How is the past tense in a Spanish novel translated into other languages? And how can similarities and differences be explained? Language researchers at Radboud University investigated this using the Spanish novelAsí empieza lo malo(Thus bad begins) by the recently deceased writer Javier Marías.
The past tense conjugation of Polish verbs indicates whether the 'you' in the sentence is a man or a woman. If it is unclear whether the 'you' is male or female, the masculine form is used by default. An experiment by linguists at the Centre for Language Studies shows for the first time that this 'neutral' form is more difficult for women to process than for men.
‘Jan heeft waarschijnlijk de hond uitgelaten’ or 'Jan heeft de hond waarschijnlijk uitgelaten’ (Jan has probably walked the dog). In Dutch both word orders are fine. Theoretical linguistics experts claim that this variation depends on whether the direct object has already been mentioned in the conversation or whether it is new information. Gert-Jan Schoenmakers investigated this with a series of experiments and found that the distribution is more free than is often claimed. He will defend his thesis on 17 March.
In German and Dutch clauses, the verb comes after the object, as in 'dass er einen Apfel gegessen hat' and ‘dat hij een appel gegeten heeft’. In English, it is the other way round: 'that he has eaten an apple'. Linguist Tara Struik investigated how it is possible that languages which are so related show such a fundamental difference in word order. She will defend her thesis on 3 March.