I am on a leave of absence from UBC. I have taken up a research position with ICREA at UPF. If you need to get in touch with me, please contact me at martina.wiltschko@icrea.cat.


Educational Background:

Phd, MA University of Vienna

Dissertation: ID’s in Syntax and Discourse. An analysis of Extraposition in German. (Supervisors: Edwin Williams, Wolfgang U. Dressler)


In my graduate education at the University of Vienna, I was trained in theoretical linguistics with an emphasis on syntactic theory as well as interface-issues (syntax-morphology, syntax-semantics, and syntax-pragmatics). At this time my primary language focus was on Germanic. After completing my graduate work I came to the University of British Columbia in 1996 as a postdoctoral researcher and later as a faculty member. Here I expanded my language specialization to include Upriver Halkomelem (Salish) and Blackfoot (Algonquian) and Ktunaxa (aka Kutenai). This meant breaking into research areas that were completely new to me: I had never done linguistic fieldwork and I had never worked on a non-Indo-European language. These areas, and more recently also the study of Ktunaxa, are the ones that still define my research and teaching agenda. With this background, I have started to work on German again. But now I focus exclusively on my own dialect (Upper Austrian). With this work I am actively contributing to one of our department’s core strength: the integration of linguistic fieldwork and theoretical linguistics.

After developing a framework for the discovery and comparison of functional categories (“The universal spine hypothesis”) reported on in my 2014 monograph, I branched out to discover and compare categories that are typically neglected in grammatical analyses, namely sentence peripheral particles (such as Canadian eh) and its kin. I am currently working on a monograph, in which I extend the spine to include a complex layer dedicated to regulate the grammar of interactive language (working title: Interactional Structure. Towards a formal typology of discourse markers).

Personal background

When I’m not thinking about linguistics, I hang out with my son or my dog (Yoshi) or I practice martial arts.  I received my third degree black belt (rank of “Senpai”) in March 2014 and I’m currently training for my next exam to achieve the next rank.

Courses Currently Teaching

Winter 2020

LING449 Honours Essay Sections

Winter 2020

LING452 Acquisition of Syntax Sections

Central issues in the first language acquisition of syntax, including early lexical and semantic development, acquisition of morphology, and syntactic development (e.g., word order, questions).

Please see this .pdf file for a complete list of publications to April 2018.

[I’m in the process of updating this site. If you wish to receive any of the papers listed below, please feel free to contact me!]


Wiltschko, M. 2014.  The universal structure of categories. Towards a formal typology. Cambridge University Press.


Wiltschko, M. (in press) Discovering syntactic variation. In: Hornstein, N., Lasnik, H.,  Patel-Grosz, P., Yang, Ch.Syntactic Structures after 60 Years. The Impact of the Chomskyan Revolution in Linguistics Series: Studies in Generative Grammar [SGG] 129

Bliss, H., E. Ritter, & M. Wiltschko (to appear). Inverse marking and person hierarchies. In: Mathieu, Siddiqi, (eds. ) Routlege handbook of NorthAmerican Languages.

Sichel, Ivy & M. Wiltschko. 2018. Demonstrative Pronouns and the Linguistic Encoding of Appraisal. In:  G. Bennett, Lindsay Hracs, and Dennis Ryan Storoshenko (eds.) Proceedings of the 35th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA 365-373  http://www.lingref.com/cpp/wccfl/35/paper3409.pdf

Kim, K., Ritter, E., Wiltschko, M., & Rullmann, H. 2017. 2 + 2 = 3: Number contrasts in Blackfoot. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics2(1), 96. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.289

Wiltschko, M. 2017. Beyond English Sentences. Theoretical Linguistics 43 (3-4) 271-283.

Wiltschko, M. 2017 Response particles beyond answering. In: Bailey, L. and M. Sheehan (eds.) Word Order and Syntacic Structure. Language Science Press. 241-280.

