The Linguistics group at Uppsala University has a broad research profile. It studies phonetics, morphology, syntax, semantics and discourse in relation to a variety of languages.
Important research themes are:
- Language documentation, which focuses on previously undescribed and endangered languages of South Asia, Africa and Australia, highlighting themes like language contact and language change, dialect and language variation, and typologically oriented studies
- Naturalistic and experimental studies of child and adult (second) language learners
- Language and social interaction, conversational analysis.
Linguistics has participated in joint work with the units of Iranian and Turkic languages concerning typological work. Another interdisciplinary activity is cooperation with Speech and Language Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine.
Doctoral students projects
Ecology and structure of the Hadza language
Acquisition of Arabic and Swedish in bilingual 4-7-years-olds
Normal och avvikande språkutveckling hos flerspråkiga arabisk-svensktalande barn i Sverige
Typical and atypical language development in bilingual Turkish-Swedish preschool children
A typology of spatial deixis
Mathematical models for linguistic dating
Exploring the development of L1 and L2 oral narrative ability of bilingual pre-school children in Sweden from a cross-linguistic perspective
A description of the Mbugwe language, Tanzania
A typology of classifiers and gender: From description to computation
Finite verbs in Ngarla (Pama-Nyungan, Ngayarta)
Cultural Evolution of Texts
How is cultural knowledge passed down through generations? Which processes promotes the fidelity of transmission of written or oral texts over longer or shorter times? And are there regularities in the processes of change that they undergo? This project takes a mixed methods approach to analyse how religious and instructional texts are passed down through time. Among the religious texts represented are the ancient liturgies of Zoroastrianism. These originate from oral traditions dating back about 2500 years. The Apophthegmata patrum, collections of sayings of the Christian church fathers, likewise belong to a tradition of many centuries. These writings have been copied, edited and translated over and over again. Instructional texts are collected from, among others, a corpus of cookbooks that span several centuries. By examining how these types of texts change, the research project will contribute to an in-depth understanding of how cultural knowledge develops and is renegotiated over time. The research project brings together researchers with expertise in different types of text traditions with researchers working within computer science and phylogenetic frameworks. This unique collaboration is expected to contribute to the development of new methods for phylogenetic network analysis of linguistic and cultural evolution.
Researcher: Michael Dunn.
From Dust to Dawn: Multilingual Grammar Extraction from Grammars (2018-2021)
Traditionally, researchers often study the diversity of world's languages by reading and comparing grammatical descriptions manually. Nowadays, a large amount of linguistic descriptions and books are easily available in digital formats. Reading them all for a wider-level comparison and analysis is way beyond individual people's capabilities. Text technology, i.e. computer-based text management in natural language, is now powerful enough to potentially be used to harvest facts at different levels of detail within a given domain (in this case, information on world languages). In this project we want to utilize a useful collection of 9000 digitized grammatical descriptions covering over a thousand languages in order to significantly expand the ability to make major language comparisons. For this purpose, the project will develop methodologies to enable computers to read grammatical descriptions and automatically extract information ("linguistic facts"). We are to explore and develop a notion of "language profile", which is a structured digital collection and representation of a language encapsulating all available knowledge about a language extracted from various sources.
Researcher: Harald Hammarström.
DReaM: The Dictionary/Grammar Reading Machine: Computational Tools for Accessing the World's Linguistic Heritage 2018-2020
A JPICH Digital Heritage-funded project together with Marian Klamer/Sören Wichmann (Leiden), Guillaume Segerer/Stéphane Robert (CNRS/Paris), and Shafqat Virk/Markus Forsberg (Gothenburg).
Researcher: Harald Hammarström.
