Prof. Dr. Wiltrud Mihatsch

Research interests and projects


The interaction of cognitive, communicative, semantic and morphosyntactic aspects in linguistic change is at the heart of my research interests. My theoretical focus is on functionalist approaches, in particular those developed in grammaticalization research and linguistic typology – and the tradition of Romance linguistic research combining the synchronic, diachronic and Romance-comparative perspective.

I am currently interested in weakly grammaticalized and pragmaticalized expressions and the transition zones between lexicon and grammar, in particular two research areas:


1) Linguistic expressions of approximation and mitigation

  • The evolution of semantic approximators in Romance Languages, specifically French comme, genre, espèce de, Italian come, specie di, tipo, Portuguese como, espécie de, tipo, Spanish como, especie de, tipo).
  • The bridges between approximation and pragmatic mitigation and intensification and the related processes of pragmaticalization. While approximation markers such as approximately, a kind of, a sort of are truth-functional, in many contexts they lead to pragmatic effects, notably illocutionary mitigation, which can then get entrenched (the best-known case is English like). Overall, many approximating expressions are the starting point of a whole series of pragmatic functions such as focus marking, quotatives, hesitation markers and structuring devices.
  • The evolution of postdeterminers out of binominal constructions. Not only Romance taxonomic nouns such as French sorte, type, genre generate very diverse, often expressive, functions beside approximation, these can be negators, universal quantifiers, free choice items and identifying postdeterminers, some of which show signs of grammaticalization.

In this research area I have closely cooperated with Miriam Voghera (Salerno) and Marta Albelda and Antonio Briz (Valencia). I am a member of the project Es.Var.Atenuación “Pragmatic attenuation and its genre variation: written and oral discursive genres in European and Latin American Spanish” ( in Valencia.


2) Nouns and noun phrases

One important research focus in the nominal domain is the analysis of „human nouns“, which show a series of semantic, pragmatic and morphosyntactic peculiarities, which distinguish them from other concrete nouns. These hitherto scarcely investigated peculiarities are at the centre of the research network Nhuma : linguistique des noms d’humains in cooperation with Catherine Schnedecker (Strasbourg), which evolved from the DAAD/EGIDE-project „Les noms d’entités humaines entre lexique et grammaire” 2011 and 2012. Current members are, beside PhD-students and advanced master students, Angelina Aleksandrova (Paris-Descartes), Fabienne Baider (Cyprus), Delphine Bernhard (Strasbourg), Paul Cappeau (Poitiers), Nelly Flaux (Arras), Laurent Gosselin (Rouen), Véronique Lagae (Valenciennes), Stéphanie Lignon (Lorraine), Jean-Paul Meyer (Strasbourg), Vassil Mostrov (Valenciennes), Fiammetta Namer (Lorraine), Dejan Stosic (Toulouse), Amalia Todirascu (Strasbourg) and Eduardo Amaral (Belo Horizonte).

  • My own research within this network focuses on Romance nouns on a high generalization level such as man, person, people, which are situated between lexicon and grammar and tend to get (partially) pronominalized. This research area is also at the heart of my cooperation with the UFMG Belo Horizonte, in particular Eduardo Amaral.
  • Within our project C7: Verbal and Nominal Aspectuality between Lexicon and Grammar ( of the SFB 833 (co-directed by Sarah Dessì Schmid and myself) I currently investigate the interaction of nominal semantics and morphosyntax in the domain of number marking. My focus is on the comparative and diachronic analysis of so-called object mass nouns (clothing, clothes, furniture) in Romance languages and Creoles, nouns which are at the intersection of mass nouns and individual count nouns.