Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics

Photographer: Foto: Jeroen Oerlemans

prof. dr. E.O. (Enoch) Aboh

  • Faculty of Humanities
    Capaciteitsgroep Taalwetenschap
  • Visiting address
    P.C. Hoofthuis
    Spuistraat 134  Room number: 647
  • Postal address:
    Spuistraat  134
    1012 VB  Amsterdam
  • E.O.Aboh@uva.nl
    T: 0205253875


Learnability of Human Language with a special focus on theoretical syntax; comparative syntax (e.g., Kwa vs. Germanic/Romance, Kwa vs. Sinitic, Kwa vs. Caribbean creoles); discourse-syntax interface; language creation and language change.



2014-2018: Argument structure in three sign languages: typological and theoretical. (NWO funded project € 722835); Co-applicant with dr. Roland Pfau (PI):

Sign language typology is a young research field with two related goals. First, sign languages (SLs) are compared to spoken languages with respect to certain grammatical features to scrutinize which typological distinctions are valid across modalities and to determine whether theoretical accounts that are based on spoken language data can be applied to SLs. Second, SLs are compared to each other to further investigate whether they differ along similar lines as spoken languages do. In this project, both types of typological comparison are applied to the area of argument structure (AS).

2008-2012: Functional categories in analytic languages. ( NWO funded project € 600000); Co-applicant with U. Ansaldo,  L.L.S. Cheng, and R.P.E. Sybesma (PI). 

Languages differ with respect to which functional categories they overtly realize. Whereas some overtly realize case, others overtly realize the initiation node in the verb phrase (also known as “little v”). This project aims at investigating which functional categories are overtly realized in so-called “analytic” languages and to find out whether they form a natural class. To this end we will study two language groups, which are both supposedly analytic, but which are geographically and genetically wide apart from one another, Sinitic (East Asia) and Kwa (West Africa). The results will be relevant for general theorizing on (i) language types; (ii) the nature of functional categories; (iii) the distribution of functional categories; and (iv) the question whether the verbal and nominal domains are as parallel in structure as is often assumed.

2003-2010: The typology of focus and topic: A new approach to the discourse-syntax interface. (NWO Vidi Grant € 600 000); Principal investigator

The aim of this project is to investigate the nature of the interface between discourse pragmatics and syntax. In other words, we propose to study how focus and topic interact with clause structure and how syntactic rules driving clause structure and discourse/pragmatic properties interact. Using descriptive tools from the generative framework, the innovative contribution of this research is to analyze syntactic properties in relation to their discourse function in order to shed more light on the discourse-syntax interface and, therefore, provide a better characterization of how information structure may affect syntax

African Linguistics School (ALS)

The ALS is unique in Africa in terms of its objectives and teaching methodology. The aim of the ALS is to expose African students to new advances in Linguistics and help them conduct further research on African languages thus contributing to the world knowledge of human language. The languages of Africa have long been a source of important theoretical and empirical discoveries across linguistics. However,  the insights to be gained about language from the investigation of African languages have been limited by the comparatively small number of African scholars who are participating in the formulation of linguistic theory and language description. To remedy to this situation, the ALS brings together about 80 students, the majority of whom come from within the continent of Africa, and about 18 prominent international scholars who teach pro bono for two weeks. The school takes place every two years in a different African country. In terms of organization, the school takes care of food, transportation, and accommodation for all participants such that no student admitted could miss the school due to local financial restrictions. This way, the school seeks to bolster the field of linguistics in Africa by supporting existing programs on the continent and by allowing collaborative and multidisciplinary work between students of different countries as well as between students and faculty from international Universities.

Check the following link for more information: http://sites.google.com/site/africanlingschool/


  • Aboh, E. O. (2017). Complexity in human languages: A multifaceted approach. Language Sciences, 60(special issue), 1-198. [13].
  • Aboh, E. O. (2017). Linguistic complexity: interfaces and processing. Language Sciences, 60(Special issue), 1-10.
  • Aboh, E. O. (2017). Population factors, multilingualism and the emergence of grammar. In C. Cutler, Z. Vrzić , & P. Angermeyer (Eds.), Language Contact in Africa and the African Diaspora in the Americas: In honor of John V. Singler (pp. 23 to 48). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Aboh, E. O. (2017). The emergence of hybrid grammars: A rejoinder to Peter Bakker. WORD, 63(3), 207-222. [3].
  • Aboh, E. O., & DeGraff, M. (2017). A Null Theory of Creole Formation Based on Universal Grammar. In I. Roberts (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Universal Grammar (pp. 401–458). (Oxford handbooks in linguistics ). Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199573776.013.18  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., & Westveer, T. J. T. (2017). On reflexives with an object in French, German, and Gungbe. In E. Aboh, E. Haeberli, G. Puskás, & M. Schönenberger (Eds.), Elements of Comparative Syntax: Theory and Description (pp. 259-282). (Studies in Generative Grammar; Vol. 127). De Gruyter Mouton.



