Francesca Di Garbo

Francesca Di Garbo


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Works at Department of Linguistics
Telephone 08-16 23 49
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 C, plan 2-3
Room C 256
Postal address Institutionen för lingvistik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Postoctoral research fellow in General Linguistics

Funded by the Anna Ahlström and Elllen Terserus' foundation

My research interests include synchronic and diachronic typology, morphosyntax, nominal classification, grammatical gender and nominal number systems, evaluative morphology (diminutive and augmentative constructions), linguistic complexity, and African languages.

Research projects I have been/am working on include: grammatical gender and linguistic complexity, sociohistorical correlates of restructuring in Bantu gender marking systems, evaluative morphology and temperature lexicon in Selee (Kwa, Atlantic-Congo).

My current project focuses on plural agreement in Cushitic (Afro-Asiatic) languages. The project investigates the possibility that, in Cushitic languages, the development and use of dedicated patterns of plural agreement are constrained by a hierarchy of semantic and lexical plurality. This hypothesis is tested through empirical cross-linguistic data and experimental methods.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Francesca Di Garbo, Yvonne Agbetsoamedo. Non-Canonical Gender Systems, 176-210
  • 2016. Francesca Di Garbo. Linguistic Discovery 14 (1), 46-85

    This paper proposes a set of principles and methodologies for the crosslinguistic investigation of grammatical complexity and applies them to the in-depth study of one grammatical domain, gender. The complexity of gender is modeled on the basis of crosslinguistically documented properties of gender systems and by taking into consideration interactions between gender and two other grammatical domains: nominal number and evaluative morphology. The study proposes a complexity metric for gender that consists of six features: “Gender values”, “Assignment rules”, “Number of indexation (agreement) domains”, “Cumulative exponence of gender and number”, “Manipulation of gender assignment triggered by number/countability”, and “Manipulation of gender assignment triggered by size”. The metric is tested on a sample of 84 African languages, organized in subsamples of genealogically related languages. The results of the investigation show that: (1) the gender systems of the sampled languages lean towards high complexity scores; (2) languages with purely semantic gender assignment tend to lack pervasive gender indexation; (3) languages with a high number of gender distinctions tend to exhibit pervasive gender indexation; (4) some of the uses of manipulable gender assignment are only attested in languages with a high number of gender distinctions and/or pervasive indexation. With respect to the distribution of the gender complexity scores, the results show that genealogically related languages tend to have the same or similar gender complexity scores. Languages that display exceedingly low or high gender complexity scores when compared with closely related languages exhibit distinctive sociolinguistic profiles (contact, bi- or multilingualism). The implications of these findings for the typology of gender systems and the crosslinguistic study of grammatical complexity and its distribution are discussed.

  • 2014. Francesca Di Garbo (et al.).

    This dissertation investigates interactions between gender and number and gender and evaluative morphology in a sample of 100 African languages, and provides a method for assessing the role that these interactions play in the grammatical complexity of gender systems. The dissertation is organised around three research foci.

    First, the dissertation surveys patterns of interaction between gender and number along the following dimensions: exponence, syncretism, indexation, correlations in type of marking, and gender assignment. The study provides evidence for the possibility that nominal features are organised in a relevance hierarchy. In addition, the study shows that animacy and lexical plurality play a crucial role in the distribution of special patterns of plural indexation. The study also shows that pervasive indexation systems in the language sample always involve both gender and number. Finally, the study shows how gender assignment can be used as a means for encoding variation in the countability properties of nouns and noun phrases.

    Second, the dissertation surveys patterns of interaction between gender and evaluative morphology in the languages of the sample. Two types of interactions are found. The study shows that the distribution of the two types depends on three factors: the type of gender system, the number of gender distinctions and the possibility of assigning a noun to more than one gender.

    Third, the dissertation investigates the role that interactions of gender and number and gender and evaluative morphology play in the absolute complexity of gender. The study proposes a metric for gender complexity and uses this metric to compute complexity scores for the languages of the sample. The results suggest that the gender systems of the language sample lean toward high complexity, that genealogically related languages have the same or similar complexity scores, and that the distribution of the outliers can often be understood as the result of language contact.

  • 2018. Kaius Sinnemäki, Francesca Di Garbo. Frontiers in Psychology 9

    In this article we evaluate claims that language structure adapts to sociolinguisticenvironment.We present the results of two typological case studies examining the effectsof the number of native (=L1) speakers and the proportion of adult second language (=L2)learners on language structure. Data from more than 300 languages suggest that testingthe effect of population size and proportion of adult L2 learners on features of verbal andnominal complexity produces conflicting results on different grammatical features. Theresults show that verbal inflectional synthesis adapts to the sociolinguistic environmentbut the number of genders does not. The results also suggest that modeling populationsize together with proportion of L2 improves model fit compared to modeling themindependently of one another. We thus argue that surveying population size alone maybe insufficient to detect possible adaptation of linguistic structure to the sociolinguisticenvironment. Rather, other features, such as proportion of L2 speakers, prestige andsocial network density, should be studied, and if demographic numeric data are used,they should not be used in isolation but rather in competition with other sociolinguisticfeatures. We also suggest that not all types of language structures within a givengrammatical domain are equally sensitive to the effect of sociolinguistic variables, and thatmore exploratory studies are needed before we can arrive at a reliable set of grammaticalfeatures that may be potentially most (and least) adaptive to social structures.

Show all publications by Francesca Di Garbo at Stockholm University


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Last updated: May 22, 2019

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