#Linguistics Resources for Studies on Possessive Constructions

I am currently planning my new autumn/winter course on possessive constructions at the University of Cologne. The course will use experimental and corpus data to compare adnominal, predicative, and external possessive constructions cross-linguistically. It will also discuss the processing and acquisition of possessive constructions as well as language change. The starting point will be the project pages and references below. I am grateful for any pointers to further resources and will post further materials on this blog (as I have done for my recent course on “Psycholinguistics in the Field“).


Project Webpages

World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS)

http://wals.info/ , with several chapters and maps about possessive constructions


Manchester Database for English and Swedish Adnominal Possessives



The Prominent Possessor Project



Core References

Börjars, K., Denison, D., & Scott, A. (Eds.) (2013). Morphosyntactic categories and the expression of possession. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Heine, B. (2006). Possession: Cognitive sources, forces, and grammaticalization. Cambidge: Cambridge University Press.

McGregor, W. (2009). The expression of possession. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Seiler, H. (1983). Possession as an operational dimension of language. Tübingen: Narr

Taylor, J. R. (1996). Possessives in English: An exploration in cognitive grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

For further reading lists, in particular for research methods and tools, see https://experimentalfieldlinguistics.wordpress.com/

Why we need large language samples for cross-linguistic psycholinguistic research

Our new article on linguistic relativity and statistical issues in cross-linguistic studies has just appeared in the journal Cognitive Semantics:

Satellite- vs. Verb-Framing Underpredicts Nonverbal Motion Categorization: Insights from a Large Language Sample and Simulations

Montero-Melis, Guillermo and Eisenbeiss, Sonja and Narasimhan, Bhuvana and Ibarretxe-Antuñano, Iraide and Kita, Sotaro and Kopecka, Anetta and Lüpke, Friederike and Nikitina, Tatiana and Tragel, Ilona and Florian Jaeger, T. and Bohnemeyer, Juergen, Cognitive Semantics, 3, 36-61 (2017), DOI:https://doi.org/10.1163/23526416-00301002


Is motion cognition influenced by the large-scale typological patterns proposed in Talmy’s (2000) two-way distinction between verb-framed (V) and satellite-framed (S) languages? Previous studies investigating this question have been limited to comparing two or three languages at a time and have come to conflicting results. We present the largest cross-linguistic study on this question to date, drawing on data from nineteen genealogically diverse languages, all investigated in the same behavioral paradigm and using the same stimuli. After controlling for the different dependencies in the data by means of multilevel regression models, we find no evidence that S- vs. V-framing affects nonverbal categorization of motion events. At the same time, statistical simulations suggest that our study and previous work within the same behavioral paradigm suffer from insufficient statistical power. We discuss these findings in the light of the great variability between participants, which suggests flexibility in motion representation. Furthermore, we discuss the importance of accounting for language variability, something which can only be achieved with large cross-linguistic samples.

Journal Webpage:


downloadable preprint: https://www.academia.edu/29808551/Satellite-_vs._verb-framing_underpredicts_nonverbal_motion_categorization_Insights_from_a_large_language_sample_and_simulations._Cognitive_Semantics._UPDATED_11_29_16_with_minor_cuts_for_proofs_


One of the issues we discussed in this article is the need to achieve enough statistical power for experimental studies in psycholinguistics. This issue is debated by a lot of researchers at the moment, see e.g. recent work by Shravan Vasishth and colleagues – and references cited in these two publications:

Shravan Vasishth and Andrew Gelman. The Illusion of Power: How the statistical significance filter leads to overconfident expectations of replicability. Submitted to conference: Cognitive Science, London, UK, 2017. [ http ]

Matuschek, Hannes, Reinhold Kliegl, Shravan Vasishth, Harald Baayen, and Douglas Bates. “Balancing Type I error and power in linear mixed models.” Journal of Memory and Language 94 (2017): 305-315.


I will soon update my stats pages with more papers discussing statistical modeling, power, etc. Thus, please keep the suggestions coming

Happy experimenting in the field or lab – or field lab!


Resources: #Linguistic #Typology, Experimental #Linguistics, and #Psycholinguistics

I am currently teaching a course on Linguistic Typology and thought I would share my list of introductory readings and resources with you. As an experimental linguist and language acquisition researcher with a cross-linguistic approach to psycholinguistics, I find that typological issues keep coming up in my projects. For instance, we needed those resources when we looked at

Introductions to Typology

Bisang, W. (2001). Aspects of typology and universals. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Christiansen, M. H., Collins, C., & Edelman, S. (2009). Language universals. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Comrie, B. (1989). Language universals and linguistic typology: Syntax and morphology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Croft, W. (2009). Typology and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cysouw, M. (2005). Quantitative methods in typology. In G. Altman, R. Köhler, & R. Piotrowski (eds). Quantitative linguistics: an international handbook (pp. 554-578). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

Givón, T. (1984/91). Syntax. A Functional-Typological Introduction. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Greenberg, J.H. (1974). Language typology: A historical and analytic overview. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.

