Projekt P7 (RUEG)

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

Beginning 2018
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


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 occurrence 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“ MP3-File 



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.

  • 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. 

  • 31.05.18 – 01.06.18: Visit of the RUEG Ph.D Day (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’

31.05.18: The first 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.

01.06.18: The second whole group meeting was dedicated to the discussion of 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.


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

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

04.09.18 – 05.09.18: ‘Data Collection Workshop’. The first two days of September Retreat were 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.

06.09.18 – 07.09.18: ‘Transcription & Annotation Workshop’. During the next two days, 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.





  • (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.