord kaassõnad (üle põllu), kord määrsõnad (sõitis üle). Tavalisem on selline varieeruvus  kohatähenduslike sõnade puhul, kuid mõningal määral ka muudes tähendustes. Koos verbiga võib olla moodustunud ka uue tähendusega tervik, ainukordne ühendverb (üle minema, läbi kukkuma). Kuid kaassõna ja ühendverbi vahel eksisteerib nende sõnade puhul lisaks veel mitmesuguseid kasutusi, kus komplemendiks sobiv sõna on kas juurde mõeldav (kaassõnafraas on elliptiline), grammatiliste käänete asemel kohakäändes (august läbi) või asendab komplementi lokatiivne proadverb (sealt läbi). Süntaktiliselt eristab kaassõnalist ja adverbilist esinemist kaassõna lahutamatus komplemendist, samas kui adverb ja nimisõna ei pea paiknema kõrvuti. Kaassõnadega lähendab adverbilisi kasutusi seotus pigem komplemendilaadse nimisõnaga kui verbiga. Sellise sõnaliigilise varieeruvuse taga on nähtud eelkõige pragmaatilisi ja infostruktuurilisi tegureid, kuid ka verbi semantikast tulenevaid eristusi. Oma ettekandes arutlen kaas- ja määrsõna vahelise kontiinumi näidete üle. Uurin, millised semantilised tegurid võiksid mõjutada sõna kasutamist kord kaassõna, kord adverbina ning kas ja kuidas mõjutab sagedus sõnade esinemist ühes või teises koosluses.

Spoken English in time and across time: Constructions, context, corpora

Spoken dialogue is the most common use of language, but it is also incredibly complex and dynamic. It puts on full display the intricate ways in which speakers coordinate their contributions to make sense of the world and negotiate social relations with each other. A fruitful method for studying spoken dialogue is to consult language corpora based on spoken, conversational data. However, the shortage of such corpora has long been an obstacle. This talk brings together the main findings of my recent work on spoken English both from a synchronic and a diachronic perspective. It provides a novel and empirically grounded account of the dynamic negotiation of meaning in spoken dialogue including the constructional properties and socio-cognitive processes that play a role. It also reports on the compilation of a new corpus of spoken English, the London–Lund Corpus 2, designed according to the same principles as the first London–Lund Corpus with data from the 1950s to 1980s. In this way, the corpus allows not only for synchronic investigations of contemporary speech but also for principled diachronic research of spoken language across time.

Läänemeresoome keelte struktuurijoonte püsivus ja muutuvus

Ettekandes tutvustan oma järeldoktorantuuri projekti, mille jooksul on lähema vaatluse all  läänemeresoome keelte struktuurijoone püsivus vs. muutuvus. Tutvustan mõne konkreetse näite varal, mida olen seni teinud ja mida on veel plaanis teha. Et projekt on osa laiemast tervikust, suuremahulise uurali keelte andmebaasi UraTyp arendamisest, esitlen ettekandes ka andmebaasi ning selle põhjalt tehtud analüüside esimesi tulemusi.

The status of thematic roles in language and cognition: evidence from instruments

Thematic roles such as Agent and Patient are ubiquitous in theories of the syntax/semantics interface (where in "Joel cut the bread," Joel is characterized as an Agent and the bread as a Patient). Despite this ubiquity, thematic roles have for decades been criticized as lacking theoretical utility and psychological reality. In this talk, I focus on the Instrument role (e.g., the knife in "Joel cut the bread with a knife"), asking whether such a role has broad explanatory value in linguistics and cognitive science. I present an analysis of the English instrumental markers "with" and "use", arguing that Agent but not Instrument is needed as a semantic primitive to account for these words’ meanings. It would be hasty, however, to abandon instrumentality as a category, as elicited video descriptions and sentence acceptability judgments demonstrate a stable Instrumental prototype across English, Dutch, and German. In addition, data from child homesigners (deaf children who have been taught neither a spoken nor a sign language) suggest ways of linguistically encoding the role of an Instrument that are shared across cultures. Taken together, these results suggest that Instrument is a prominent category in cognition but that this category is not directly reflected in English word meaning.

