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CALL: Aspect and discourse in African languages / SLE Split September 2013

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  • Peter Arkadiev
    ... Dear all, We would like to propose a workshop on “Aspect and Discourse in African Languages” for the 46th SLE (Societas Linguistica Europaea) Meeting,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 15, 2012
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      16.10.2012, 04:42, "Shahar Shirtz" <shaharzilla@...>:
      --- apologies for cross posting ---

      Dear all,

      We would like to propose a workshop on “Aspect and Discourse in African Languages” for the 46th SLE (Societas Linguistica Europaea) Meeting, to be held September 18-21, 2013, in Split, Croatia. Workshops at the SLE are usually composed of from 8 to 13 papers, selected by the workshop organizers, and by the SLE organizing committee. The deadline for the workshop proposal plus short (300-word) abstracts is November 15, 2012.

      We invite you to submit an abstract for this workshop by November 7, 2012, sent as both PDF and either Word or Open Office documents, to shahars@.... Please state “SLE 2013” in the subject line.

      Please forward this to anyone you think may be interested. Thank you for your collaboration!

      Proposed SLE 2013 Workshop onː

      Aspect and Discourse in African Languages

      Workshop Organizers: Shahar Shirtz (shahars@...), Doris Payne (dlpayne@...), and Lutz Marten (lm5@...)

      The correlation between discourse / narrative function and aspect has been noted in many studies (e.g., Fleischmann 1990 for Romance, Sawicki 2008 for Polish). Roughly, a correlation is found between perfective forms and main story line (or foreground) clauses and imperfective forms and non-main story line or background clauses (Labov & Waletzky 1967, Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca 1994, inter alia).

      In many African languages one finds constructions (either clausal constructions or specialized verb forms) which are used primarily (but almost never solely) to convey events on the main narrative / plot line. Such constructions are found in West African languages (Robert 1991, 2012, Carlson 1992), Nilotic (Tucker & Mpaayei 1955, Dimmendaal 1983, König 1993) Afro-Asiatic (e.g., Jaggar 2006) and Bantu (Doke 1954, Hopper 1979, Nurse 2008) among other phyla and groups of African languages. Such constructions differ in the degree to which they are “dedicated” to narrative usage and the other usages they are found in, the morphosyntax of the constructions, their pragmatic implications, their diachronic sources and many other parameters. They may also vary in the degree in which the “narrative” form is an aspect or even TAM form.

      Thus, the typological and genealogical variety of African languages, together with the frequency of so called “narrative” forms, raise ample questions and problems of analysis and description. In turn, these forms provide opportunities for many lines of research including the diachrony of these forms or their grammaticalization pathways (e.g., Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca 1994), the functional range of these forms in different discourse types (e.g., Robert 2012) their morpho-syntactic and functional typology, and the potential genesis of aspect categories under discourse pressures, among many others.

      This workshop is aimed at bringing together scholars interested in the different linguistic phyla and areas of Africa in order to address questions of aspect and discourse and narrative usage. The topics and questions we wish to address include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

      1.    Many African languages have been claimed to have specialized “narrative” constructions. However these constructions may also be used in non-narrative texts or in non-plot / non-main event line contexts. What is the functional range or distribution of these so called “narrative” forms?

      2.      What is the relation between aspect and “narrative” forms? Are “narrative” forms always perfective? If no, are there other signals of perfectivity in the clausal construction for?

      3.     Do forms used to advance the main even line carry special implicatures? Do they carry an implicature of a finished event? An implicature that the preceding event has finished? Is there an implication / implicature of telicity in “narrative” forms

      4.      What are the attested diachronic sources and pathways of the so called “narrative forms”?

      5.    What types of changes in Tense Aspect Mood (TAM) marking are found when shifting between main plot line to other discourse modes (e.g., description, explanation)? Or when shifting from one episode to another (i.e., from one narrative sequence to another)?

