Norbert Corver studies the structural design (syntax) that underlies human languages. He searches to localize properties that languages have in common (invariant properties), as well as the ways in which languages can or cannot vary. In order to find these structural design properties, he examines the structure of language both from a single-language perspective (e.g. Dutch) and from a cross-linguistic perspective (e.g. comparison of different languages, or comparison of dialectal varieties of Dutch). The goal of this research is to contribute to a theory of natural language that explains its invariant core, as well as the range and limits of syntactic variation. Another area of his work involves the encoding of affective information in the build of language. This work has shown, for example, that Dutch curse expressions are structurally organized expressions that can be decomposed into smaller building blocks. His current research focuses on the syntax of adverbial expressions.
Manner is ubiquitous in human life. When we do things, we often do them in a particular way. This way of doing things is reflected in our language. You can drive slowly, think aloud, handle things with care, and act as if you’re a fool. MiMa addresses the question of how ‘manner’ is encoded in the structure of human language. Specifically, it examines the grammar of Manner Adverbials (MA). MiMa’s first line of research consists in the strict decomposition of MAs into smaller linguistic components. Theoretically, this quest for inner structure aims to show that MAs, even though superficially different, have a uniform underlying structure, viz., an adpositional structure. MiMa’s second line of research focuses on the distributional behavior (word order) of MAs. Theoretically, it aims to show that MA’s inner structure is a key determinant of MA’s outer behavior in the clause. By focusing on a single adverbial class, MiMa reaches empirical scope along two lines. Constructionally: MiMa investigates manner-adverbial constructions that have hitherto been largely ignored. Comparative-linguistically: MiMa undertakes a comparative study at three levels: macro (languages from different language families), meso (languages from a subfamily: Germanic), and micro (Dutch dialects). This layered comparative-linguistic methodology —novel in the study of adverbials— leads to the discovery of coarse- and fine-grained cross-linguistic differences in the grammar of manner. Theoretically, MiMa aims to show that these dimensions of diversity are reducible to the system of functional categories in human language. Overall, MiMa advances our understanding of what is (in)variant in human language.
The project Advancing The European Multilingual Experience (AThEME) takes an integrated approach towards the study of multilingualism in Europe by incorporating and combining linguistic, cognitive and sociological perspectives.
AThEME will cover the different forms of multilingualism in Europe by developing new lines of inquiry on regional/minority languages, heritage languages, languages spoken by bi-/multi-lingual speakers with communicative disorders, and languages spoken by bi-/multi-linguals at different stages of development and life. AThEME will use a palate of research methodologies, ranging from fieldwork methods to various experimental techniques and advanced EEG/ERP technologies.
AThEME aims to provide a firm basis for assessing existing public policies and practices within major areas such as education and health and contribute to evidence-based policy-making.
Core research topics within AThEME:
Every language contains idiomatic expressions. In spite of their widespread occurrence, their linguistic properties have so far not been deeply and systematically investigated. The aim of this project is to increase our understanding of "the language of idioms" by focusing on their behavior in syntax. Therefore, the main research question is: What is the syntax of idioms? This question can be naturally divided into two sub-questions, which correspond to two sub-projects: (i) What is the internal syntax of idioms, i.e. what characterizes their internal organization and makeup?; (ii) what is the external syntax of idioms, i.e. how does material contained within the idiom interact with material that is not part of the idiom? Subproject 1 aims to show that idioms, in spite of their superficially "special" appearance, are built up by the very same syntactic and morphological structure building mechanisms that are responsible for non-idiomatic expressions. Subproject 2 aims to show that idiomatic expressions are essentially opaque domains, but that dependencies with idiom-external material is possible under certain narrowly defined circumstances. The empirical basis for our investigation into the syntax of idioms will consist of idioms from non-standard varieties of Dutch. On the basis of dialect grammars and dictionaries, and also on the basis of additional field work, an electronic database will be developed which will serve as a tool for our systematic investigation into the syntax of idioms.
The overall aim of this research program is to contribute to our understanding of the phenomenon of grammatical (more in particular, syntactic) diversity and the way it is encoded, its design, in human language. This will be done by taking a micro-comparative approach towards linguistic variation in the nominal system. This means that linguistic variation will be studied from a “single-language” perspective, i.c. Dutch. The approach towards linguistic diversity taken in this study can thus be characterized as Comparative Dutch Linguistics. The linguistic data that will constitute the empirical comparative basis for this study will come from contemporary-dialectal and older variants of Dutch. An advantage of this research line is that, given the global similarity of the Dutch grammatical systems compared, we can more easily identify the finely-grained grammatical differences that exist between languages and the correlations that exist between varying grammatical properties. This way, we will get a richer and more precise understanding of the notion of linguistic diversity (i.e. parametrization).