Low transitivity predications in Finnish: comparing Free nominals and copula clauses as grammatical and international resources

In their 1980 paper, Hopper & Thompson introduced a scalar notion of transitivity. At the low end of the transitivity scale, there are one-participant predications which are atelic in their aspect and do not describe actions (Hopper & Thompson 1980: 252). Thompson and Hopper (2001) point out that conversation is very low in transitivity: In their American English conversational data, one-participant clauses were abundant (73% of clauses). A typical example of a low transitivity (LT) predication is a copula clause. In the data Thompson and Hopper used, 37% of one-participant clauses were copula clauses. Comparing this to Finnish conversational data, LT predications dominate, while only 22% of clauses have two participants (are transitive).

The Finnish verb olla ‘to be’ is used in a number of LT clause types, including copula clauses and existential and habitive clauses. Predications that involve assessment and categorization are typically done with copula clauses, but they can also be made without a verb, with free NPs (Helasvuo 2001, 2019; see also Ono & Thompson 1994; Tao 1992, 1996) and other free nominals such as adjectives. In this paper, we will discuss the contexts in which speakers of Finnish use olla as a linking verb and ones where predications are made without it, as free nominals (NPs and APs). We analyze their functions and position in the interaction sequence.

Predicate nominals in copula clauses and free nominals serve partly overlapping functions. Both are, for example, used for characterizing, categorizing, and identifying referents. Well over half of the predicate nominals in our data characterized a referent, whereas less than 27% of free nominals served this function. Furthermore, free nominals were used in many functions that were not available for predicate nominals in copula clauses. For example, only free NPs were used as vocatives. Our study also indicates that the verbless formats are more likely than formats with the copula to be used in non-initial positions in sequences of talk and less likely to initiate new actions. The formats with olla are more likely to be used in initial position and may initiate actions.



Helasvuo, Marja-Liisa 2001: Syntax in the Making. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Helasvuo, Marja-Liisa 2019: Free NPs as units in Finnish. Special Issue on Usage-based and
Typological Approaches to Linguistic Units. Ritva Laury, Tsuyoshi Ono & Ryoko Suzuki (guest eds), Studies in Language 43(2):301–328.
Ono, Tsuyoshi & Sandra A. Thompson 1994: Unattached NPs in English conversation. BLS 20.
Tao, Hongyin 1992: NP Intonation Units and Referent Identification. BLS 18.
Tao, Hongyin 1996: Units in Mandarin Conversation. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Studies on linguistic landscapes in Estonia

Linguistic landscape studies focusing on written use of languages in public places is a fast developing field in sociolinguistics. Collecting and analysing signs and advertisements found in the streets of different cities, towns and villages reveals patterns of language use, language contacts, and power relations between different speech communities. Estonia, as a multilingual country with a long history of foreign influences, makes a fascinating case for analysis. In the presentation, issues of methodology of linguistic landscape studies will be discussed in relation to the Estonian context, the project LinguaSnapp Tallinn which is currently under development will be presented, and several sets of data from Tallinn, Narva and other Estonian cities will be analysed with the focus on multilingual practices and contact-induced changes in Estonian Russian.


Doctoral defence: Maria Tuulik “Systematic Polysemy of Estonian Adjectives on the Example of Perception Adjectives“

Doctoral defence: Maria Tuulik "Systematic Polysemy of Estonian Adjectives on the Example of Perception Adjectives".

Tomasz Wicherkiewicz (Poznan): Minority (language) policies and politics in Poland - a downward spiral?

On November 22, professor Tomasz Wicherkiewicz from Poznani University in Poland will give a TÜling talk on "Minority (language) policies and politics in Poland - a downward spiral?".
#research #for society

Doctoral defence: Triin Todesk “Ogdžyk töd ‘I do not know that well’: džyk as a degree expression with verbs in Komi”

Doctoral defence: Triin Todesk “Ogdžyk töd ‘I do not know that well’: džyk as a degree expression with verbs in Komi”