  • Aboh, E. O. (2015). The Emergence of Hybrid Grammars: language contact and change. (Cambridge approaches to language contact). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139024167  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2015). Functional verbs in Gungbe: The case of inherent complement verbs. Linguística: revista de estudos linguísticos da Universidade do Porto, 10, 9-29. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. (2015). The Left Periphery in the Surinamese Creoles and Gbe: On the Modularity of Substrate Transfer. In P. Muysken, & N. Smith (Eds.), Surviving the Middle Passage: the West Africa-Surinam Sprachbund. (pp. 323-368). (Trends in linguistics. Studies and monographs; No. 275). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI: 10.1515/9783110343977.323  [details] 
  • Aboh, E., & Smith, N. (2015). Migrations, ethnodynamics and geolinguistics in the Eastern Aja-Tado cultural area. In P. Muysken, & N. Smith (Eds.), Surviving the Middle Passage: the West Africa-Surinam Sprachbund. (pp. 43-66). (Trends in linguistics. Studies and monographs; No. 275). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI: 10.1515/9783110343977.43  [details] 
  • Aboh, E., & Smith, N. (2015). Non-iconic reduplications in Eastern Gbe and Surinam. In P. Muysken, & N. Smith (Eds.), Surviving the Middle Passage: the West Africa-Surinam Sprachbund. (pp. 241-260). (Trends in linguistics. Studies and monographs; No. 275). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI: 10.1515/9783110343977.241  [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O., & DeGraff, M. (2014). Some notes on bare nouns in Haitian creole and in Gungbe: a transatlantic Sprachbund perspective. In T. A. Åfalí, & B. Mæhlum (Eds.), The sociolinguistics of grammar (pp. 203-236). (Studies in language companion series; No. 154). Amsterdam: Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/slcs.154.11abo  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., Guasti, M. T., & Roberts, I. (2014). Locality: an introduction. In E. O. Aboh, M. T. Guasti, & I. Roberts (Eds.), Locality. (pp. 1-31). (Oxford studies in comparative syntax). Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199945269.003.0001  [details] 



  • Aboh, E. O., & Pfau, R. (2011). What’s a wh-word got to do with it? In P. Benincà, & N. Munaro (Eds.), Mapping the left periphery (pp. 91-124). (The cartography of syntactic structures; No. 5). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2010). C-type negation markers on the right edge. In E. O. Aboh, & J. Essegbey (Eds.), Topics in Kwa syntax (pp. 109-139). (Studies in natural language and linguistic theory; No. 78). Dordrecht: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-3189-1_6  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2010). Event operator movement in factives: some facts from Gungbe. Theoretical Linguistics, 36(2-3), 153-162. DOI: 10.1515/THLI.2010.009  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2010). The P route. In G. Cinque, & L. Rizzi (Eds.), Mapping spatial PPs (pp. 225-260). (The cartography of syntactic structures; No. 6). New York: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393675.003.0007  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2010). The morphosyntax of the noun phrase. In E. O. Aboh, & J. Essegbey (Eds.), Topics in Kwa syntax (pp. 11-37). (Studies in natural language and linguistic theory; No. 78). Dordrecht: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-3189-1_2  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., & Essegbey, J. (2010). General properties of the clause. In E. O. Aboh, & J. Essegbey (Eds.), Topics in Kwa syntax (pp. 39-64). (Studies in natural language and linguistic theory; No. 78). Dordrecht: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-3189-1_3  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., & Essegbey, J. (2010). The phonology syntax interface. In E. O. Aboh, & J. Essegbey (Eds.), Topics in Kwa syntax (pp. 1-9). (Studies in natural language and linguistic theory; No. 78). Dordrecht: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-3189-1_1  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., Corver, N., Dyakonova, M., & van Koppen, M. (2010). DP-internal information structure: some introductory remarks. Lingua, 120(4), 782-801. DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2009.02.010  [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2009). Clause structure and verb series. Linguistic Inquiry, 40(1), 1-33. DOI: 10.1162/ling.2009.40.1.1  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2009). Competition and selection: that’s all! In E. O. Aboh, & N. Smith (Eds.), Complex processes in new languages (pp. 317-344). (Creole language library; No. 35). Amsterdam: Benjamins. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2009). Delete: a phase-level property. Theoretical Linguistics, 35(2/3), 229-237. DOI: 10.1515/THLI.2009.012  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., & Dyakonova, M. (2009). Predicate doubling and parallel chains. Lingua, 119(7), 1035-1065. DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2008.11.004  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., & Smith, N. (2009). Simplicity, simplification, complexity and complexification: where have the interfaces gone? In E. O. Aboh, & N. Smith (Eds.), Complex processes in new languages (pp. 1-25). (Creole language library; No. 35). Amsterdam: Benjamins. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O., & Nauze, F. (2008). Tense, mood, and aspects in Gungbe (Kwa)? Typological studies in language, 79, 215-239. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2007). A 'mini' relative clause analysis for reduplicated attributive adjectives. Linguistics in the Netherlands, 24, 1-13. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2007). La genèse de la périphérie gauche du saramaka: un cas d'influence du substrat? In K. Gadelii, & A. Zribi-Hertz (Eds.), Grammaires creoles et grammaire comparative. (pp. 73-97). Presses Universitaires de Vincennes. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2007). Leftward Focus versus Rightword Focus: the Kwa-Bantu Conspiracy. SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics, 15, 81-104. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., & Ansaldo, U. (2007). The role of typology in language creation: A descriptive take. In U. Ansaldo, S. Matthews, & L. Lim (Eds.), Deconstructing creole. (pp. 39-66). (Typological Studies in Language; No. 73). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2006). Complementiation in Saramaccan and Gungbe: the case of c-type modal particles. Natural language and linguistic theory, 24(1), 1-55. DOI: 10.1007/s11049-005-1815-4  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2006). The role of the syntax-semantics interface in language transfer. In C. Lefebvre, L. White, & C. Jourdan (Eds.), L2 Acquisition and Creole Genesis: Dialogues. (pp. 221-252). Amsterdam: Benjamins. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O. (2006). When verbal predicates go fronting. ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 46, 21-48. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2016). Grammaticalization: A population factor. In A. Bannink, & W. Honselaar (Eds.), From variation to iconicity: festschrift for Olga Fischer on the occasion of her 65th birthday (pp. 1-12). Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Pegasus.


