SLE 2012 Workshop Proposal

M.M.Jocelyne Fernandez-Vest m.m.jocelyne.fernandez-vest at VJF.CNRS.FR
Thu Nov 10 00:06:21 UTC 2011

*** Apologies for cross-postings***


*Workshop : Detachment constructions [dislocations] and typology in 
languages of Europe and beyond*

Proposal to be submitted to the

45th Annual Meeting of Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE2012)

Stockholm University, Department of Linguistics

Stockhom, Sweden, 29 August -- 1 September 2012


*Convenors / selection committee :*

M.M.Jocelyne Fernandez-Vest (C.N.R.S.-LACITO & Université Paris 3)

Ricardo Etxepare (C.N.R.S.-IKER, -UMR5478)

*Workshop Description*

A typological research centered on natural languages can no longer 
ignore the detached constructions, previously called « dislocations ». 
The terminology is still heterogeneous and the theoretical frames of 
analysis are not unified, but one can notice in the recent studies of 
detachment constructions a fair amount of convergence, for instance 
through the priority given to information criteria, referential 
accessibility, and cognitive relevance (see Gundel 1988, Gundel & al. 
2010, Lambrecht 2001, 2004). The translinguistic research of 
equivalence, partly complexified by the huge corpora nowadays available, 
is on the other hand made easier by the use of parallell translations. 
Detachments have been mostly studied within the theoretical frame of 
Information Structuring (IS), that was introduced in linguistics by the 
Prague School functionalism (Mathesius 1928, Vachek (ed.) 1964) and has 
been more systematically investigated in the last few decades. The 
recent IS research has focused on two major topics: (i) the notional 
foundations of IS theory (Vallduví 1992, Lambrecht 1994, Erteschik-Shir 
2007) ; (ii) the development of models of grammar which account for the 
interaction between IS, syntax and semantics. Multi-level integrated 
models of grammar have been proposed by functionalists (Van Valin & 
LaPolla 1997), while generative studies, which used to exclude the 
influence of the context, have integrated IS notions into the 
« cartographic » approach initiated by Rizzi (1997).

The « left periphery » is the one which has given rise to most studies 
(Barnes 1985, De Cat 2007, Sturgeon 2008). Mentioned already in the 
1980s (Geluykens 1987, Lambrecht 1994, Dik 1997), the « right 
periphery » has steadily been the cause for controversies (see Bernini & 
Schwartz (eds.) 2006), but its independance towards the Theme/Topic is 
confirmed by the most recent investigations (Fernandez-Vest 2004, 
Horlacher & Müller 2005, Brunetti 2009a, 2009b, Amon 2009). The 
recognition of 2 types of Detachments has profited by the progresses of 
Detachment Linguistics in the French speaking academic world -- thanks 
to both synchronic and diachronic work (Combettes 1998, Neveu 2003, 
Apothéloz, Combettes & Neveu (éds.), 2009).

In parallel with the traditional dichotomy (Theme-Rheme / Topic-Focus), 
a tripartite analysis has developed, that meets the principle of a 
triple organization of the utterance advocated by several language 
theoreticians (Pierce, Danes( 1974, Hagège 1978). The choice of a 
textual and interactional definition of the Theme (« what is spoken 
about ») and Rheme (« what is said about it ») has implied the 
recognition of a 3rd element, the Mneme (/Tail/, /Antitopic/), which is 
characterized by formal properties (a post-Rheme marked by flat 
intonation) and semantic ones (supposedly shared knowledge, affective 

The method of analysis has can thus be based on twice 3 elements

-- 3 levels, pragmatic, morphosyntactic, semantic --,

-- 3 pragmatic constituents -- Theme -- Rheme -- Mneme --, with 2 basic 
strategies available

. the /binary strategy 1/(Theme-Rheme), with a 1st element frequently 
detached (Initial Detachment, ID)

. and the /binary strategy 2/(Rheme-Mneme), where the 2^nd constituent 
is detached (Final Detachment, FD) ; it is a typical construction for 
Impromptu Speech, mostly absent in written style.