Greenberg, J.H., et al. (eds.) (1978). Universals of Human Language. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Hickey, R. (eds.) (2017). The Cambridge Handbook of Areal Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lyovin, A.V. (1997). An introduction to the languages of the world. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mallinson, G. & Blake, B.J. (1981). Language typology: Cross-linguistic studies in syntax. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Nichols, J. (2007). What, if anything, is typology? Linguistic Typology, 11: 231–238.

Nichols, J. (1992). Linguistic diversity in space and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Plank, F. (ed.) (1986). Typology. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.

Shibatani, M. & Bynon, T. (eds.) (1995). Approaches to language typology. Oxford, UK: Clarendon.

Shopen, T. (ed.) (1985). Language Typology and Syntactic Description. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Slobin, D. I. (1997). The universal, the typological, and the particular in acquisition. In Dan I. Slobin (ed.), The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition, vol. 5: Expanding the Contexts (p.1-39). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Song, J. (2013). The Oxford handbook of linguistic typology: Morphology and syntax. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Song, J. (2014). Linguistic typology: Morphology and syntax. London: Routledge.

Velupillai, V. (2012). An introduction to linguistic typology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Whaley, L.J. (1997). Introduction to typology: The unity and diversity of language. Newbury Park: Sage.


Databases and other Resources

The Association for Linguistic Typology  has a list of databases and other resources for typological research. The Glottolog database of languages and language families also provides useful resources.

I hope you find these resources and the other resources on our ExperimentalFieldLinguistics website useful. I would greatly appreciate any further suggestions for this list and the resource lists on my sites for child-directed speech or language games.


P.S. I have moved to Cologne now and I am currently teaching at the University of Cologne and working on my language games, trying to make them “greener” with a sustainable permaculture approach that should work well in fieldwork situations.

Sustainable Digital and Social Practices | experimentalfieldlinguistics.wordpress.com

Sustainable Digital and Social Practices


Permaculture, Sustainable Research & Digital Practices

Researchers who combine linguistic fieldwork with psycholinguistic studies want to ensure that their research, digital, and social practices are sustainable. Hence, many try to

  1. develop and implement sustainable systems for data collection, storage, and management that ensure reliable long-term open access to their data and findings,
  2. employ technology and procedures that are environmentally sustainable (“Green IT”, “Sustainable HCI”),
  3. create sustainable social systems with local communities, collaborators, and “users” of their research.

Systematic research into such sustainable systems and practices is still in its infancy, but I have put together some initial resources and publications about sustainability in these domains below. Some of these publications involve a permaculture approach to the design of sustainable systems. Hence, I have added some information about permaculture and its design approach and ethical principles. I have also provided some initial information about the way in which I have started to incorporate sustainable practices into my own work – in addition to storing my data in the sustainability-oriented Language Archive at the Max-Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen.

Sustainable Digital Systems and Sustainable Digital and Social Practices

These publications provide a first overview of research sustainable digital systems and practices in (linguistic) data collection, storage, and management. More can be found on my reading list for sustainable digital systems and practices, which I will continue to update (suggestions more than welcome!):

Note: some chapters of the books above can be found freely accessible via Google Scholar.

There is also a Zotero Group with a bibliography on Permaculture and Open Access.

If you want to find out whether the websites and technologies that you have selected for your work make use of clean energy, you can try out this browser extension


Permaculture Design

The word ‘permaculture’ derives from ‘permanent agriculture‘ and ‘permanent culture‘. Permaculture is a design process and approach that aims to create sustainable places, spaces, systems, and communities, guided by the three core ethical principles of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. Many permaculture designs focus on gardens and agriculture, but permaculture principles and design processes have also been applied to other domains, in particular to systems for the collection, storage, and management of data. Such designs are typically called “non-land-based” permaculture designs, in contrast to “land-based” designs for gardens and agricultural systems. Permaculture is part of an international movement, involving a growing number of national and international organisations. You can find out more about permaculture and these organisations on the following resource sites and blogs (and the associated social media accounts):

These institutions and projects organise many permaculture workshops and gatherings around the world, e.g. the London Permaculture Festival on July 31, 2016.

For more information, you can start with the Wikipedia article about permaculture and a lists of introductory books and key texts.There is also a LinkedIn Topic “principles of permaculture” that allows you to find relevant people, slide shares, groups, etc.

Training in Permaculture can lead to internationally recognised qualifications: the Permaculture Design Certificate and the Permaculture Design Diploma. I have obtained my own Permaculture Design Certificate with Marina O’Connell and a great team of fellow students at the Apricot Centre for Sustainable Living in Essex, UK. My project was a backyard “food forest” with fruit, edible plants and flowers.