      6.     How clear is the relation between imperfectivity and background / non main event line clauses? What types of imperfectivity are found in such clauses? Do certain functions attract certain types of imperfectivity?

      7.      Perfectivity is seldom divided into subtypes (Comrie 1976). Can one, given the central role of perfectivity in discourse (Fleischmann 1990), identify distinct semantic (sub-)types of the perfective in African languages?

      8.     Some African languages have subtypes of perfects, or of “anteriors” (cf. Drolc 1992, 2000). Via what different diachronic paths might these have arisen? What roles do they play in discourse; e.g., is there a relation between perfect and background / non main event line clauses? Do certain discourse functions attract certain types of perfect (cf. Comrie 1976:56-65)?

      9.      Besides perfects or anteriors (Nurse 2008), are there other aspects or aspect-like categories or constructions which refer to two time points, e.g. situative (‘while’), persistive (‘still’), alterative (‘now but not before’)? How are these used in narrative discourse?

      10.  Contrastive focus and information focus constructions are thought of as incompatible with main event line function(s) (but see Jagger 2006). Is there a relation between contrastive / information focus constructions and particular aspects?


      Bybee, J., R. Perkins, & W. Pagliuca. 1994. The evolution of grammar: tense, aspect and      modality in the languages of the world. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

      Carlson, Robert. 1992. Narrative, subjunctive and finiteness. Journal ofAfrican Languages and Linguistics. 13: 59-85

      Comrie, B. 1976. Aspect. Cambridgeː Cambridge University Press.

      Doke, C.M. 1954. The Southern Bantu languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

      Drolc, U. 1992. On the perfect in Swahili. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 29: 63-87.

      Drolc, U. 2000. Zur Typologie des Perfekts (am Beispiel des Swahili). W. Breu (ed.), Probleme der interaktion von Lexik und Aspekt (ILA). 91-112. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.

      Fleischmann, S. 1990. Tense and narrativityː From medieval performance to modern fiction. Austinː University of Texas Press.

      Hopper, P. 1979. Aspect and foregrounding in discourse. T. Givón (ed.), Syntax and Semantics, 12ː Discourse and Syntax. 213-241. New York, Academic Press.

      Jaggar, P.H, 2006, The Hausa perfective tense-aspect used in WH-/Focus constructions and historical narratives: A unified account. In: Hyman, Larry M. and Newman, Paul, (eds.), West African Linguistics: Descriptive, Comparative, and Historical Studies in Honor of Russell G. Schuh. 100-133. Studies in African Linguistics.

      König, C. 1993. Aspekt im Maa. Köln: Institüt für Afrikanistik, Universitat zu Köln.

      Labov, W. & J. Waletzky. 1967. Narrative analysisː oral versions of personal experience. J. Helm (ed.), Essays on the verbal and visual arts, 12-42. (Proceedings of the 1966 Annual Spring Meeting of the American Ethnological Society.) Seattleː University of Washington Press.

      Newman, P. 2000. The Hausa language: An encyclopedic reference grammar. New-Haven and London: Yale University Press.

      Nurse, D. 2008. Tense and aspect in Bantu. Oxfordː Oxford University Press.

      Robert, S. 1991. Approche énonciative du système verbalː le cas du Wolof. Parisː Éditions du CNRS.

      Robert, S. 2012. From temporal vagueness to syntactic and pragmatic dependencyː the case of null tense (or aorist). Paper presented at the SLE 45th  meeting, Stockholm.

      Sawicki, L. 2008. Towards a narrative grammar of Polish. Warsaw: Warsaw University Press.

      Tucker, A. N. & J. Ole-Mpaayei. 1955. Maasai grammar, with vocabulary. Londonː Longman, Green & Co.
      -------- Завершение пересылаемого сообщения --------
      Peter Arkadiev, PhD
      Institute of Slavic Studies
      Russian Academy of Sciences
      Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119334 Moscow
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