My research interests are typology, learnability, complexity, and theoretical linguistics (especially functionalist theory). Important questions that I study are: What makes languages more or less learnable? Can we say that some (parts of) languages are more learnable than others? How is learnability related to properties of the speaker/signer community? How come that features that are relatively unlearnable still exist?
I am familiar and have worked within various linguistic frameworks, Such as Functional (Discourse) Grammar, Generative Grammar, Construction Grammar, and Optimality Theory.
- 2017 - present: Moedertaal in Nederlands als tweede taal (MoedINT2) - Mother tongue in the educaton of Dutch as a second language
Dutch teachers are increasingly confronted with students who do not speak Dutch as their primary language. They often take a Dutch-only approach: the use of students' L1s is discouraged or forbidden in classrooms or even on school property. This is unfortunate, as there is evidence that positive attitudes towards non-Dutch L1s and their use in classrooms are beneficial to students' well-being and language skills. Moreover, if teachers had more linguistic knowledge on their students' languages, they would be able to anticipate negative transfer and make use of positive transfer. In this project, I have developed a web application (Leufkens & Hebing 2018) making typological data accessible to teachers, aiming to help them make better use of the language capital in their multilingual classrooms.
Funded by a starting grant from the Dutch National Research Agenda and a preparatory grant by focal area Education for Learning Societies.
- Paper [Dutch] in professional teacher journal LES (Leufkens 2019)
- Information website [Dutch] (Leufkens 2017)
- Article [Dutch] by Mathilde Jansen about the project on science communication platform Kennislink
- 2015 - 2016: The syntax of idioms
While most research on idiomatic expressions focusses on lexical items, this project studied functional items in idioms. Even though idioms are non-compoitional by definition, a distinction has been made in the literature between relatively compositional idioms such as 'spill the beans' (where separate figurative meanings can be attached to the verb and the NP) and fully non-compositional ones such as 'kick the bucket'. It has been claimed that the former type is syntactically more flexible than the latter, but this has only been demonstrated for a small group of 'poster child' English idioms. To investigate the matter systematically, an online database of annotated idioms in 13 dialects in the Dutch language area has been built (Corver et al. 2017). Furthermore, speakers of 6 of those dialects have filled out questionnaires on the grammaticality of syntactically manipulated idioms.
Funded by a collabration grant from the national research organisations of the Netherlands (NWO) and Flanders (FWO).
- Special Issue of Linguistics on the compositionality and syntactic flexibility of idioms
- Introduction to Special Issue of Linguistics (Corver et al. 2019)
- 2010 - 2014: Transparency in language: A typological study
In this project, 22 languages of the world have been compared on their transparency, i.e. the degree to which they maintain a one-to-one relation between meaning and form. Transparency can be violated by means of redundancy (1M:multiple F), fusion (multiple M:1F), form-based form (0M:1F), and discontinuity (1M:multiple form fragments). This typological study has shown that all languages violate transparency somehow, but some do so much more than others. Moreover, non-transparent features are not randomly distributed, but appear in languages according to an implicational hierarchy: while all languages exhibit instances of redundancy, form-based forms are only rarely attested. The dissertation argues that this may be due to different types and degrees of language contact that languages have undergone, since some types of language contact (notably creolization) may result in the loss of non-transparent features.
- Paper by Kees Hengeveld and me with new data (Hengeveld & Leufkens 2018)
- PhD dissertation (Leufkens 2015)
- Paper on the transparency of 4 creole languages (Leufkens 2013)
- Article [Dutch] by Mathilde Jansen about my dissertation on science communication platform Kennislink