This project has inspired me to use more natural materials in language games for linguistic data collection. For instance, I used to create laminated printed pictures to elicit noun phrases with adjectives like big, small, green, pink, etc. from children. Now, we have been piloting  materials that consist of recycled conference ID lanyards, and edible leaves or flowers. These materials can be completely re-used, recycled, or composted (I never thought I would use the word “composted” in a blog about linguistics…).

"Green" language game materials with edible leaves and flowers | experimentalfieldlinguistics.wordpress.com

“Green” language game materials with edible leaves and flowers

I have also developed a multi-purpose elicitation toolkit that involves these materials plus boards and pockets with recycled or left-over pieces of textiles and haberdashery.

The "Language in a Bag" toolkit for elicitation games in linguistic research | experimentalfieldlinguistics.wordpress.com

The “Language in a Bag” toolkit for elicitation games in linguistic research

I have been improving and piloting the toolkit in collaboration with the Essex Language Games Club that I have organised at the University of Essex, local charities, and the Wivenhoe Transition Town initiative (part of the larger sustainability-focused Transition Town Movement). Here, you can see us during a “sew-in” in Wivenhoe Library, with Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe Repair-Reuse-Recycle, a project that grew out of a repair cafe linked to Wivenhoe Transition Town.

A "sew-in" with Essex Language Games Club and Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe Repair-Reuse-Recycle | experimentalfieldlingusitics.wordpress.com

A “sew-in” with Essex Language Games Club and Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe Repair-Reuse-Recycle | experimentalfieldlingusitics.wordpress.com

If you have any readings for my reading list, any projects to link to, or other suggestions, please let me know! And if you are interested in joint projects, e.g. projects with a focus on greener research materials or language games for community projects, please get in touch!

Sonja Eisenbeiss (sonja.eisenbeiss@googlemail.com)


Experimental Linguistics in the Field – Special Issues and Overview Articles in 2015

In recent years, more and more psycholinguists and experimental linguists have gone beyond the limited set of well-researched languages or they have left their labs to collect spontaneous speech data or experimental data in fieldwork contexts. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that in 2015, at least two special issues of journals have had a focus on psycholinguistics in the field:

First Language, 35 (4-5): Indigenous children’s language: Acquisition, preservation and evolution of language in minority contexts

Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, 9: Laboratory in the Field: Advances in cross-linguistic psycholinguistics.

These special issues have introductory articles that give an overview of current research topics, field-appropriate methods, or theoretical issues that require widening the set of languages, research settings, and methodologies for experimental linguistics. These issues have also been addressed in another overview article in 2015:

Whalen, D. H., & McDonough, J. (2015). Taking the Laboratory into the Field. Annual Review of Linguistics, 1(1), 395-415.

We in Essex have continued and extended our psycholinguistic work on previously under-researched languages as our ExperimentalFieldLinguistics resource site and the following studies demonstrate:

Kgolo, N., & Eisenbeiss, S. (2015). The role of morphological structure in the processing of complex forms: Evidence from Setswana deverbative nouns. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 9, .1116-1133

Kula, N. & Braun, B. (2015). Mental representation of tonal spreading in Bemba: Evidence from elicited production and perception. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33.3: 307-323.

Results of cross-linguistic studies in recent years can also be found in my recent handbook article:

Eisenbeiss, S. (2015). Syntax and Language Acquisition. In T. Kiss and A. Alexiadou (Eds.), Syntax: an international handbook (2nd edition) (pp. 1792-1832). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. (pre-print downloadable: http://www.academia.edu/1220666/Syntax_and_Language_Acquisition)




Kgolo & Eisenbeiss in special issue in “Cross-linguistic #Psycholinguistics” #PsychoLingFieldLab #linguistics #fieldwork #languages #Bantu

It looks as if more and more people are now taking the psycholinguistics lab to the field. Our paper about morphological processing in the Bantu language Setswana has just appeared in a special issue of Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience: “Laboratory in the Field: Advances in cross-linguistic psycholinguistics”. And today, I found a hard copy of the volume in my pigeonhole!

Our paper is: Kgolo, N., & Eisenbeiss, S. (2015). The role of morphological structure in the processing of complex forms: Evidence from Setswana deverbative nouns. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 9, .1116-1133

The editors for the special issue were Alice C. Harris, T.Florian Jaeger, and Elisabeth Norcliffe. Florian Jaeger has written a blog post about the special issue that you can find on his blog.

Thanks again to the editors!



OpenSesame, #Python & #PsychoPy links added to #Psycholinguistics #Experiments Tools List

We have added the following links about the free experiment software Open Sesame (now available in version 3.0, with Python scripting options) to our list of software and tools.

We also have a separate page with Python links. and our list of software and tools contains information about PsychoPy, another experiment software package that works with Python.

Some of our students are trying this out and comments/suggestions are more than welcome!