Alexandra Simonenko

I am interested in the principles of the interactions between morphosyntax, semantics, and pragmatics, focusing on the properties of natural language elements responsible for relating the morphosyntactic and semantic components to the context, such as determiners (demonstrative, definite, specific, possessive), null subjects, verbal agreement, and wh-words.

I investigate the semantics and morphosyntax of the DP in a number of Finno-Ugric languages spoken in Russia (Berserman Udmurt, Khanty, Komi, Meadow Mari, Mordvin Komi), with a special focus on the so called possessive suffixes. A systematic comparative study of the left periphery of the DP in these languages is part of my FWO Postdoctoral Fellowship with Liliane Haegeman at Ghent University. I am also part of a project aimed at creating a parsed corpus of Meadow Mari.

During my Postdoctoral Fellowship at Labex EFL in Paris (2014–2016), in collaboration with Sophie Prévost (Lattice) and Benoit Crabbé (LLF/Paris Diderot) I began exploring how morphosyntactic features such as verbal person/number agreement and case interact with syntactic phenomena such as pronominal subject expression and word order in the diachronic perspective. In particular, I have been looking at ways to make quantitative corpus data bear on possible models of the relation between verbal subject agreement and pro-drop in Medieval French, as well as that between morphological case endings and word order. Some of our results can be found here, here and here.

I am collaborating with Anne Carlier on a formal semantic model of the development of French definite articles using corpus methods. Here are some preliminary results.

My dissertation “Grammatical Ingredients of Definiteness” (McGill University, 2014) investigates the components responsible for direct referentiality and domain restriction in definites in Germanic languages and their role in explaining surface patterns of definite DP islands and article omission.

I keep exploring the intricacies of wh-islands and a more general theory of pathological triviality together with Bernhard Schwarz. Here is a draft of our paper under review.

Selected publications

(Please see my CV for the full list and e-mail me if something is not available for download.)


  • Alexandra Simonenko, Benoît Crabbé and Sophie Prévost. Null subject loss and subject agreement syncretisation: quantificational models for Medieval French. Accepted in Language Variation and Change. Download pre-print.


  • Towards a semantic typology of specific determiners. Proceedings of the 21th Amsterdam Colloquium. Dowload pre-print.


  • Bernhard Schwarz and Alexandra Simonenko. Two pragmatic accounts of factive islands. Proceedings of the 46th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 46), ed. Christopher Hammerly & Brandon Prickett, volume 3, 169–179.
  • Semantics of DP islands: The case of questions. Journal of Semantics 33(4).


  • Structural triggers of the loss of scopelessness In Proceedings of the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 32), ed. Ulrike Steindl, Thomas Borer, Huilin Fang, Alfredo García Pardo, Peter Guekguezian, Brian Hsu, Charlie O'Hara, and Iris Chuoying Ouyang, 191–200. Download.


  • Semantics of DP islands. In Proceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 44), ed. Jyoti Iyer and Leland Kusmer, volume 2, 131–143. Download pre-print. (Mostly superseded by Simonenko 2015)
  • Microvariation in Finno-Ugric possessive markers. In Proceedings of the 43rd annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 43), ed. Hsin-Lun Huang, Ethan Poole and Amanda Rysling, volume 2, 127–140. Download pre-print


  • When uniqueness is guaranteed: DEN-omission in Swedish. In Proceedings of the 42nd annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 42), ed. Stefan Keine and Shayne Slogget, volume 2, 177–188.


  • Alexandra Simonenko et Paul Hirschbühler. Placement de clitiques dans les propositions V1 et évolution de la structure de la proposition en ancien français. Constructions en changement. Collection: Les voies du français, éd. Monique Dufresne, 11–53. Presses de l'université Laval: Sainte-Foye.
  • Alexandra Simonenko and Alexei Leontiev. Morfo-syntax imennoi gruppy v Finno-Ugorskih yazykah (Morphosyntax of the Noun Phrase in Finno-Ugric languages). Finno-ugorskie jazyki. Fragmenty grammaticheskogo opisaniia (Essays on the grammar of Finno-Ugric languages), ed. Serdobolskaya, N. V., Toldova, C. Y., Say, S. S., and E. Y. Kalinina, 262–339. Moscow: Languages of Slavic Cultures.
  • Clitic-hood as a phonological correlate of phase-head status. In Proceedings of the 30th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, ed. Nathan Arnett and Ryan Bennett, 313–323. Download


  • Disappearance of Old French juxtaposition genitive and case: a corpus study. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association (CLA), ed. Melinda Heijl. Download