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Professor of Information Structure in Linguistics

Department of Linguistics,
Division of Psychology & Language Sciences

Faculty of Brain Sciences, UCL

Kriszta Eszter Szendroi


Rm 1.15d, Chandler House, 2 Wakefield Street, WC1N 1PF, London, United Kingdom
k dot szendroi at ucl dot ac dot uk
+44 20 7679 4063, #24063



Together with Lily Kahn, we are leading an AHRC-funded research team to study Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish. We have completed a year of field work, resulting in over 100 hours of recordings with speakers of Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish from all over the world, including Israel (Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv), the New York area (Williamsburg, Monsey, Borough Park), Montreal and London’s Stamford Hill. We have recordings from male and female speakers, between the ages 16-80+, coming from a variety of Hasidic background and family origin. Our research targets theoretical linguistic analysis of CHY as well as its sociolinguistic context. You can find more information about the project on our website

My own work focuses on the analysis of various areas of Yiddish syntax, including basic word order, determiner doubling, the syntax and prosody of focus, deaccenting and the acquisition of Yiddish by children in the community. Our first results established that a major grammatical change took place in the Yiddish of the Stamford Hill community: it lost morphological gender and case marking [Belk, Kahn & Szendrői, 2020a]. We extended this finding to all the Hasidic communities worldwide, establishing Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish as a new variety of the language [Belk, Kahn & Szendrői, to appear 2022]. One strand of our work focused on the innovations in the pronominal system of Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish [Belk, Kahn, Szendrői & Yampolskaya, under review a] another looked at the Hebrew/Aramaic component of Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish [Belk, Kahn & Szendrői, 2020b].

Introducing the UCL Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish research team and our work: you can watch our video on Youtube.

We made longitudinal elicited production recordings with four children aged 2-7 in the Stamford Hill community. Together with Shifra Hiley (University of Edinburgh) and Athina Vasileaidou (University of Potsdam) we have transcribed a substantial part of the data and are in the course analysing the findings.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our research team has undertaken translation into Hasidic Yiddish and dissemination of government and health authority advice as well as police notices [Belk, Kahn, Szendrői  & Yampolskaya, under review band c]. Unfortunately, the Hasidic communities everywhere in the world have been hit by the first wave of the pandemic early on. The availability of precise and accessible information has been very important throughout the pandemic. We continue to support the Hasidic communities with translating and disseminating information about the COVID-19 vaccines and with expert advice [Szendrői  2020]. 

Hasidic Yiddish Seminar Series Weekend

Meet our UCL Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish research team.


I have worked on the syntax of focus movement since my doctoral thesis [Szendrői 2001]. I have developed the idea that syntactic movement can be motivated by prosodic well-formedness requirements, so-called stress-driven movement. I worked mostly on Hungarian [Szendrői 2003, 2004b], Italian [Szendrői 2002], and English [Neeleman & Szendrői 2004]. I also conducted adult language processing experiments on this topic [Mulders & Szendrői 2016]. I explored the theoretical implications of this idea in several papers [Szendrői 2010a, 2010b, 2012, 2017a].

With Fatima Hamlaoui we study the syntax-prosody interface. Our proposal is that the overt position of the finite verb determines what counts as a syntactic ‘clause’ for the purposes of the syntax-prosody mapping in ‘clauses’ and Intonational Phrases. In [Hamlaoui & Szendrői 2015] our account was based on data from the Finno-Ugric language, Hungarian and the Bantu language, Basáa. We later extended our account to complex sentences involving complement and adjunct clauses and clausal extraposition, [Hamlaoui & Szendrői 2017]. Our collaboration has also resulted in two review articles: one on topic/focus marking on determiners [Hamlaoui & Szendrői in press] and one on the prosody and syntax of complement and adjunct clauses [Hamlaoui & Szendrői under review a]. Recently, we have also worked on focus marking in Kinyarwanda and Rwandan English based on field work conducted together [Hamlaoui & Szendrői under review b].

