Cross-linguistic patterns in the encoding of three-participant events (DoBeS)

PhD Top-up scholarship in Linguistics within cross-corpus DoBeS project on three-participant events

Faculty/School: Faculty of Arts, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics
Location: Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia
Scholarship tenure:   3 years full time, beginning in 2014
Scholarship value: $6,750 per annum (conditions apply)
Laptop & standard software up to a value of $1700

Closing Date:              31 October 2013

The project Cross-linguistic patterns in the encoding of three-participant events  started in June 2013 as a cross-corpus project of the Documentation of Endangered Languages Program (DoBeS) of the Volkswagen Foundation (; chief investigator: Anna Margetts (Monash University), co-applicants: Nikolaus Himmelmann (University of Cologne) and Katharina Haude (CNRS, Paris). We are inviting applications for a second PhD Top-up scholarship within the project.

Project summary: The project investigates the linguistic encoding of events which involve three participants. It brings together three areas of study: the encoding of three-participant events, the typological parameter of basic valence orientation, and the field of text-based typology. (For more details see the project description further below).

PhD project: The PhD project will be concerned with the encoding of three-participant events and basic valence orientation, either (a) across the participating DoBeS language projects, (b) across a larger sample of languages or (c) in an individual language, e.g. on the basis of original fieldwork.

Candidate Requirements: Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in linguistics, together with a first-class Honours or Master’s degree. They are expected to have a strong background in linguistic typology and the morpho-syntactic analysis of natural language data, preferably of under-documented non-Indo-European languages. Experience in working with linguistic text corpora of spoken language and with software programs such as ELAN and TOOLBOX is desirable. The successful applicant will take on selected research and administrative tasks within the project.

The successful applicant will be part of a research group investigating three-participant events from a cross-linguistic perspective which will include the three project investigators, representatives of the participating DoBeS teams and a further PhD student working in the project. They will be based in the Linguistics Program at Monash University which has a strong research track-record in linguistic analysis and documentation, in particular of languages of Austronesia and Australia. The supervision team will include Anna Margetts and other members of the Linguistics Program. Consult the websites below for further information:

Candidates will be based at Monash’s Clayton Campus and will be expected to start by early  2014. The top-up scholarship will be contingent on the candidate successfully applying for an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) or Monash Graduate Scholarship (MGS). More information on these scholarships:

International students should note that the scholarship does not cover foreign-student tuition fees. However, for outstanding applicants there is opportunity to apply for additional tuition fee scholarships. Interested applicants are strongly advised to refer to the website below for more information. Candidates will be required to meet Monash entry requirements which may include English language skills.

How to apply

  • Send the following documentation as email attachments by 31 October 2013 to Anna Margetts: “PhD Top-up” in the subject line):
    • a covering letter outlining relevant training and experience and stating the language(s) you intend to work on
    • CV
    • academic transcripts
  • Apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) or Monash Graduate Scholarship (MGS) by 31 October 2013 (

Further funding possibilities: PhD candidates are eligible to apply for additional funding, including for conference travel and fieldwork support, from a range of sources:
• Monash University:
• Faculty of Arts:
• School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics:
• Linguistics Program

Project description: The project investigates the linguistic encoding of events which involve three participants. It brings together three areas of study: the encoding of three-participant events, the typological parameter of basic valence orientation, and the field of text-based typology.

In recent years the topic of three-participant events has received growing attention. Such events include any scenario involving three participants, e.g. those encoded by transactional verbs like ‘give’ and ‘show’, placement verbs like ‘put’, and benefactive constructions like ‘do something for someone’. There is considerable variation cross-linguistically as well as within individual languages in how the three involved participants are encoded.

Earlier work on three-participant events tends to focus on syntactic three-place predicates, i.e. constructions with three syntactic arguments. Some of the more recent studies, including Margetts and Austin (2007), investigate a fuller range of linguistic strategies for encoding such events, including three-place predicates and their subtypes but also a range of functional alternative constructions many of which are syntactically two-place but express a third participant by other means – morphological, syntactic or pragmatic. (Examples of alternative strategies include, e.g. clauses with two-place predicates which encode a recipient by means of directional markers, or a beneficiary by means of possessive morphology.)

The project investigates three-participant events from a cross-linguistic and text-based perspective focusing on DoBeS corpus data from Austronesian (Oceanic and non-Oceanic) and Papuan languages and from languages of North and South America. It will address two sets of topics:
(A) Morpho-syntactic strategies for encoding three-participant events and their pairing with semantic event types:

  • What strategies for encoding three-participant events exist in the sample languages and what is their relative frequency?
  • Are there correlations between semantic event types and specific morpho-syntactic encoding strategies?
  • Do certain strategies tend to co-occur in a language and is it possible to identify language types on this basis?
  • Is it possible to formulate any implicational hierarchies?
  • Can the morpho-syntactic strategies listed in Margetts and Austin (2007) be extended by further types or sub-types?

(B) Possible correlations between the encoding of three-participant events and the classification of a language in terms of basic valence orientation, in the sense of Nichols et al. (2004):

  • Are there any correlations between a language’s classification in terms of its basic valence orientation (as transitivising or detransitivising, etc.), and the set of strategies which are found in the language or which are most commonly employed for the expression of three-participant events?

By investigating both three-participant events and the parameter of basic valence orientation the project brings together two independent areas of study which are important in their own right and which have not been previously researched in relation to each other. If typological parameters like basic valence orientation and choice of encoding strategies for three-participant events can be shown to be connected and form a network of interrelated features this would open a new field of investigation in terms of lexical and grammatical expressions of valence and strengthen the parameters’ scientific importance, typological value and scope. The project applies methodologies of text-based typology to the study of three-participant events and basic valence orientation which allows us to address questions which could not be answered by earlier approaches.

Margetts, Anna and Austin, Peter K. (2007). “Three-participant events in the languages of the world: towards a cross-linguistic typology.” Linguistics 45(3): 393-452.

Nichols, Johanna, David A. Peterson, and Jonathan Barnes. (2004). “Transitivizing and detransitivizing languages.” Linguistic Typology 8: 149-211.