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Małgorzata Szajbel-Keck, Ph.D. - Research Interests

Szajbel-Kecke_Malgorzata_5942 ©Heide Fest
  • West Slavic languages – mainly Polish,

  • morphosyntax, minimalist syntax, comparative syntax,
  • predicate structure, small clauses, secondary predication, nominalization, case distribution, word classes

  • language contact and contact induced language change

  • language policy, standardization and minority language rights

  • migration and multilingualism

  • teaching Polish as a second language

Current project:

Inclusive and gender neutral language in Poland

Gender equality is one of the important topics, with which contemporary societies have been confronted. The issue of equal treatment is also reflected in the language. The Western world has been dealing with this problem since at least the mid-twentieth century. English is one of the pioneers here. In Poland, serious discussions on this topic began late compared to other European societies and so far no formal measures have been developed to achieve linguistic equality for all genders. What is more, 'oridinary' people are mostly unaware of the dominance of the masculine gender in Polish, and those (including linguists) trying to draw attention to linguistic sexism and suggesting possible solutions to level it out (i.e. changes in the language and its use leading to more frequent use of female or gender neutral forms) are often pushed into the corner of feminists forcibly pushing gender politics. However, regardless of whether we agree or not, modern societies strive for greater integration, inclusion and equal treatment of people of different sexes, also in language and even if it means greater effort. My research project deals with these issues in the current Polish language, both in formalized speech and writing, as well as in everyday colloquial use. I analyze changes occurring in the language itself and thier use, as well as social attitudes about the proposed and already occurring changes. Those changes are very dynamic and require constant updating of observations and analyzes.

Past projects:

Secondary predication in Polish

It has been argued for Polish, and Slavic in general, that secondary predication is a restricted phenomenon (e.g. Hentschel (2009)). In contrast to languages such as English, where many adjectives can function as secondary predicates, only a few can do so in Polish. This might be true with a very restricted view at secondary predication, where only adjectives and nouns are taken into account. In this project, I take a holistic view at secondary predication in modern Polish, showing that it involes at least three syntactic elements - adjectives, nouns and p-compounds. The use of nouns is not productive anymore, adjectives are admittedly infrequent, but there is a third growing group of secondary predicates, p-compounds (a combination of a preposition and an adjective with a suffix that cannot be analyzed as a productive adjectival suffix, e.g. do czysta 'until clean', na zimno 'cold') that is not only productive but also can carry both a depictive and a resultative meaning. The results of the investigation of the use of secondary predication in Polish as well as their morphosyntactic and semantic analysis are presented in my dissertation: Szajbel-Keck, M. 2015. "Secondary Predication in Polish". 2015. Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing

Slavic p-compounds as non-canonical adjectives

Slavic languages rarely allow adjectives as resultatives (Spencer & Zaretskaya 1998), though the resultative function has been described as a defining criterion for adjectives as a part of speech (Baker 2003:219). There has been little work on the kind of form that regularly fulfills this function in Slavic: e.g. Russ. raskalit’ dobela ‘heat white-hot’, Pol. wymyć do czysta ‘wash clean’, Bulg. obrŭštam naopaki ‘turn upside-down’. We call this class of forms P-compounds (“bipartites” per Goeringer 1998) because they consist of two lexical roots, the first of which is etymologically a preposition. So defined, P-compounds comprise a large set of forms attested throughout the history of Slavic (in this project: Russian, Polish, Bulgarian and OCS). They sometimes have cognates in two or more daughter languages, and they serve a range of syntactic functions. The preferred functions of the individual p-compounds depend primarily on their semantics. Though some P-compounds function as adverbs, in our survey (based mainly on national corpora or printed sources for OCS) they more often resemble adjectives. Generalizing from Corbett 2004 on Russian adjectives, the predicative, depictive, and (especially) noun-modifying functions are those of adjectives; resultative is an adjective function in many languages, though not often in Slavic. Adjuncts and verb modification are the two adverb-like functions of P-compounds, but they are distinctly less frequent than the canonically adjectival function of adnominal modifier. In general, our findings show that P-compounds are property words with some verbal characteristics (aktionsart, stress) and function mostly as predicates; some are dedicated resultatives or depictives, and most were probably coined for depictive or resultative functions. But, where semantics permits, they can also have canonical adjective functions. A cooperation with Johanna Nichols, Cammeron Girvin, and Elizabeth Purdy.