I have a long-standing interest in the acquisition of prosodic focus. During my postdoctoral work I worked with the late Tanya Reinhart on the relationship between children’s comprehension issues with only-sentences and processing issues resulting from global grammatical computations. Experimental work with Dutch 4-6-year olds [Szendrői 2004a] and with European Portuguese 4-6-year-olds [Costa & Szendrői 2006] showed that it is not the prosodic marking per se that seems problematic for children, rather their comprehension problems reflect the presence of an interpretative ambiguity. More recently, with Barbara Höhle, Frauke Berger, Judit Gervain and Carline Bernard [Szendrői et al. 2018] we studied the acquisition of prosodic focus by 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old English, French and German children. We designed a novel comprehension task and found that children are adultlike in their comprehension of prosodic focus in all three languages from Age 3. In a study with Mandarin Chinese children, we found that the comprehension of prosodic focus-marking is more problematic for children in this tone language [Chen et al. 2018]


I am also interested in scopal ambiguities and its acquisition. With Barbara Höhle, Rebecca Schumacher and Tom Fritzsche, we studied the acquisition of quantifier raising by 5- and 6-year-old English and German children [Szendrői et al. 2017]. We carried out an act-out task whose results showed that children in both languages have access to both surface and inverse scope readings. This goes against the Isomorphism Observation (Musolino 1998) and supports Reinhart’s (2006) proposal on quantifier raising. I summarise current issues regarding this area in a review article [Szendrői in press].

An area that is of special interest to me is the intersection of scope ambiguity and information structure. It is well-known that certain scopal readings are blocked under certain information-structural configurations (e.g. Saebo 2008). I recently co-supervised a doctoral thesis by Riccardo Pulicani that presented experimental data on this issue in Italian. Another former student, Cecile Larralde, studied the effect of focus on negation-disjunction scopal interactions in French with children and adults [Larralde et al. 2021].


With Ad Neeleman we argued that radical pro drop, i.e. the possibility to omit pronouns in subject, object or possessor position in a language is dependent on the morphological make-up of the personal pronominal paradigm of the language. We tested our hypothesis on a typologically valid set of 35 languages [Neeleman & Szendrői 2007]. Sato (2010) argued that Colloquial Singapore English is a counterexample to our proposal, as its pronominal paradigm does not have the necessary morphological properties, and yet pronouns are omissible in the language. Our ongoing work suggests that this conclusion is premature. A paper on this issue is in preparation, as is a review article on the morphological properties of pro drop.


With Alina Konradt, I have been working on syntactic priming in English and Russian adults and children [Konradt & Szendrői in preparation].

With Marika Lekakou, I worked on determiner doubling in Greek [Lekakou & Szendrői 2012, 2014]

With Marta Abrusan, I worked on King of France sentences in English [Abrusán & Szendrői 2013]

With Peter Ackema, I worked on determiner sharing in English [Ackema & Szendrői 2002]


Ackema, Peter & K.E. Szendrői 2002. Determiner sharing as coordinate ellipsis. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 5 (1-3): 3-34. DOI

Szendrői, K.E. 2002. Stress-focus correspondence in Italian. In Romance languages and linguistic theory 2000. Selected papers from ‘Going Romance’ 2000, Utrecht, 30 November- 2 December, Claire Beyssade, Reineke Bok-Bennema, Frank Drijkoningen & Paola Monachesi eds., Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 287-303. PDF

Szendrői, K.E. 2003. A stress-based approach to the syntax of Hungarian focus. The Linguistic Review, 20(1): 37-78. DOI PDF

Bury, Dirk, Karen Froud, Richard Horsey & Szendrői, K.E. 2004. Focus and the interaction between syntax and pragmatics - Preface. Lingua 114:3, 227-227.

Neeleman, Ad & K.E. Szendrői 2004. Superman sentences. Linguistic Inquiry 35(1), 149-159. PDF

Szendrői, K.E. 2004a. Acquisition evidence for an interface theory of focus. Proceedings of Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition 2003 Volumes 1-2, Jacqueline van Kampen & Sergio Baauw eds., LOT Publications. Vol 2, 457-468. PDF

Szendrői, K.E. 2004b. A stress-driven approach to climbing. In Verb clusters. A study of Hungarian, German and Dutch, Katalin É. Kiss & Henkvan Riemsdijk eds.,Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 205-223. PDF

Szendrői, K.E. 2004c. Focus and the interaction between syntax and pragmatics - Introduction. Lingua 114:3, 229-254. DOI 

Szendrői, K.E., Tóth, I. 2004. Hungarian verbal clusters – results of a questionnaire survey. In Verb clusters. A study of Hungarian, German and Dutch,Katalin É.Kiss& Henkvan Riemsdijk eds.,Amsterdam: John Benjamins,87-119. PDF

Neeleman, Ad & K.E. Szendrői 2005. Pro drop and pronouns. Proceedings of WCCFL 24., Sommerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, 299-307. 

