Workshop description

Variation in South Slavic

The Slavic languages are traditionally divided into three groups – East, West and South. However, these groups not homogenous. This holds in particular for South Slavic, which covers Slovene, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), Bulgarian, and Macedonian. On the one hand, these languages form a dialect continuum with quite smoothly running parallel isoglosses reflecting inner-Slavic development. On the other hand, they are part of different convergence zones with intersecting isoglosses reflecting multiple language contact: Bulgarian and Macedonian belong to the Balkan linguistic league (including also Albanian, Greek, and Rumanian), Slovene to a Central European area (including also Slovak, Czech, German, and Hungarian). The intersection of dialectal commonalities and areal convergences is further complicated by the individual standardisation histories, which may have led to differentiations on the level of the standard languages that are not necessarily observed for the spoken varieties and dialects. This makes the investigation of non-standard and historical data an urgent requirement.

One case in point illustrating this complex situation is clausal complementation. Clausal complementation (CC)[1], i.e. structures in which – to put it very simply – a clause functions as an argument to a verbal or nominal predicate, is highly diverse in South Slavic. It is still to be investigated to what extent the formal and functional divergences among these languages and in comparison to the other Slavic languages can be accounted for in terms of internal development, and to what extent contact and areal influences need to be assumed. And here as well, the possible influence of meta-linguistic factors has to be taken into account. The picture gets even more diffuse given that CC itself is still an under-defined notion – which is, in turn, problematic for collecting data and processing them in larger scale corpora.

These questions provide the starting point for the proposed workshop. They will be addressed from different points of view with each contribution focusing on one particular aspect of CC. The collective aim consists in arriving at a comprehensive picture of the patterns of unity and diversity of CC in South Slavic and the factors underlying this complex picture.


[1] The following abbreviations will be used: CC=clausal complementation; CTP=complement taking predicate; TAM=tense, aspect, mood; DCP=dependent clause predicate; NEG=negation; MC/DC=main/dependent clause

Key issues of clausal complementation

Variance in CC across South Slavic concerns form-meaning correlations as well as restrictions and preferences within the complementation structure. This can be illustrated with da-complements (note that da has non-COMP uses as well). Da-complements constitute a prime example of this diversity, mainly as concerns their opposition to complements introduced by other markers with respect to the feature [+/- real/factive] and their distribution over different types of clause combining along the Semantic Integration Hierarchy (Cristofaro 2003).

In Bulgarian and Macedonian, da signals the non-factivity of the complement clause, while factivity is expressed by če or deka, (1). Moreover, the da vs. če/deka opposition signals the distinction between what Boye (2010) calls ‘object of perception’ and ‘knowledge acquired’, (2):

(1)       a.    Veli da odiš. (Tomić 2006: 419)                                                           (Mac)

                  ‘S/he says that you should go.’

b.    Veli deka k’e dojde. (ibid.)

                  ‘S/he says that s/he would come.’

(2)       a.    Starecăt vidja Elka da sliza bărzo po pătja. (Petkova-Schick 1973: 279)

                  ‘The old man saw Elka quickly coming down the road’                        (Bulg)

b.    Starecăt vidja, če Elka sliza bărzo po pătja. (ibid.)

                  ‘The old man saw that Elka quickly comes down the road ’

In BCS, such complementizer-related distinctions and restrictions cannot be observed anymore. Instead, factivity is signaled by the interaction of the lexical class of the CTP and TAM-features of the DCP (see Moskovljević 2004 for an overview). The non-factivity of (3a) is indicated by the desiderative CTP and the present tense perfective DCP, the factivity of (3b) by the verbum dicendi-CTP and the past tense DCP. In both cases, da is used as a complementizer:

(3)       a.    Želi da postaneš bogat. (Tomić 2006: 488)                                         (BCS)

                  ‘He wishes that you become rich.’

b.    Kažu da je postao bogat. (ibid.)

                  ‘People say that he has become rich.’ / ‘He is said to have become rich.’ 