CHRONOS - Chronology of Roots and Nodes of Family Trees: Fine-tuning the Instruments of Linguistic Dating (2018-2021)
The project aims to explore the possibilities of dating ancestral stages of language families by a systematic and careful study of the stability and replacement patterns of different types of linguistic data. Toward this aim, the project has chosen to look at the language families Indo-European (Eurasia) as well as Arawakan and Tupí (South America). The ability to date ancestral linguistic stages would be a revolutionary step forward for understanding language and population history, parallel to carbon-14 dating in archaeology. Even a less precise method than carbon-14 would be a significant achievement for linking ancestral linguistic stages to other disciplines such as archaeology, genetics and geoclimatology. Classic glottochronology, which assumes a constant rate of lexical replacement, has long been discredited. However, even if lexical replacement rates are not constant, they are also not totally random. Moreover, other aspects of language may show tighter regularity than lexicon since lexicon is amenable to conscious manipulation; indeed, word taboo is one of the reasons for accelerated lexical replacement, but so far there has been little research into grammatical chronology, which is an important aim of this project. Now, however, the time is ripe for a systematic investigation into linguistic dating. Far more data is available, and large linguistic databases have become practical to use. Similarly, methodological advances, often imported from biology, presently allow for a more thorough exploitation of the data. The project involves collaboration with Lund University. The project is funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg foundation (MaW 2017.0050).
Researcher: Gerd Carling (Lund University) and Harald Hammarström.
Digital areal linguistics: a lexical view of the Himalayan microarea
This project is financed by the Swedish Research Council. The goal of this project is to create a database of comparable lexical items in a number of representative South Asian languages, with a focus on the Himalayan region in India and to use this database for investigating the Himalayas as a linguistic area. The project is a collaboration between the University of Gothenburg, Uppsala University and the Max Planck Institute (MPI Leipzig, Germany). Researcher: Anju Saxena.
Language impairment or typical language development? Developing methods for linguistic assessment of bilingual children in Sweden
This project is funded by the Swedish Research Council. The project investigates typical and atypical language development in bilingual pre-schoolers, focusing on Turkish-Swedish and Arabic-Swedish, with a view to developing reliable methods for the assessment of language abilities and intervention in bilingual children in Sweden. This is vital for the child’s future, as untreated language impairment often leads to dyslexia and learning difficulties in school. The principal investigator is Ute Bohnacker (2014-2019).
Multilingual children’s narrative skills
A research initiative that explores the development of oral narrative skills in 4-9-year-old children in different language settings, using the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN). An outcome of COST Action IS0804 Working Group 2 “Narrative and Discourse”, MAIN has been developed on the basis of extensive piloting for different languages and language combinations. In Sweden, Ute Bohnacker is responsible for research in this area.
Multimedia and GIS supported language documentation of the Himalayas with the focus on ethno-biological terms
This project is financed by the SIDA/Swedish Research Council. The project aims to document some least documented languages of the Himachal Pradesh region in India. The main international collaborating project partner in this project is the Himachal Pradesh University (India). Researcher: Anju Saxena.
Language and Social interaction
Language and Ageing
An interdisciplinary research initiative that explores interaction between older people and their interlocutors in different settings. Anna Lindström, professor in Language and Social Interaction, is responsible for developing the research in this area at Uppsala University [project link].
Sociolinguistics and Bantu linguistics
Swahili (and Bantu Linguistics)
Swahili has been studied from a sociolinguistic point of view focussing on the history, development, spread and status of Swahili and the language situation in general in Africa, as well as the history, spread and status of Arabic in East Africa, and the influence of Arabic on Swahili.
The Teaching of Grammar and Metalinguistic Concepts
The teaching and knowledge of grammar and metalinguistics is studied with a current focus on the Swedish compulsory school and the knowledge possessed by beginning undergraduates and new teachers. Researcher: Therese Lindström Tiedemann
Evolution of Semantic Systems
Evolution of Semantic Systems
An interdisciplinary collaboration studying how meanings vary over space and change over time. It has been supported by the Max Planck Society, through the Max Planck Research Group Evolutionary Processes in Language and Culture (2009-2014). The principle investigators are Michael Dunn (Uppsala University), Asifa Majid (Radboud University Nijmegen) and Fiona Jordan (University of Bristol). See the project webpage.
Language Acquisition and Learning
Kobalt-DaF: Annotation and analysis of argumentative learner texts: Converging approaches to a written corpus of German as a foreign language
This German-Swedish research network is building an annotated learner corpus and investigates grammatical and discourse-pragmatic development in Swedish, Russian and Chinese adult learners of German as a foreign language. Ute Bohnacker, in collaboration with researchers at the Universities of Berlin, Hamburg, Jena, Konstanz, Uppsala, Stuttgart and Växjö, 2011-2014, funded by the German Research Council (DFG) [project link].