Case marking variation based on discourse: response summary

Don Killian donald.killian at HELSINKI.FI
Thu Aug 16 13:56:10 UTC 2012

Dear all,

Thank you very much for your responses!  I thought to share a few of the 
private responses I received from individuals, as they are very useful 
and could come in handy for other linguists working on similar things.

First, Paul Hopper suggested some of his own articles, in particular 
mentioning that aspect and discourse often interact in a somewhat skewed 
way (e.g. perfective clauses with definite agents and objects, imperfect 
clauses with indefinite subjects, irrealis verbs, etc.)

He didn't specifically mention this in his email, but his work on 
Degrees of Transitivity with Sandra Thompson (1980) also appears useful 
in seeing where word-order alternations occur, if there are 
undergoer-type constructions and actor-type constructions. 
Non-volitionality does background agents in Uduk into an OVA 
construction, so it's possible that other things may play a role as well.

Stef Spronck suggested DuBois's article, "The discourse basis of 
ergativity", and suggested both the pear story and also mentioned a 
picture task here which she has also used for interactive narratives: .  This does 
indeed seem like it would be useful for getting some discourse variations.

Lastly, Stavros Skopeteas suggested the QUIS, which I wasn't familiar 
with earlier, and I particularly want to point this out to other 
linguists who are struggling with this topic:

This appears to have a LOT of really useful tasks and fieldwork 
suggestions, and I believe that some of these may help me find my answers.

Thanks also, for those of you have contacted me with sympathetic ears; 
I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has found some 
frustrations with topic and focus!

All the best,

Don Killian
Researcher in African Linguistics
Department of Modern Languages
PL 24 (Unioninkatu 40)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki
+358 (0)44 5016437

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