This week you are invited to guest lectures of Maria Khachaturyan (University of Helsinki), linguistic anthropologist, Africanist, field researcher.
M. Khachaturyan received her doctorate at the INALCO Institute in Paris - she wrote the grammar of Mano Language (Mande family). Her areas are field research and descriptive linguistics, social meaning in grammar, language contacts, language and religion, anthropological/sociolinguistic aspects of religious translation.
Thursday, May 11th., 17.00, Room 402
Contact-induced variation in reflexivity marking: convergence, divergence and social meaning
It is commonly assumed in language contact studies that languages spoken by multilinguals become more like one another, which leads to long-term convergence between the languages. This does not lead to a sweeping linguistic uniformity, however: there is still an incredible linguistic diversity across the world’s languages. This diversity is partly due to an opposite process -- the process of diversification of neighboring languages which was called “neighbor opposition” (Evans 2019). However, while the results of convergence and diversification are rather well studied, little is known about the complex and contradictory process of convergence and divergence and the role of social factors in it. In this talk, I present my ongoing study of language contact between the Mano and the Kpelle languages of Guinea and show how, despite the potential of convergence, languages remain distinct. Focusing on variation in reflexive marking, an additional question I raise concerns differences in domains affected by convergence and divergence. Specifically, I discuss whether contact-induced variation in grammatical patterns can have social meaning on a par with linguistic features with concrete exponents, such as phonetic, morphological or lexical variables.
Friday, May 12 th., 15.00, Room 314A-B
Doing things with grammar
A well-known observation from interactional linguistics holds that the context of interaction is not a given but is constituted and sustained by the very process of interaction. Verbal acts do not only presuppose context for their appropriate interpretation, but speech performance can also effectively create that context. In other words, utterances can “carry with them their own contexts like a snail carries its home along with it” (Levinson 2003: 26). In this paper, I argue that certain grammatical categories—and above all, indexicals—are also part of the furnishings of the snail’s home. Indexicals are grammatical categories which are existentially tied to the context of utterance and index a relationship between specific properties of the speech context and properties of the narrated event. Examples of such categories include personal pronouns (e.g. I is understood as the person uttering “I”, Jakobson 1971), or tense (past tense markers denote events prior to the moment of speech). Their use, in some situations, helps reflect the context of utterance as much as it builds the context in other situations, in which case the speakers can effectively do things with grammar. I argue that the framework of presupposition accommodation can be applied for the analysis of these context-creating uses of indexicals. The theoretical discussion is grounded in a discussion of data on pronouns of address in Russian (ty vs vy) and demonstrative reference in Mano (Mande, Guinea).
Friday, May 12 th., 17.00, Room 314A-B (During BUS course "Linguistic diversity and language science" lecture)
In this talk, I will sketch out my journey as a linguist and a filedworker: the pathways to particular questions I address in my research, and unexpected ways in which the answers get shaped; trials, errors, failures and getting back on track; and most of all, the role of people: family, colleagues and language spekears who become colleagues and family.