Reminder - call for manifestation of interest - Theme session proposal - SLE 2008, Italy

Caterina Mauri caterina.mauri at UNIPV.IT
Wed Jan 16 14:54:15 UTC 2008

***********REMINDER, DEADLINE APPROACHING*************

What do Languages Code when They Code Realisness?

Call for Papers

Call Deadline: 01-Feb-2008
Call for Manifestation of Interest

Theme Session Proposal
''What do languages code when they code realisness?''

Dear List Members,

This is a call for manifestation of interest in a theme session 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

The SLE policy for workshops and theme sessions requires us to prepare a
proposal, to be submitted to the SLE program committee no later than
February 15, 2008. This proposal should contain a short description of the
topic to be dealt with, along with an estimate of the schedule and the
overall time required.

The working title of our proposal is: ''What do languages code when they
code realisness?''. An extended description of the topic is included at the
end of this message. We feel that the theme we are going to propose might
raise the interest of typologists (and theoretical linguists) who have been
(or are) working on the coding of realisness and related issues. Besides
the individual papers, we intend to devote some time to a general
discussion of the theoretical and empirical issues arising from the

In detail, the structure of the theme session we intend to submit should

three invited contributions;
up to 10/12 selected papers (20 minutes + discussion);
a final slot (up to 60 minutes) for a general, round-table like discussion.

What we ask you at this stage is to let us know as soon as possible if you
are interested in contributing a paper to the theme session. Feel free to
send a quick informal reply to this mail (just stating your willingness to
submit a paper and specifying a possible topic for your contribution).
Prospective contributors are also expected to send an abstract no later
than February 1, 2008 (Friday). This tight schedule will leave us enough
time to finalize the proposal to be submitted to the SLE committee.

We should emphasize that there will be two stages: in the first stage, we
will select papers which will be included in the proposal; in the second
stage, the proposal as a whole will be evaluated by the SLE committee. Only
upon acceptance of the entire theme session, every selected contribution
will be considered officially ''accepted'' at the SLE conference.


Caterina Mauri (University of Pavia, Italy)
Andrea Sansò (Insubria University - Como, Italy)

Important dates (first stage):

As soon as possible: informal e-mail with manifestation of interest
1st February 2008: abstract submission (see format below)
1st March 2008: notification of acceptance

Important dates (second stage; the convenors will be looking after the
finalization of the proposal):

15th February 2008: submission of the abstract for the theme session to the
SLE committee
15th April 2008: submission of the full program (invited speakers +
accepted abstracts + discussion time) to the SLE committee
31st May 2008: notification of acceptance

Format of Abstracts

The selection of abstracts will be made on the basis of quality and
relatedness to the topic and objectives of the theme session. The submitted
abstracts (in PDF) should be anonymous, up to 2 pages long (including
references), and the authors are expected to provide an overview of the
goal, methodology, and data of their research. Abstracts should be sent to
both convenors to the following e-mail addresses:

Caterina Mauri: caterina.mauri at
Andrea Sansò: asanso at

All the abstracts will be anonymously reviewed by the program committee of
the theme session (see below) before the finalization of the proposal. More
information about the theme session (list of selected papers, invited
speakers, etc.) will be circulated amongst the prospective participants
right before the submission of the proposal to the SLE committee.

Please include the following data in the body of the mail: (i) Author(s);
(ii) Title; (iii) Affiliation; (iv) Contacts.

Scientific committee (TBC): Kasper Boye (University of Copenhagen);
Isabelle Bril (LACITO, CNRS, Villejuif); Sonia Cristofaro (University of
Pavia); Ferdinand de Haan (Arizona University) Anna Giacalone (University
of Pavia); Caterina Mauri (University of Pavia); Andrea Sansò (Insubria
University, Como); Johan van der Auwera (University of Antwerp).

Invited speakers: Sonia Cristofaro (University of Pavia); Ferdinand de Haan
(Arizona University); Johan van der Auwera (University of Antwerp)

Publication: if the theme session is accepted it is our intention to
publish a selection of the papers with an international publisher.

Caterina Mauri, Andrea Sansò

Presentation of the theme session

Working title: What do languages code when they code realisness?