Slovene differs from both Bulg/Mac and BCS in that it exhibits two systems of factivity-marking: one uniting it with the BCS-continuum, i.e. marking on CPT and DCP, and a ‘Balkan-type’ strategy, in which the complementizer naj, a Slovene innovation, signals non-factivity (see Topolińska 2003: 313-314) as opposed to complements introduced by da, see (4):

(4)       a.    zdravnica mi je rekla naj grem na ultrazvok (         (Slo)

                  ‘the woman doctor told me that I should go to ultrasonics’

b.    Rekli so da je bolan... (ibid.)

                  ‘they said that he is ill …’

A superficially comparable situation can be observed in Prekmurje Slovene, which has a factivity distinction marked by the opposition of da vs. ka. Differently from BCS and Slovene, however, da signals non-factivity – as is the case in Balkan Slavic. Greenberg (2011) accounts for this situation by assuming that North-Eastern Slovene was affected by the BCS-type spread of da into the factive domain only after having already developed a general subordinator ka.

The example of da can thus be taken to indicate that the contemporary distribution reflects different diachronic paths from common sources (dating back to Common Slavic and visible in Old Church Slavonic).

Moreover, it is not always clear whether a given structure is indeed a complement structure or some other type of clause linkage. This can also be seen for older stages of a language (cf. Sonnenhauser 2015). In some cases, če (or či) may be interpreted as introducing a complement or a relative clause, (5a), and kako may oscillate between a complementizer and an adverbial reading, (5b):

(5)       a.    kakto kazva za Xrista či rekalъ, kakъ e sъ nasъ (PE 1868: 7)         (Bulg)

                  ‘as he says about Christ, who said / that he said […]’

b.    za da pokaže namъ kakъ verata e gubitelnica na grěxovetě (ibid., 117)

                  ‘in order to show us how/that faith corrupts sin’

An additional problem consists in CC still not being a well-defined notion. As a consequence, research on CC makes use of rather different concepts and covers different structures and forms. Among the main issues to be clarified (see Wiemer & Letuchiy 2014 for a concise overview) are the semantic and syntactic features of CTP, the syntactic status of complementizers, the relation between matrix and dependent clause, types of complements and features of the DCP. It is discussed, for example, if all the structures shown in (6) are instances of complementation, or whether we are dealing with two integrated cores (6a) as opposed to complementation with two separate cores, (6b), and with intermediate stages such as control-structures, (6c). This in turn raises the question as to the status of da as COMP: 

(6)       a.    Saka      da                  dojde.    (Wiemer & Letuchiy 2014)              (Bulg)

                  wants    COMP(?)       comes

                  ‘S/he wants to come.’

b.    Dobro    e         da                molčiš. (ibid.)

       good     COMP(?)

                  ‘It is good that you remain silent.’

            c.    Nareduvam       Marija           da              dojde     vednaš. (ibid.)

                   I.order               Marija           COMP(?)   comes   immediately

                   ‘I demand that Marija come immediately.’

The questions outlined here are challenging also for the collection of data and their processing in corpora, mainly as concerns the annotation of (potential) COMPs and CTPs, and the mapping of form and function. Developing a compatible format for approaching the data and applying adequate tools for the investigation of CC are therefore additional topics to be addressed.

[1] The following abbreviations will be used: CC=clausal complementation; CTP=complement taking predicate; TAM=tense, aspect, mood; DCP=dependent clause predicate; NEG=negation; MC/DC=main/dependent clause


Boye, K. 2010. Reference and clausal perception-verb complements. Linguistics 48/2, 391-430

Cristofaro, S. 2003. Subordination. Oxford

Greenberg, M. L. 2011. A Balkanism in Central Europe? Realis vs. irrealis in subordinate clauses in Prekmurje Slovene. Holub, Z. & R. Sukač (eds.). Dialektologie a geolingvistika v současné stŕední Evropě. Opava, 8-18

Moskovljević, J. 2004. O distribuciji komplementizatora u savremenom srpskom jeziku. Južnoslovenski filolog 60, 57-65

