Workshop at SLE 2011 Referential Hierarchies in Alignment Typology

Alena Witzlack-Makarevich witzlack at UNI-LEIPZIG.DE
Fri Oct 29 15:10:43 UTC 2010

(apologies for multiple postings)

Full Title: Referential Hierarchies in Alignment Typology
Date: 08-Sep-2011 - 11-Sep-2011
Location: Logroño (La Rioja), Spain
Contact Person: Alena Witzlack-Makarevich
Meeting Email: witzlack at
Call Deadline: 11-Nov-2010
Meeting Description:

Within the framework of the 44th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica
Europaea to be held at the Universidad de La Rioja (Logroño, Spain), 8-11
September 2011, we would like to propose a workshop on Referential
Hierarchies in Alignment Typology

Balthasar Bickel (University of Leipzig)
Anna Siewierska (Lancaster University)
Alena Witzlack-Makarevich (University of Leipzig)

Since the first comprehensive descriptions of languages with ergative
alignment patterns in the 70s (Dixon 1972, Comrie 1978), alignment figures
as a prominent typological feature both in cross-linguistic investigations
and in the descriptions of individual languages. The term 'alignment' refers
to the way argument roles S, A, and P - and T and G, if one extends the
analysis to ditransitives - are organized relative to each other in the
morphosyntax, that is, which arguments are marked identically or exhibit
identical syntactic behavior.  The taxonomy of all logical possibilities of
grouping the three argument roles yields five alignment types: neutral,
accusative, ergative, tripartite, and horizontal. These basic alignment
types are still common in characterizing whole languages or language systems
(e.g. case marking or agreement, syntactic behavior) and serve as a basis
for multiple typological investigations (Greenberg 1963; Nichols 1992;
Siewierska 1996; Dryer 2002; Bickel and Nichols 2008). However, as not all
systems of morphological marking or syntactic behavior fit neatly into one
of the basic alignment patterns, this resulted in the modification of the
basic taxonomy and introduction of additional types.  Particularly
challenging for alignment typology are the patterns of argument
identification found in languages in which the morphosyntactic properties of
arguments are affected by referential hierarchies (e.g. in which speech-act
rank higher than third persons, animate entities higher than inanimate ones,
and known entities higher than unknown ones). Basically, three different
types of effects of referential hierarchies can be distinguished. First, the
hierarchical ranking of nominal referents can directly affect the marking of
a particular argument resulting in what is known as differential object and
differential subject marking. This phenomenon is frequently treated as a
split in the alignment of a language system, such that arguments on
different positions of a referential hierarchy exhibit different alignment
types (e.g. 1st and 2nd person is neutral, whereas 3rd person is ergative). 
Another type of effects is represented by so-called 'direct/inverse'
systems, as founde.g. in Algonquian languages. Here, morphological markers
on transitive verbs indicate whether the agent is higher or lower in the
referential hierarchy than the patient, i.e., whether the action goes in the
expected direction ('direct') or against it ('inverse'). Usually, such
patterns are not discussed in terms of alignment. Finally, the referential
hierarchy may determine the choice and/or order of person indices on the
verb, a system often characterized as 'hierarchical agreement' (e.g. in
Tupi-Guaranian languages): when there is only one affixal person-marking
slot on the verb, it is the higher-ranking person that is indexed,
regardless of its role. A similar kind of effect is observed in many
Austronesian languages, such as Tagalog, where the constituent highest on an
information-structural hierarchy (an argument or an adjunct) is marked in a
special way and gains
certain syntactic privileges. At the same time, the voice marking on the
verbs indicates the semantic roles of this privileged constituent (cf.
Schachter & Otanes 1972; Schachter 1976). One way to accommodate such
systems into the alignment typology is to introduce additional alignment
types called hierarchical alignment (Nichols 1992; Siewierska
1998, 2005) and Philippine-type alignment (Mallison & Blake 1981). Such
additional types are, however, problematic because they are based on other
principles than the basic alignment types, namely, not on semantic roles
(agent/patient), but on referential properties of event participants (Zúñiga
2007, Creissels 2009). Moreover, the introduction of the special alignment
types conceals the fact that hierarchical systems contain traces of
the basic alignment types (cf. Nichols 1992; Bickel 1995; Bickel and Nichols
2008).The proposed workshop is intended to bring together scholars
interested in the effects of referential hierarchies on the morphosyntactic
properties of arguments and in the position of such systems in the typology
of alignment or grammatical relations more generally. The main topics of the
workshop will include, but are not limited to, the following:

-The theoretical status of systems exhibiting referential hierarchy effects
in alignment typology.
-The diachronic development of referential hierarchy effects in individual
languages, language families or linguistic areas from any part of the world.
-Case studies of hierarchical systems in less documented languages. 
Authors working on individual languages are encouraged to situate their
findings in a broader theoretical/typological perspective.

Bickel, Balthasar. 1995. In the vestibule of meaning: transitivity inversion
as a morphological phenomenon. Studies in Language 19:73-127.
Bickel, Balthasar, and Johanna Nichols. 2008b. The geography of case. In The
Oxford Handbook of Case, ed. Andrej Malchukov and Andrew Spencer,
479-493.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Comrie, Bernard. Ergativity. In W.P. Lehmann (ed.), Syntactic Typology.
Studies in the Phenomenology of Language. Austin: University of Texas Press,
Creissels, Denis. 2009a. Ergativity/Accusativity Revisited. Presented at ALT
VIII, Berkeley (,
24-28 August 2009.
Dixon, R.M.W. (1972). The Dyirbal Language of North Queendland.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dryer, Matthew S. 2002. Case distinctions, rich verb agreement, and word
order type (comments on Hawkins' paper). Theoretical Linguistics 28:151-157.
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1963. Some universals of grammar with particular
reference to the order of meaningful elements. In Universals of Language,
ed. Joseph Greenberg, 73-113. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Mallinson, Graham, and Barry Blake. 1981. Language typology.
Cross-linguistic Studies in Syntax. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Schachter, Paul. 1976. The subject in Philippine languages: topic, actor,
actor-topic, or none of the above. In Subject and Topic, ed. Charles N. Li,
492-518. New York: Academic Press.
Schachter, Paul, and Fe T. Otanes. 1972. Tagalog reference grammar.
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Siewierska, Anna. 1996. Word order type and alignment. Sprachtypologie und
Universalienforschung 49:149-176.
Siewierska, Anna. 1998. On nominal and verbal person marking. Linguistic
Typology 2:1-56.
Siewierska, Anna. 2005. Alignment of verbal person marking. In The World
Atlas of Language Structures, ed. Martin Haspelmath, Matthew S. Dryer, David
Gil, and Bernard Comrie, 406-409. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
Zúñiga, Fernando. 2007. From the typology of inversion to the typology of
alignment. In New Challenges in Typology, ed. Matti Miestamo and Bernhard
Wälchli, 199-220. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Abstracts are invited for 20-minute presentations plus 10 minutes for
discussion.  Interested colleagues are invited to send an e-mail to Alena
Witzlack-Makarevich (witzlack at with their name, affiliation
and a provisional abstract (max. 500 words) before 11 November 2010.

Important dates:
- Submission of provisional abstract (max. 500 words): 11 November 2010
- Notification of acceptance for workshop proposals will be given by 15
December 2010.
- If the workshop proposal is accepted, all abstracts will have to be
submitted to the SLE by January 15, 2011 via the conference site
- Notification of acceptance: 31 March 2011
- Registration: from April 1 onwards
- Conference: 8-11 September 2011

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