Theme description and topics

Since Givón (1984: 285ff.) and Chung and Timberlake (1985: 241ff.), the
terms realis and irrealis have gained increasing currency in
cross-linguistic studies on modality as flexible cover terms for a number
of moods traditionally labelled as 'indicative', 'subjunctive', 'optative',
'counterfactual', 'potential', 'hypothetical', etc. Some authors (e.g.
Elliott 2000: 80) have gone a step further, speaking of 'reality status'
(or 'realisness') as a grammatical category to full right, realized
differently in different languages, with at least two values: realis (or
neutral) and irrealis. These two values are characterized in terms of
actualization vs. non-actualization of a given state of affairs. According
to Elliott, a proposition is realis if it asserts that a state of affairs
is an ''actualized and certain fact of reality'', whereas it is classified
as irrealis if ''it implies that a SoA belongs to the realm of the imagined
or hypothetical, and as such it constitutes a potential or possible event
but it is not an observable fact of reality'' (Elliott 2000: 66-67). There
are languages which obligatorily mark realisness in all finite clauses by
means of a comprehensive (morphological or syntactic) system of markers,
others where the system is partial and the realisness of a proposition
needs to be indicated only in specific syntactic contexts, and fnally there
are languages in which the marking of realisness is merely optional. In
other terms, realisness may be encoded by means of an array of
morpho-syntactic strategies (simple affixation, portmanteau affixation,
sentence particles, adverbs, etc.).
Both the functional characterization and the formal aspects of realisness
are controversial (Bybee et al 1994; Bybee 1998). On the one hand, the
solidarities between realisness and other functional domains such as, for
instance, tense, aspect, and evidentiality make it difficult to decide
whether (and to what extent) realisness is an independent functional
dimension (see, e.g. Fleischman 1995). On the other hand, there are certain
states of affairs (e.g. habitual, directive, and future SoAs, etc.) that
are coded by means of either realis or irrealis strategies across
languages, in a largely unpredictable way. This variation may reflect the
inherently hybrid reality status of these states of affairs: they may have
occurred but their reference time is non-specific (e.g. habituals; Givón
1984: 285; Cristofaro 2004), they may have not yet occurred but they are
either highly probable or expected with a high degree of certainty (e.g.
directives, futures; Roberts 1990; Chafe 1995; Mithun 1995; Ogloblin 2005;
Sun 2007), etc.
Some of the factors that appear to have an influence on the
cross-linguistic coding of realisness have been already hinted at in the
typological literature. For instance, in some languages argument structure
and referentiality/definiteness of arguments appear to be crucial to the
choice of a realis or irrealis strategy (the presence of definite arguments
entailing realis marking, whereas indefinite/non-specific arguments require
irrealis marking). Furthermore, the deictic anchoring of the proposition to
the speaker's here-and-now (in the sense of Fleischman 1989) may determine
different realisness values for directives and futures in some languages
(e.g. predictions, intentions or scheduled events are marked as realis,
whereas other future SoAs are irrealis; second-person directives, which
require the presence of the performer, are coded as realis more frequently
than third-person directives). Yet, a complete picture of the range of
factors affecting realisness is still missing. New insights into these
factors and their interactions may come from a wider amount of
cross-linguistic data, as well as a better understanding of the diachronic
mechanisms leading to the emergence and establishing of realisness systems.
This theme session aims to assess our current understanding of the
realisness dimension in grammar and to plot the directions for future
research. We invite abstracts for papers dealing with
foundational/theoretical issues and/or taking an empirical, data-driven
stance on the coding of realisness across languages.
At the foundational/theoretical level, possible topics include (but are not
limited to):

the status of realisness in linguistic theory;
interactions between realisness and other functional domains (tense,
aspect, evidentiality, etc.);
cross-linguistic variation in the classification of certain states of
affairs as either realis or irrealis;
factors affecting the realisness value of a state of affairs: argument
structure; referentiality/definiteness of arguments; degree of deictic
anchoring to the speaker's here-and-now; etc.

At the empirical level, possible topics include (but are not limited to):

in-depth investigations of realisness systems in single languages or
language families;
the areal dimension of realisness marking;
realisness in languages without dedicated realis/irrealis markers;
realisness as a relevant dimension in interclausal relations: disjunction
(see, e.g., Mauri 2008), complementation (Ammann & van der Auwera 2004),
switch reference, etc.;
the diachronic origin and the grammaticalization of realis/irrealis markers
as a key to understanding their functional properties and distribution.


Ammann, A., and J. van der Auwera. 2004. Complementizer-headed main clauses
for volitional moods in the languages of South-Eastern Europe. A Balkanism?
In: O. Tomic (ed.), Balkan syntax and semantics, 293-314. Amsterdam: John
Bybee, J. 1998. ''Irrealis'' as a grammatical category. Anthropological
Linguistics 40 (2): 257-271.
Bybee, J., R. Perkins, and W. Pagliuca. 1994. The evolution of grammar.
Tense, aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press.
Bybee, J., and S. Fleischman (eds.). 1995. Modality in grammar and
discourse. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Chafe, W. 1995. The realis-irrealis distinction in Caddo, the Northern
Iroquoian languages, and English. In: Bybee & Fleischman (eds.) 1995,
Chung, S., and A. Timberlake. 1985. Tense, aspect, and mood. In: T. Shopen
(ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, Vol. III: Grammatical
categories and the lexicon, 202-258. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cristofaro, S. 2004. Past habituals and irrealis. In: Y. A. Lander, V. A.
Plungian, A. Yu. Urmanchieva (eds.), Irrealis and Irreality, 256-272.
Moscow: Gnosis.
Elliott, J. R. 2000. Realis and irrealis: Forms and concepts of the
grammaticalisation of reality. Linguistic Typology 4: 55-90.
Fleischman, S. 1989. Temporal distance: a basic linguistic metaphor.
Studies in Language 13 (1): 1-50.
Fleischman, S. 1995. Imperfective and irrealis. In: Bybee & Fleischman
(eds.) 1995, 519-551.
Givón, T. 1984. Syntax. A functional-typological introduction. Vol. 1.
Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Mauri, C. 2008. The irreality of alternatives. Towards a typology of
disjunction. Studies in Language 32 (1): 22-55.
Mithun, M. 1995. On the relativity of irreality. In: Bybee & Fleischman
(eds.) 1995, 367-388.
Ogloblin, A. K. 2005. Javanese. In: A. Adelaar, and N. P. Himmelmann
(eds.), The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar, 590-624.
London-New York: Routledge.
Roberts, J. R. 1990. Modality in Amele and other Papuan languages. Journal
of Linguistics 26: 363-401.
Sun, J. T.-S. 2007. The irrealis category in rGyalrong. Language and
Linguistics 8 (3): 797-819.

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