  • Aboh, E. O., Smith, N. S. H., & Veenstra, T. (2013). Saramaccan. In S. Michaelis, P. Maurer, M. Haspelmath, & M. Huber (Eds.), The survey of pidgin and creole languages. - Vol. 1: English-based and Dutch-based languages. (pp. 27-38). Oxford University Press. [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., Veenstra, T., & Smith, N. S. H. (2013). Saramaccan structure dataset. In S. M. Michaelis, P. Maurer, M. Haspelmath, & M. Huber (Eds.), Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures Online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O., & Smith, N. (2012). The morphosyntax of non-iconic reduplications: A case study in Eastern Gbe and the Surinam creoles. In E. O. Aboh, N. Smith, & A. Zribi-Herz (Eds.), The morphosyntax of reiteration in creole and non-creole languages. (pp. 27-76). (Creole language library; No. 43). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/cll.43.02abo  [details] 
  • Aboh, E. O., Smith, N., & Zribi-Hertz, A. (2012). Reduplication beyond the word level: A cross-linguistic view. In E. O. Aboh, N. Smith, & A. Zribi-Hertz (Eds.), The morphosyntax of reiteration in creole and non-creole languages. (pp. 1-26). (Creole language library; No. 43). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/cll.43.01abo  [details] 
  • Pfau, R., & Aboh, E. O. (2012). On the syntax of spatial adpositions in sign languages. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 65, 83-104. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O., Bruyn, A., Essegbey, J., Kouwenberg, S., Meade, R. R., Muysken, P., ... Veenstra, T. (2011). A tribute to Norval Smith. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 26(2), 235-246. DOI: 10.1075/jpcl.26.2.01abo  [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2009). [Review of: C. Lefebvre, A.M. Brousseau (2002) A grammar of Fongbe]. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, 30(1), 97-104. DOI: 10.1515/JALL.2009.006  [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O. (2006). Countries and languages - Africa (including Atlantic Ocean, India). Benin: Language Situation. In K. Brown (Ed.), Contributions to the thirtieth Incontro di Grammatica Generativa. (Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd Ed.). Oxford: Elsevier. [details] 


  • Aboh, E. O., Boers-Visker, E. M., van den Bogaerde, E. M., Kimmelman, V., Klomp, U., de Lint, V., ... Pfau, R. (2017). Research group Sign Language Grammar & Typology. Poster session presented at Second Amsterdam SMART Cognitive Science Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


  • Bobyleva, E., & Aboh, E. O. (2011). [Review of: M. Baptista, J. Guéron (2007) Noun phrases in Creole languages: a multi-faceted approach]. Language, 87(1), 172-178. DOI: 10.1353/lan.2011.0001  [details] 


Scientific position

  • Aboh, Enoch (2016-2021): Member of the Comité National, Section 34, CNRS Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Talk / presentation

  • Kimmelman, V. (speaker), Pfau, Roland (speaker) & Aboh, E.O. (speaker) (1-9-2016): Word-internal coordination in handling classifier predicates, Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign Language Theory, Venice, Italy.
  • Westveer, Thom (speaker) & Aboh, E.O. (speaker) (6-2-2016): On reflexives with an additional direct object in French and German, TIN dag, Utrecht, Netherlands.


  • Aboh, Enoch (organiser) & Haegeman, Liliane (participant) (19-10-2016 - 20-10-2016): A probe into the multilingual mind: How languages evolve (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
  • Aboh, Enoch (organiser) (17-7-2016 - 30-7-2016): African Linguistics School (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
  • Aboh, Enoch (organiser) & Haegeman, Liliane (organiser) (9-4-2014 - 12-4-2014): The Emergence of Grammar in a Multilingual Context (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
  • Aboh, Enoch (organiser) (15-7-2013 - 26-7-2013): African Linguistics School (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
  • Aboh, Enoch (organiser) (17-7-2011 - 29-7-2011): African Linguistics School, Porto-Novo, Benin (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
  • Aboh, Enoch (organiser) (27-7-2009 - 7-8-2009): African Linguistics School (organising a conference, workshop, ...).
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