Szendrői, K.E. 2005. Case 26: Focus movement (with special reference to Hungarian). The Blackwell Companion to Syntax, Martin Everaert & Henk van Riemsdijk eds., Vol 2, 270-335.

Costa, João & K.E. Szendrői 2006. Acquisition of focus marking in European Portuguese – Evidence for a unified approach to focus. In The acquisition of syntax in Romance languages. Vicenç Torrens & Linda Escobar eds., Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 319-329. PDF

Neeleman, Ad & K.E. Szendrői 2007. A Radical pro drop and the morphology of pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 38(4), 671-714. DOI PDF

Neeleman, Ad & K.E. Szendrői 2008. Case morphology and radical pro-drop. In Teresa Biberauer ed.,The limits of syntactic variation, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 331-348. PDF

Lekakou, Marika & K.E. Szendrői 2009. Close apposition with and without noun ellipsis: an analysis of Greek polydefinites. Proceedings of the 29th Meeting of the Linguistics Department of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 151-166. 

Lekakou, Marika & K.E. Szendrői 2009. Interpretative effects of multiple determiners in Greek. Proceedings of BLS 35. 235-246.

Szendrői, K.E. 2010a. A flexible approach to discourse-related word order variations in the DP. Lingua 120 (4), 864-878. DOI 

Szendrői, K.E. 2010b. Focus as a grammatical notion: A case study on focus and autism. In The sound patterns of syntax, Nomi Erteschik-Shir & Lisa Rochman eds., Oxford: OUP, 317-332. PDF

Brody, Michael, K.E. Szendrői 2011. A kimerítő felsorolás értemezésű fókusz válasz. [Exhaustive focus is an answer]. In Új irányok és eredmények a mondattani kutatásban - Kiefer Ferenc 80. szuletesnapja alkalmabol [New directions and results in syntactic research - In honour of Ferenc Kiefer's 80th birthday] (Vol. 23)., Huba Bartos ed., Budapest: Akademiai Kiadó/ Academic Press. PDF PDF_ENG 

Abrusan, Márta & K.E. Szendrői 2012. Experimenting with the King of France. In Logic, Language and Meaning. 18th Amsterdam Colloquium, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Dec 2011, Revised Selected Papers, Maria Aloni, V. Kimmelmann, F. Roelofsen, G.W. Sassoon, K. Schultz & M. Westera eds., Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 102-111.

Lekakou, Marika & K.E. Szendrői 2012. Polydefinites in Greek: Ellipsis, Close Apposition, and Expletive Determiners. Journal of Linguistics 48(1), 107-149. DOI PDF

Szendrői, K.E. 2012. Focus movement can be destressing, but it need not be. In A flexible theory of topic and focus, Ad Neeleman & Reiko Vermeulen eds., Mouton de Gruyter. 189-226. PDF

Abrusán, Márta& K.E. Szendrői 2013. Experimenting with the King of France – Topics, verifiability and definite descriptions. Semantics and Pragmatics 6: 10, 1-43. DOI

Lekakou, Marika & K.E. Szendrői 2014. When determiners abound: Implications for the Encoding of Definitness. In Cross-linguistic Studies on Noun Phrase Structure and Reference (Syntax and Semantics 39), Patricia Cabredo-Hofherr & Anne Zribi-Hertz eds., Leiden: Brill, 212-238. PDF

Hamlaoui, Fatima & K.E. Szendrői 2015. A flexible approach to the syntax-phonology mapping of intonational phrases. Special Issue of Phonology Lisa Selkirk & Seunghun J. Lee eds., 35 (1): 79-110. DOI  PDF

Mulders, Iris & K.E. Szendrői 2016. Early Association of Prosodic Focus with alleen ‘only’: Evidence from Eye Movements in the Visual-World Paradigm. Frontiers Psychology DOI

Hamlaoui, Fatima, & K.E. Szendrői 2017. The syntax-phonology mapping of intonational phrases in complex sentences: A flexible approach. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 2(1), 55. DOI

Szendrői, K.E. 2017a. The syntax of information structure and the PF interface. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 2(1), 32. DOI

Szendrői, K.E. 2017b. Focus movement (Hungarian). In The Companion to Syntax, 2nd edition, Martin Everaert & Henk van Riemsdijk eds., Wiley-Blackwell. PDF

Szendrői, K.E., Rebecca Schumacher, Tom Fritzsche & Barbara Höhle 2017. Acquisition of quantifier raising of a universal across an existential: Evidence from German. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 2(1), 46. DOI