Wiltschko, M. 2017. Response markers as a window into linguistic modularity  Sonderdruck aus: Wiener Linguistische Gazette (WLG) ( ): – Themenheft – – . Festschrift für Martin Prinzhorn  Hg. v. Clemens Mayr und Edwin Williams

Wiltschko, M. 2017. Ergative constellations in the structure of speech acts.  Coon, Jessica; Diane Massam & Lisa Travis (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of ergativity. New York: Oxford University Press. 419-446.

Déchaine, R.-M. & M. Wiltschko 2017. The heterogeneity of reflexives Studia Linguistica 71 (1-2): 60–106

Déchaine, R.-M. & M. Wiltschko 2017. Bound variable anaphora. In: Henk van Riemsdijk & Martin Everett (eds.) The Wiley Blackwell Companion of Syntax, 2nd edition 1–33. DOI: 10.1002/9781118358733.wbsyncom099

Yang, Merlin & M. Wiltschko. 2016 The confirmational marker ha in Northern Mandarin. Journal of Pragmatics 104: 67-82

Heim, H. H. Keupdjio, Zoe Wai-Man Lam, A. Osa-Gómez, S. Thoma and M. Wiltschko. 2016 Intonation and Particles as Speech Act Modifiers: A Syntactic Analysis. Studies in Chinese Linguistics 37.2

Ritter, E. & M. Wiltschko. 2016. Humanness as an alternative to case licensing. Proceedings of the Canadian Linguistic Association.



Wiltschko & E. Ritter. 2015. ‘Animating the narrow syntax’. The Linguistic Review. 32.4: 869–908.

Wiltschko, M. 2016. The essence of a category. Lessons from the subjunctives. J. Blaszak, A. Giannakidou, Dorota Klimek and Krysztof  Migdalski (eds.) Mood, Aspect, Modality revisited. New answers to old questions. University of Chicago Press. 218-254.

Wiltschko, Martina & Johannes Heim. 2016 The syntax of confirmationals. A neo-performative analysis. In: Gunther Kaltenböck, Evelien Keizer and Arne Lohmann (eds.) Outside the Clause. Form and function of extra-clausal constituent. John Benjamins. 303-340.

Déchaine, R.M, C. Mudzingwa, M.Wiltschko & R. Girard. 2014. ‘The internal syntax of Shona Noun Class Prefixes.’ Language sciences  43: 18-46 (special issue on “Exploring grammatical gender”),

Ritter, Elizabeth & Wiltschko, M. The composition of INFL. An exploration of tense, tenseless languages, and tenseless constructions to appear in NLLT

Déchaine, Rose-Marie & Wiltschko, M. Micro-variation in Agreement, Clause-typing and Finiteness:Comparative Evidence from Blackfoot and Plains Cree To appear in the Proceedings of the 42nd Algonquian Conference.

Bliss, Heather; Elizabeth Ritter & M.Wiltschko A Comparative Analysis of Theme Marking in Blackfoot and Nishnaabemwin To appear in the Proceedings of the 42nd Algonquian Conference.

Wiltschko, M. Descriptive Relative Clauses in Austro Bavarian German to appear in Canadian Journal of Linguistics

Déchaine, Rose-Marie & Wiltschko M. When and why can 1st and 2nd person pronouns be bound variables?. ms. UBC

Wiltschko, M. 2012. The anatomy of universal categories. Developing discovery procedures. In: Keine, S. & S Sloggett (eds.) Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, Volume 1. Held at University of Toronto. 257-276.

Christodoulou, Christiana & Wiltschko, M. 2012 Function without content: Evidence from Greek Subjunctive na. In: di Sciullio, A.-M. (ed.) Towards a Biolinguistic Understanding of Grammar : Essays on Interfaces’. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 117-140

Wiltschko, M. 2012. Decomposing the Mass/Count Distinction. Evidence from languages that lack it. In: Massam, D. (ed.) Count and Mass across languages. Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics. Oxford University Press. 120-146.

