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Saskia van Putten


Erasmusplein 1
6525 HT Nijmegen
Room: E 4.29

Saskia van Putten works on the interface between grammar, meaning and culture. She is currently part of the project Language as key to perceptual diversity, funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (PIs Asifa Majid and Niclas Burenhult). Her research centers around the language of sensory perception and the ways people talk about landscape. Her main language of investigation is Avatime, a Kwa (Niger-Congo) language spoken by about 15,000 people in Ghana.

Saskia completed her PhD in 2014 at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. The topic of her PhD was information structure in Avatime, with a special focus on how people use information structuring devices in discourse. Before that, she studied Linguistics and African languages and cultures in Leiden.

Peer-reviewed articles

  • Van Putten, Saskia (in press). Motion in serializing languages revisited: the case of Avatime. STUF – Language Typology and Universals. Full text (pdf)
  • Van Putten, Saskia (2016). Discourse functions of focus marking in Avatime. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 37(1), 91–130. Link to source | Full text (pdf)
  • Matić, Dejan, Saskia van Putten & Jeremy Hammond (2016). Integrated and non-integrated left dislocation: A comparative study of LD in Avatime, Tundra Yukaghir and Whitesands. In J. Fleischhauer, A. Latrouite & R. Osswald (eds.), Explorations of the Syntax-Semantics Interface. Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf University Press, 343-371.
  • San Roque, Lila, Kobin Kendrick, Elisabeth Norcliffe, Penelope Brown, Rebecca Defina, Mark Dingemanse, Tyko Dirksmeyer, N. J. Enfield, Simeon Floyd, Jeremy Hammond, Giovanni Rossi, Sylvia Tufvesson, Saskia van Putten & Asifa Majid (2015). Vision verbs dominate in conversation across cultures, but the ranking of non-visual verbs varies. Cognitive Linguistics 26(1), 31-60. Link to source | Full text (pdf)
  • Van Putten, Saskia (2014). Left-dislocation and subordination in Avatime (Kwa). In: R. van Gijn, D. Matić, J. Hammond, S. van Putten and A. V. Galucio (eds.). Information Structure and Reference Tracking in Complex Sentences, 71-98. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Van Putten, Saskia (2013). The meaning of the Avatime additive particle tsye. Interdisciplinary Studies on Information Structure 17, 55-74. Link to source


  • Putten, S. van, San Roque, L. & Majid, A. (2016). Taal en de zintuigen. MeerTaal, 4 (1), 10-13. Full text (pdf) | Supplementary materials
  • Van Putten, Saskia (2014). Information structure in Avatime. Radboud University Nijmegen PhD thesis. Full text (pdf)
  • Van Gijn, Rik, Jeremy Hammond, Dejan Matić, Saskia van Putten and Ana Vilacy Galucio (eds.) (2014). Information Structure and Reference Tracking in Complex Sentences. Amsterdam: Benjamins.


  • The Avatime quotative: syntactic properties, functions and development. De Grote Taaldag, Utrecht University, Netherlands.
  • Touch, taste, smell and the Avatime verb nu. CogLing 7, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands.


  • INVITED Complex sentences in Avatime and the coordination-subordination distinction. African Linguistics Colloquium, Humboldt University, Berlin2014.
  • The additive particle, alternatives and contrast: the case of Avatime. 48th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), Leiden, The Netherlands.


  • INVITED The meaning of contrastive and additive particles in Avatime. Experimental Linguistics Talks Utrecht, Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
  • Focus in Avatime. The 44th Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics (CALL). Leiden, The Netherlands.


  • The meaning of the Avatime additive particle: Similarity, topic shift and set membership. Poster presented at the 5th Biennial Conference of Experimental Pragmatics (XPRAG 2013), Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  • Functions of focus marking in Avatime. Linguistics Association of Ghana Annual Conference. Cape Coast, Ghana.
  • The use of focus marking in Avatime. Workshop on Information Structure in Spoken Language Corpora (ISSLaC). Bielefeld, Germany.


  • Focus-marking in Avatime. The World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL) 7. University of Buea, Cameroon.
  • Left-dislocation and syntactic integration in Avatime. The 5th Syntax of the World’s Languages Conference (SWL). Dubrovnik, Croatia.


  • Contrastive topic marking in Avatime. Workshop on Information Structure: Empirical Perspectives on Theory. University of Potsdam, Germany.
  • Left dislocation and subordination in Avatime. Workshop on Information Structure and Subordination, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
  • Marked topics and contrast in Avatime. The 41st Colloquium on African Languages and Linguistics (CALL). Leiden, The Netherlands.
  • The left-detached position in Avatime. The International Conference on Role and Reference Grammar. Santiago de Chile, Chile.
  • A focus particle without focus? The case of the additive particle in Avatime (Kwa). TIN-dag, Utrecht, the Netherlands.


  • Marked topics in Avatime. Workshop on the Ghana-Togo-Mountain Languages, Winneba, Ghana.
  • Talking about motion in Avatime. The 2nd Leipzig Students’ Conference in Linguistics (LESCOL). Leipzig, Germany.


2009-2014 PhD in Linguistics (cum laude), Radboud University Nijmegen
Thesis: Information structure in Avatime
Supervisors: Robert D. Van Valin, Jr., Dejan Matić, Felix Ameka and Nick Enfield
2007-2009 Research MA in Linguistics (cum laude), Leiden University
2003-2007 BA in Languages and Cultures of Africa, Leiden University

Research experience

2016-present Postdoctoral researcher
Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen
Project: Language as key to perceptual diversity
(PIs Niclas Burenhult and Asifa Majid)
2015 Visiting researcher (4 months)
Department of African Studies, Humboldt University Berlin
Project: Predicate-centered focus types: a sample-based typological study in African languages (PI Tom Güldemann)
2009-2014 PhD research, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen
Syntax, typology and information structure group
(PI Robert D. Van Valin, Jr.)
2006-2009 Editorial Assistant for the Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Leiden

Teaching experience

2015 Ghent University
BA course Structures of an African language: Avatime
2015 Utrecht University, tutorial for the BA course Sociolinguistics
2014-2015 Leiden University, MA course Field Methods
2012-2014 Radboud University, guest lectures in the courses Language, Society and Multilingualism in Africa and the Carribean  and Language Universals and Diversity, Radboud University Nijmegen
2011-2012 Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf
BA/MA course Multilingualism in Africa

Organisational experience

2015 Co-organiser of the workshop Additives Across Languages at the 48th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE)
in Leiden
2014 Co-organiser of the workshop Information Structure in Head Marking Languages, MPI for Psycholinguistics
2012 Co-organiser of the workshop Categories of Information Structure across Languages, MPI for Psycholinguistics
2010-2012 Co-organiser of the biweekly lunch time talks at the MPI for Psycholinguistics
2011 Co-organiser of the workshop Information Structure and Subordination: South America and beyond,
MPI for Psycholinguistics


2014 PhD received with cum-laude distinction
2008 Co-recipient of Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) Field Trip Grant


Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Journal of Pragmatics, Open Linguistics, Studies in African Linguistics, the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme


2008-present Fieldwork on Avatime, Ghana
Total of 12 months spent in the field
2006 Fieldwork on Ewe, Ghana
2 months

Specific Skills

Computer Python, SPSS, LaTeX, Praat, ELAN, Toolbox, FLEx, Arbil
Languages Dutch (native), English (fluent), German (good), French (intermediate), Avatime (intermediate)


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