PE: Sofronij Vračanski. Poučitelno Evangelie. 1868. Bělgradъ

Petkova-Schick, I. 1973. Zur Problemstellung und Modellierung der bulgarischen „да“-Konstruk­tion. Zeitschrift für Slawistik 18/2, 273-280

Sonnenhauser, B. 2015. Functionalising syntactic variance: declarative complementation with kako and če in 17th to 19th century Balkan Slavic. Wiener Slavistisches JahrbuchNF 3. (to appear)

Tomić, O. 2006. Balkan sprachbund morpho-syntactic features. Dordrecht

Topolińska, Z. 2003. Means for grammatical accommodation of finite clauses: Slovenian between South and West Slavic. Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung 56/3, 306-322

Wiemer, B. & A. Letuchiy 2014. Clausal complementation (A status report). Ms.

Scientific aims and methods

The linguistic complexity of South Slavic has been impeding studies covering the CC strategies of these languages in their entirety. At the same time, exactly this situation offers the chance for studying the multiple factors underlying linguistic unity and diversity on the example of one particular object of investigation. Discussing CC in South Slavic from various points of view, applying different theoretical approaches and methods of investigation necessitates a clear elaboration of the key notions underlying the suggested analyses. Hence, the workshop aims not only at gaining a detailed picture of the diverse patterns of CC in South Slavic, but also at linguistic concept formation, which is indispensable for further collaborative investigations. In addition, the possibilities of creating a unified platform of corpora and similar kinds of data necessary for empirical research in this domain will be explored.

In order to have a common starting point for a fruitful discussion, the participants have been sent a template sketching the potential components of CC structures, cf. figure 1:

CC structure

Based on this template, the data observed in the manifold varieties of South Slavic will be approached, focusing on the following aspects:

  • Factors: language internal, contact related, meta-linguistic
  • Perspectives: diachronic development and synchronic variation
  • Processing: data collection and data processing of existing and new data
  • Concept formation: clause linkage and complement clauses 


Complementarity aspects

To date, there is no comprehensive overview of CC in South Slavic. Individual researches have been concerned with specific aspects related to this topic, among them those invited to the workshop. Bringing them together thus combines efforts, also in terms of exploring the potential for further collaboration and sharing of resources. The contributions each focus on individual aspects of CC in South Slavic and thereby contribute to the larger picture, as illustrated in figure 2. This includes the factors underlying the complexity of the data, perspectivising them in their diachronic and synchronic diversity, questions of gathering, storing and processing the data, as well as questions concerning the nature of CC and its status among clause linkage.

Approaching the data



Expected results

The discussion initiated by this workshop is the first comprehensive, in-depth study of CC in South Slavic, covering both the dialect continuum and the specific areal conditions especially at the peripheries. By elaborating a concise view on the interaction of internal, contact-induced and meta-linguistic factors on diachronic processes, the formation of dialect continua and areal convergences zones, it will at the same time serve as a model for similar investigation of further aspects of South Slavic morpho-syntax as well as of CC in other linguistic areas. In this respect, the workshop also contributes to the field of ‘Eurotypology’, in particular by bringing to the fore some lesser investigated languages. Developing a joint format of collecting and processing data based on a common concept of CC will lead to a clearer picture of these structures and thereby advance linguistic concept formation. Due to the additional focus on corpus-related questions, impact is to be expected for the further development of electronic resources, also with respect to the sharing of existing resources and making them reusable in a common format.


Breu Walter (Konstanz)
Eleni Bužarovska (Skopje)
Yannis Kakridis (Bern)
Veronika Kampf (Köln)
Pino Marco Pizzo (Mainz)
Tanja Samardžić (Zürich)
Ivanka Vrdoljak (Mainz)
Taras Zakharko (Zürich)
Bojan Belić (Seattle)
Hanne Eckhoff (Tromsö)
Marc L. Greenberg (Kansas)
Jasmina Grković-Major (Novi Sad)
Björn Hansen (Regensburg)
Maksim Makartsev (Moskau)
Liljana Mitkovska (Skopje)
Teodora Vuković (Belgrad)
Björn Wiemer (Mainz)