Reminder - Call for papers: workshop on impersonal constructions
andrej_malchukov at EVA.MPG.DE
Mon Feb 4 11:46:28 UTC 2008
***********REMINDER, DEADLINE APPROACHING*************
"Impersonal constructions: a cross-linguistic perspective"
Call for Papers
Call Deadline: 08-Feb-2008
/Call for papers/
Workshop proposal *Impersonal constructions: a cross-linguistic
organizers: Anna Siewierska and Andrej Malchukov
Dear List members,
This is a call for papers for a workshop on *Impersonal constructions: a
cross-linguistic perspective* that we plan to organize within the next
annual meeting of the Societas
Linguistica Europaea (SLE), to be held in Forlì, Italy, September
17-20, 2008 (http://sle2008.sitlec.unibo.it).
Since SLE policy for workshops and theme sessions requires us to submit
the proposal to the SLE program committee before February 15, 2008, we
ask the prospective contributors to send us the title of their
contribution and a very short abstract no later than 8^th of February,
2008. We will ask for longer abstracts once we have negotiated with the
conference organizers the number of slots available.
Abstracts should be sent to both organizers to the following e-mail
a.siewierska at lancaster.ac.uk <mailto:a.siewierska at lancaster.ac.uk>
andrej_malchukov at eva.mpg.de <mailto:andrej_malchukov at eva.mpg.de>
The notification of acceptance of an abstract for the workshop is 28^th
The final notification of acceptance on the part of the SLE committee is
the 31^st of May 2008. If the theme session is accepted it is our
intention to publish a selection of the papers with an international
Anna Siewierska and Andrej Malchukov
*Impersonal constructions: a cross-linguistic perspective*
Impersonal constructions (such as Latin /Me pudet/ lit. ‘me shames’,
German /Mich// friert/ lit. ‘me freezes’, or Russian /Svetaet/ ‘It
dawns’) have been a traditional topic of research in Indo-European
studies (see, e.g., Seefranz-Montag 1984; Lambert 1998; Bauer 2000). Yet
this research with a few exceptions has not been extended
cross-linguistically. There seem to be several, different reasons for
this all of which cause problems for the cross-linguistic identification
of impersonal constructions. The first reason relates to the term
impersonal, which has remained controversial and is understood in a
variety of different ways by different authors: as pertaining to
constructions lacking a subject; as embracing constructions lacking a
lexical subject (this allows for treating constructions like /It dawns
/as impersonal); as covering constructions featuring subjects with
generic or arbitrary reference rather than definite reference. These
uses of the term impersonal are not unrelated though. We will define
impersonal constructions broadly as constructions lacking a referential
subject, which is consistent with the traditional usage of the term
impersonal. The second reason for the lack of cross-linguistic studies
of impersonals is that impersonal constructions are rather heterogeneous
in terms of the verb types involved. As repeatedly noted in the
literature, among the verb types that most commonly pattern impersonally
are weather-verbs, psych verbs, as well as verbs used in presentational
constructions. Yet, in spite of this heterogeneity, these constructions
also show an overlap, which justifies their joint consideration (e.g.,
the same predicates may be involved in weather constructions and psych
predicates: cf. German: /Es friert/ ‘It is cold’ and /Mich friert/ lit.
‘me freezes’). Another reason for the relative neglect of impersonals in
typological investigations is that, impersonal verbs can be either basic
or derived (impersonal passives; cf. the impersonal participles in
/–no/-to /in/ /Polish; Siewierska 1984). Yet, again both types show a
significant overlap: in fact, Givón (2001) regards impersonal
construction such as /Man sagt/ in German as a kind of impersonal
passive (cf. Khrakovky 1974). Finally, the term impersonal is based on
the concept of subject, which may be not readily applicable to languages
of different alignment (e.g., ergative languages). However, as noted by
Lazard (1998 /et passim/), similar phenomena can be attested in ergative
languages with respect to encoding of the P argument, a construction
called “anti-impersonal”. Furthermore, the role of impersonal
constructions in the rise of different alignment types has been recently
recognized (see, e.g., contributions by Donohue, Mithun, Malchukov to
Donohue & Wichmann (eds.) 2008 on the rise of the active-stative
The workshop is intended to bring together scholars interested in
various aspects of the structure of impersonal constructions, both in
individual languages and cross-linguistically. The discussion of
theoretical issues will be appreciated to the extent that it helps to
elucidate the empirical data. The topics to be addressed include but are
not limited to:
* impersonal constructions in individual languages (contributions
dealing with less studied languages are particularly welcome)
o lexical properties of the constructions (i.e., what types of
predicates pattern impersonally)
o syntactic properties of these constructions (i.e., does any
argument display subject properties)
o morphological properties (basic and derived impersonal verbs
o borderline cases/extensions of impersonal uses (cf.
Siewierska 2004 on the impersonal uses of personal pronouns,
and personal uses of impersonal pronouns)
* cross-linguistic and diachronic studies of impersonal constructions
Bauer, B. 2000. /Archaic syntax in Indo-European: the spread of
transitivity in Latin and French/. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Donohue, M. & S. Wichmann (eds). 2008. /Typology of languages with
semantic alignment/. Oxford University Press.
Givón, T., 2001. /Syntax. A Functional-Typological Introduction/, vol.
2. John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
Khrakovsky, V. S. 1974. “Passivnye konstrukcii” [Passive constructions].
In A. A. Kholodovich (ed.) /Tipologija passivnyx konstrukcij/ [/Typology
of passive constructions/], Leningrad: Nauka, 5–45.
Lambert, P.-Y. 1998. L’impersonnel. In J. Feuillet (ed.). /Actance et
valence dans les Langues de l’Europe/. Berlin: Mouton, 295-347.
Lazard, G. 1998. /Actancy/. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter
Seefranz-Montag, A. 1984. Subjectless sentences and syntactic change.
In: J. Fisiak (ed.). /Historical syntax/. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter,
Siewierska, A. 1984. /The Passive: A Comparative Linguistic Analysis/.
London: Croom Helm.
Siewierska , A. 2004. /Person/. (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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