Chen, Hui-Ching, K.E. Szendrői, Stephen Crain, Barbara Höhle 2018. Understanding Prosodic Focus Marking in Mandarin Chinese: Data from Children and Adults. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, DOI PDF

Szendrői, K.E., Carline Bernard, Frauke Berger, Judit Gervain  & Barbara Höhle 2018. Acquisition of prosodic focus marking by English, French, and German three-, four-, five- and six-year-olds. Journal of Child Language, 45(1), 219-241. DOI PDF

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn & K.E. Szendrői 2020a. Complete loss of case and gender within two generations: evidence from Stamford Hill Hasidic Yiddish. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 23: 271–326. DOI

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn & K.E. Szendrői. 2020b.  The Loshn Koydesh Component in Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish. Special Issue of Journal of Jewish Languages entitled “Contact between Textual Hebrew/Aramaic and Diaspora Jewish Languages.", Sarah Bunin Benor & Ofra Tirosh-Becker eds., 8: 39–89. DOI

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn & K.E. Szendrői. 2020c. On morphological gender and case-marking in Hasidic Yiddish: Initial evidence from the Stamford Hill Hasidim. In Jews and Slavs vol. 26, Wolf Moskovich ed., Jerusalem: Center for Slavic Languages and Literatures, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. PDF

Larralde Cecile, Konradt Alina & K.E. Szendrői. 2021. Information structure and scope interactions: disjunction wide scope induced by focus Frontiers in Communication 5: 131. DOI
Hamlaoui, Fatima & K.E. Szendrői (in press, since October 2018) Topic/Focus marking on Determiners. In Handbook on Determiners, OUP, Solveiga Armoskaite & Martina Wiltschko eds. 25pp. PDF

Szendrői, K.E. (in press, due to appear in 2021) (Quantifier) Scope Judgments. In Handbook on Experimental Syntax, Jon Sprouse ed., Oxford: OUP. 46pp. PDF

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn & K.E. Szendrői (to appear, 2022) Absence of morphological case and gender marking in Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish worldwide. Special Issue of Journal of Germanic Linguistics, Lea Schafer & Marion Aptroot eds. PDF

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn, K.E. Szendrői & S. Yampolskaya (under review a) Innovations in the Hasidic Yiddish pronominal system. In Contemporary Research in Minority and Diaspora Languages of Europe, Matt Coler & Andrew Nevins eds., Berlin: LangSci Press. PDF 

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn, K.E. Szendrői & Sonya Yampolskaya (under review b) Translating Covid-19 information into Yiddish for the Montreal-area Hasidic community. In Lockdown Culture: The Arts, Humanities and Covid-19, Stella Bruzzi & Maurice Biriotti eds., London: UCL Press. PDF

Belk, Zoë, Lily Kahn, K.E. Szendrői & Sonya Yampolskaya (under review c) Translating Covid-19 information into Yiddish for the UK Hasidic community. Linguistics Vanguard. PDF

Hamlaoui, Fatima & K.E. Szendrői (under review a). Prosody and Syntax of Complement and Adverbial Clauses. In Handbook Clausal Embedding, Anton Benz, Werner Frey, Manfred Krifka, Marzena Zygis eds., Oxford: OUP, 56pp.PDF

Hamlaoui, Fatima & K.E. Szendrői (under review b). Are focus and givenness prosodically marked in Kinyarwanda and Rwandan English? In Festschrift for Laura Downing, Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus (SPiL Plus). 24pp. PDF

in preparation

Belk, Zoë & K.E. Szendrői. Syntactic repurcussions of the loss of case in contemporary Hasidic Yiddish.

Konradt, Alina & K.E. Szendrői. Syntactic priming in English and Russian children and adults.

Neeleman, Ad & K.E. Szendrői. Radical pro drop in Singapore Colloquial English: a response to Sato (2010). Linguistic Inquiry, Squib.

other publications

Szendrői, K.E. 2001. Focus and the syntax-phonology interface. Doctoral Thesis, UCL, 273pp. PDF

Reinhart, T., Szendrői, K.E. 2003. Optimal design in language – Research proposal. 14pp. PDF

Bury, Dirk, Karen Froud, Richard Horsey & Szendrői, K.E. 2004. Eds., Special Issue on Focus and the interaction between syntax and pragmatics. Lingua 114:3, 227-388.
Szendrői, K.E. 2020. Evidence on the Hasidic (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish community in the UK, submitted to the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on ‘Coronavirus and the impact on people with protected characteristics’ pp.5, 4 May 2020. PDF