Wiltschko, M. in press Discovery Procedures for functional categories A case study of Salish articles Proceedings of WSCLA 2008.

Wiltschko, M. in press. How do languages classify their nouns? Cross-linguistic variation in the manifestation of the mass/count distinction to appear in Proceedings of WSCLA 2009

Wiltschko, M. (2009) ‘What’s in a determiner and how did it get there?’ In: J.Ghomeshi, I. Paul, M. Wiltschko (eds). Determiners: universals and variation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 25-66.

Ritter, E. & Wiltschko, M. (2009) ‘Varieties of INFL: TENSE, LOCATION, and PERSON.’ In: H. Broekhuis., J. Craenenbroeck, H. van Riemsdijk (eds.) Alternatives to Cartography. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter

Wiltschko, M. 2009. ‘√Root incorporation. Evidence from Halkomelem lexical suffixes’ Lingua, 119, 199-223 published online December 21, 2007

Wiltschko, M. (2008) ‘The syntax of non-inflectional plural marking’ Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. 26.3. 639-694

Wiltschko, M. (2008) ‘Person hierarchy effects without a person hierarchy.’In: G. Hrafn Hrafnbjargarson, R. d’Allessandro, & S. Fischer (eds.) Agreement restrictions. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter: 281-314.

O. Steriopolo & M.Wiltschko. 2007. ‘Parameters of variation in the syntax of diminutives’In: Milica Radisic (ed.) Proceedings of the 2007 Canadian Linguistics Association Annual Conference

Elouazizi, N. & M. Wiltschko. 2006. ‘The categorial status of (anti-) (anti-) agreement’ In: D. Baumer, D. Montero, and M. Scanlon (eds.) Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 2006), Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA: 150-158.

Wiltschko, M. 2006. ‘Why should diminutives count?’In: Broekhuis, H., N. Corver, R. Huijbregts, U. Kleinhenz & J. Koster (eds.) Organizing Grammar. Linguistic Studies in Honor of Henk van Riemsdijk. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter: 669-679. [by invitation].

Wiltschko, M. 2006. ‘C-selection is unique’ In: D.Baumer, D.Montero, and M.Scanlon (eds.) Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 2006) Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA: 444-452.

Wiltschko, M. 2006 ‘On Ergative Areement and Anti-Agreement in Halkomelem Salish.’ In: S. Bischoff, L. Butler, P. Norquest, & D. Siddiqi (eds.) Studies in Salishan. Massachussetts Institute of Technology Working Papers on Endangered and Less Familiar Languages 7: 241-273.

Wiltschko, M. 2005. ‘The syntax of precategorial roots’ In: Armoskaite, S. & J. Thompson (eds.) Proceedings of the Tenth Workshop on the Structure and Constituency of the Americas (WSCLA 10). University of British Columbia Working Papers in Linguistics, Volume 17: 245-258.

My current research focuses on the sources and limits of language variation in the realm of grammatical categories. Over the past 15 years I have investigated a variety of catgories, including: pronouns, agreement, tense, number, and negation among others. The core question which drives my research is as follows. Under the assumption that there is a genetic predisposition for our language faculty, the comparison of languages which on the surface appear to differ quite radically becomes an important window into the nature of the human language faculty. Though this type of research brings along a methodological difficulty which my research has revealed: on the one hand some categories which appear to be notionally similar across different languages (such as pronouns, plural marking or negation) turn out to differ significantly in their formal and/or functional properties; conversely some categories which appear to be notionally quite different (such as for example tense and location marking) turn out to be formally and functionally equivalent. Given these findings, it becomes essential to develop discovery procedures for determining the formal and functional identity of a given category in any given language in a way which is not determined by notions developed on the basis of the better studied Indo-European languages. I am currently developing such discovery procedures and apply them to the languages I conduct field-work on. The results of this research are reported in my recent book “The universal structure of categories. Towards a formal typology” published through Cambridge University Press.