Nominal morphosyntax and word order in heritage Russian across majority languages (RUEG-P3)

RUEG P3 is a subproject of the DFG-funded research unit "Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations: A Comparative Approach" and investigates Russian as a language of origin in Germany. Languages of origin, also known as Heritage languages, are the languages spoken by migrants in their everyday family life. They stand in contrast to so-called majority languages, i.e. languages spoken by the majority of the population in the host countries. Languages of origin often undermine complex changes and thereby differ greatly from the respective standard languages. This makes them especially interesting for linguistics.

RUEG P3 has been based at ZAS in Faculty II and at the Department of Slavic and Hungarian Studies since 2018 and is headed by Luka Szucsich (HU) and Natalia Gagarina (ZAS).

Project description

The project investigates novel grammatical patterns regarding nominal morphological categories and word order in heritage Russian in Germany and in the U.S. Furthermore, the project aims at theoretically modeling emerging grammatical varieties in the investigated domains and in general from the perspective of RUEG’s three joint ventures (henceforth JV): JVI (“Language Change Hypothesis”) dealing with the systematicity of non-canonical grammatical patterns, JVII (“Interface Hypothesis”) locating new linguistic developments at external versus internal interfaces, and JVIII (“Internal Dynamics Hypothesis”) teasing apart contact-induced from language-internal change. Nominal morphosyntax, especially case, is often taken to belong to the narrow grammatical system involving internal interfaces. Word order phenomena at the left sentential periphery are often associated with the interaction of syntax and information structure/discourse (external interface). Lastly, verb placement (especially with respect to the direct object: head-complement vs. complement-head) is regarded as belonging to core syntax. We will compare heritage speakers’ data to those of monolingual Russian speakers from Russia, and, following RUEG’s unified elicitation setting, we will take informal/formal and spoken/written registers and age into account. The project will contribute to the understanding of linguistic change in bi- (or multi-)lingual communities depending on multiple factors (register, grammatical domain, linguistic interface, contact setting, etc.) by taking up a strongly comparative approach, and to theoretical accounts of emerging grammatical patterns.

Research Unit Emerging Grammars

Picture: Heike Wiese


Funding period


Principal Investigators

PD Dr. Natalia Gagarina (ZAS) & Prof. Dr. Luka Szucsich (HU Berlin)