QLVL members - Gert De Sutter


Gert De Sutter obtained his MA in Germanic Languages from the University of Leuven in July 2000. From October 2000 to December 2002, he was a researcher on the OOI-project 'Vorax' (OOI-2000/23), for which he developed an on-line corpus linguistics tutorial in support of the corpus linguistics classes at the University of Leuven (in collaboration with Dirk Speelman and Dirk Geeraerts). From January 2003 to October 2006, he worked on the FWO-project 'The stratification of supragregional Dutch in Flanders' (G.0086.03), in the course of which he completed his PhD on word order variability in Dutch bipartite verb clusters, supervised by Dirk Geeraerts and Dirk Speelman. He now works as an assistant professor at the School of Translation Studies of the University College Ghent.


URL: http://webs.hogent.be/gertdesutter



Gert's research focuses predominantly on syntactic variation and the stratification of supraregional Dutch in Flanders. His interest in syntactic variation resulted in a PhD, which he defended at the University of Leuven in June 2005. In his PhD, he studied one of the most intriguing types of syntactic variation in Dutch, viz. word order variation in bipartite verb clusters consisting of a past participle and the auxiliary verb zijn "to be", hebben "to have" or worden "to be(come)":

(a) [...] dat moordende chauffeurs van de weg gehaald worden
     (green word order)
     [...] that murderous drivers from the road removed are.
     [...] that murderous drivers are removed from the road.

(b) [...] dat moordende chauffeurs van de weg worden gehaald
     (red word order)
     [...] that murderous drivers from the road are removed.
     [...] that murderous drivers are removed from the road.

The goal of this research was to assess the mechanisms that influence the choice between green (a) or red (b) word order in contemporary Dutch, and to answer the question why both word order variants are available. On the basis of attested language use, extracted from two representative corpora, the effect of a set of 10 language-internal (semantic, structural, discursive) factors on the choice of word order was analyzed empirically and quantitatively (by means of a.o. logistic regression and CART analysis). The results of these analyses showed that the word order variation at hand is essentially multivariate in nature, since 8 out of 10 language-internal variables are simultaneously significant. They also revealed that the most powerful variable in the model is the semantic variable, and that the model is able to explain and predict the bulk of the variation. On the basis of these results, it was argued that the syntactic alternation is (at least partially) motivated by cognitive and social mechanisms. More specifically, it was hypothesized that the green (a) word order is the basic word order on which language users fall back in circumstances of heavy processing demands, whereas red (b) word order is considered a socio-stylistic option that can be chosen in circumstances where processing is (relatively) easy. More information about Gert's PhD research can be found on his personal website (see the link above).

Since 2003, Gert is also involved in a larger research programme that aims at (i) detecting the principal parameters of substandard Belgian Dutch (so-called tussentaal) and (ii) defining its relation to the standard variety. To that end, a whole range of lexical and non-lexical variables are collected and extracted from the CGN corpus of spoken Dutch. By means of multidimensional scaling and clustering techniques, the stratificational position of substandard Belgian Dutch in comparison to the standard variety is computed in a bottom-up way. Results of this project will be presented in the course of 2006.

Representative publications

The following publications are representative of Gert's research. The rest of his published work can be found in the QLVL publication list.

De Sutter, G., D. Speelman & D. Geeraerts. Submitted. "Detecting and balancing determinants of word order variation in Dutch clause final verb clusters". Linguistics.

De Sutter, G., D. Speelman & D. Geeraerts. 2005. "Regionale en stilistische effecten op de woordvolgorde in werkwoordelijke eindgroepen". Nederlandse taalkunde 10(2), 97-128.

De Sutter, G., D. Speelman, D. Geeraerts & S. Grondelaers. 2003. "Woordvolgordevariatie in tweeledige werkwoordelijke eindgroepen. Naar een statistische evaluatie van zes factoren". In T. Koole, J. Nortier & B. Tahitu (eds.), Artikelen van de vierde sociolingu´stische conferentie 111-121. Delft: Eburon.