Tid: Torsdag 4 februari 2016, kl 15:00-17:00
Plats: C307, Södra huset, Frescati

Postseminarium följer direkt efter seminariet i institutionens pentry.

Demonstratives are considered to be a well-defined and cross-linguistically pervasive (even universal) class of words dedicated to coordinating the interlocutors’ focus of attention (Diessel 2006). Yet there is a growing body of work suggesting that the functional parameters operating within this well-established form class vary greatly and are notoriously difficult to pin down. For example, the descriptively entrenched distance-based analyses of the commonly occurring ‘here vs. there’ type of distinctions have been challenged for a number of systems in recent years. The assumed spatial encoding has been shown to be heavily influenced or overridden by pragmatic factors pertaining to the attentional relationship between addressee and referent (Özyürek 1998; Küntay and Özyürek 2006; Burenhult 2003), or by the social or interactional context of the speech situation (Enfield 2003; Jungbluth 2003; Hanks 2005).

There is also a budding theoretical interest in multi-term demonstrative systems with parameters which are cross-linguistically uncommon but add a range of diverse semantic dimensions to the class, such as visibility, elevation, and motion of the referent (Burenhult 2008; Schapper and San Roque 2011). Existing typologies of demonstrative systems tend to regard such parameters as ‘special’ (Diessel 1999: 42-47) or ‘ancillary’ (Levinson 2006: 117), implying that they somehow form a qualitatively distinct phenomenon tangential to the core theoretical issues. However, their functional relationship with, and relevance to, the more commonly theorized parameters of distance, participant-anchoring, and attention remains largely unexplored. Are there in fact major insights to be gained into demonstrative function generally from in-depth analysis of multi-term systems?

In this talk I present a system jam-packed with such seeming exoticness, namely that of Jahai, an Austroasiatic language spoken by groups of subsistence foragers in the Malay Peninsula. Jahai has no less than nine demonstrative distinctions, each with both a nominal and adverbial reflex. In addition to the more familiar distance-related distinctions, this system contains a number of unusual (even unique) distinctions pertaining to the referent’s accessibility, elevation, exteriority, and perceptibility. I present detailed data and analysis of exophoric usage of demonstrative forms to show that a multi-term demonstrative system with unusual distinctions can offer unique opportunities for exploring and understanding indexical principles in languages at large. I will argue that the fine-grained semantic encoding of the distinct Jahai forms partly unpacks functional dimensions proposed to be relevant by current theory but which are typically obscured in systems with less elaboration. In particular, the Jahai system sheds light on what is fundamentally vs. symptomatically spatial in demonstratives; it helps to characterize and typologize the speaker’s management of the addressee’s attention; and it demonstrates that, far from being tangential phenomena, cross-linguistically unusual demonstrative parameters are tremendously relevant to core issues in deictic theory.

Hjärtligt välkomna!
Ljuba Veselinova