Prof. Dr. Alexander Onysko


Ca’ Foscari University Venice, Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies

Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, Department of English and American Studies


Contact details

Department of English and American Studies

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt

Universitätsstraße 65-67

A-9020 Klagenfurt

Phone: 43 (0) 463 2700 2501


Project: ‘Word trucks’ and ‘voice canoes’ as sources of playful associations: Meaning interpretations of novel English compounds by monolingual and bilingual speakers


This project investigates figurative associations that can underlie a playful interpretation of words. More specifically, the project focuses on the role of conceptual figurativity in word play, i.e. on how conceptual metaphors and metonymies can contribute to the occurrence of word play. The investigation is set in the context of New Zealand and involves monolingual speakers of English and bilingual speakers of English and Māori, the indigenous tongue of New Zealand. Comparing monolingual with bilingual speakers allows testing the hypothesis of whether bilingual speakers appear to be more creative (cf. Kharkurin 2012) and playful in their association to the novel English compounds. To test this idea, a task was designed which asked participants to interpret the meaning of a set of novel English noun-noun compounds. Twelve test items were created by combining general lexical items from different semantic domains (cf. Maguire 2010), providing associative space for interpretation. Data were collected during a one year research stay at the University of Waikato; a total of 140 monolingual and bilingual university students of New Zealand European and Māori ethnicity participated in the task. The analysis and the results from this project intend to add to an exploration of the cognitive dimensions of wordplay emerging from meaning interpretations.




Alexander Onysko holds a doctorate in English linguistics from the University of Innsbruck and is Associate Professor in English Language and Linguistics at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. He also lectures in English linguistics at the University of Klagenfurt. Previously, Alexander held a post-doctoral position in English linguistics at the University of Innsbruck and acted as temporary full professor in English linguistics at the University of Hamburg, the University of Bochum, and the University of Innsbruck. In 2011, he was a visiting scholar at the School of Māori and Pacific Development at the University of Waikato in New Zealand to initiate his current research project on the semantics of compounding and on the representation of cultural conceptualizations in New Zealand English as spoken by Māori–English bilinguals.

His research interests are in the areas of language contact, cognitive linguistics, word formation, and World Englishes. He has carried out an investigation of English influence on German in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, and has continued to work on English–German language contact focusing on hybrid compounds, anglicism discourse, and, in joint studies, on grammatical gender assignment and on pragmatic aspects of lexical borrowing. In addition, he has carried out research on language contact between Māori and English in New Zealand and has conducted a joint study on the use of Māori borrowings in hybrid compounds of New Zealand English and on the use of selected Māori borrowings in corpora of New Zealand English. His current research project in the network is based on a dataset of meaning associations to novel English compounds by monolingual and bilingual New Zealanders.


Publications (selection):


Onysko, Alexander (2007): “Anglicisms in German: Borrowing, Lexical Productivity, and Written Codeswitching.” Berlin & New York: De Gruyter. [Linguistik – Impulse und Tendenzen]; pp. 376.

Onysko, Alexander (2009): “Exploring discourse on globalizing English: A case study of discourse on anglicisms in German”,in: English Today 25/1, 25-36.

Degani, Marta & Alexander Onysko (2010): “Hybrid compounding in New Zealand English”, in: World Englishes 29/2, 209-233.

Onysko, Alexander (2010): “Casting the conceptual spotlight: Hybrid compounding in German as an example of head-frame internal specifier selection”, in: Alexander Onysko & Sascha Michel (eds.): Cognitive Perspectives on Word Formation. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter, 243-300.

Onysko, Alexander (2010): “Phrases, combinations, and compounds in the English Dialect Dictionary as a source of conceptual metaphors and metonymies in Late Modern English dialects”, in: Manfred Markus, Clive Upton & Reinhard Heuberger (eds.): Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary and Beyond. Frankfurt a. Main: Peter Lang. 131-153.

Onysko, Alexander & Andreea S. Calude (2014): “Comparing the usage of Māori loans in spoken and written New Zealand English: A case study of ‘Maori’, ‘Pakeha’, and ‘Kiwi’”,in: Eline Zenner & Gitte Kristiansen (eds.): New Perspectives on Lexical Borrowing: Onomasiological, Methodological, and Phraseological Innovations. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter, 143-170.

Onysko, Alexander and Marta Degani (2014): “Listening to a voice canoe: Differences in meaning association between Māori bilingual and Pākehā monolingual speakers”, in: Alexander Onysko, Marta Degani & Jeanette King (eds.): He Hiringa, He Pūmanawa – Studies on the Māori Language: In Honour of Ray Harlow. Wellington, NZ: Huia Publishers, 179-210.

Onysko, Alexander (2014): “Figurative processes in meaning interpretation: A case study of novel English compounds”, in: Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association 2, 69-88.

Onysko, Alexander (2015): “Enhanced creativity in bilinguals? Evidence from meaning interpretations of novel compounds”, in: International Journal of Bilingualism, OnlineFirst published on January 30, 2015. doi:10.1177/1367006914566081