A Minimal Communicative Utterance (MCU) is in this perspective shaped by 
the only necessary constituent for an utterance to exist, i.e. the 
Rheme, which, in ordinary conversations, is often, but not obligatorily, 
a short Answer, morphosyntactically variable (Fernandez-Vest 1994, 
2009a, 2011b). The 2 types of detachments, ID and FD, have also been 
integrated as complementary processes in the official grammatical 
description of some languages, as is the case of the « Comprehensive 
Grammar of Finnish » published by the Finnish Academy of Science (ISK 2004).

In Europe, the study of Romance languages in particular has permitted to 
reach a deeper knowledge of IS and its privileged means of expression : 
prosody, discourse particles, word order. IS is no longer considered an 
exclusive matter of syntax : in the Informational Patterning theory, 
prosodic parsing is seen as an index of formal recognition of IS 
(Scarano 2009). Diachronic studies of « non standard French » have shown 
that IDs and FDs, even though a very old syntactic phenomenon which can 
be interpreted differently by enunciation theoreticians vs. 
syntacticians, require basically to take into account the prosody as 
well as the discourse co- and context (Marchello-Nizia 1999, 
Blanche-Benveniste 2010).

Another important contribution is made by the Non-Indo-European 
languages of Europe, which through their constant contacts belong to the 
European semantic sphere, but typologically are still rather different 
from their neighbors : Detachments have been studied in Finno-Ugric 
languages (Samic and Finnic) from the points of view of their 
typological evolution from oral to written language as well as from the 
internal contrastivity of spoken vs.written enunciation (Fernandez-Vest 
2006, 2009b). Detachments in Basque have been studied mostly on the 
formal/generative model, with a particular recent attention to so-called 
« interface interactions » between prosody and information structure 
(Elordieta 1997; Elordieta 2002; Arregi 2003; Irurtzun 2007; Irurtzun 
and Elordieta 2009, among others), but other discourse structure 
oriented studies exist (Osa 1990). Taking into account a number of 
classical observations bout the fundamental syntactic properties of 
focus constructions in Basque (see Etxepare & Ortiz de Urbina 2003 for 
an introductory work), e.g. the existence of possibly different focus 
positions and of multiple focus constructions (Etxepare & 
Uribe-Etxebarria 2008), two broad lines of analysis have been applied to 
Basque Theme-Rheme constructions in syntactic theory: the traditional 
idea that focus constructions are operator constructions targeting a 
given syntactic position in the clause structure (the so-called 
« syntactocentric » or derivational analysis, see recently Irurtzun 2007 
for Basque); (ii) and the idea that focus is an interface phenomenon, 
whose syntactic distribution follows from comparison between 
representations pertaining to different modules of the linguistic 
faculty (for a recent proposal in this sense, Arregi 2003)

Larger cross-linguistic studies, favored by the modern use of electronic 
corpora, have begun giving results about the main processes involved in 
IS in typologically different languages -- see the Project /ISTY 
1/(Information Structuring and Typology, 2008 -- ) : /Detachment 
constructions in Languages and Discourses/of the CNRS-Fédération TUL 
(Typologie et Universaux Linguistiques), that aims at comparing the 
Detachments of 30 languages in the light of three theoretical 
approaches, and exploring thus further the interaction of IS, semantic 
and syntactic structures (Van Valin 2005)

*Possible topics for the workshop include, but are not limited to, the 
following: *

(a) Detachments and external contrastivity (typological descriptions ; 
cross-linguistic studies)

(b) Detachments and internal contrastivity (oral vs. written register, 
mixed forms ; types of utterances -- questions, answers, declaratives ; 
types of discourse -- everyday conversation, political debate, 
scientific lecture)

(c) Detachments in transfer (oral interpretation, translation of fiction 

(d) Detachment constructions, IS and discourse genres (narrative, 
arguing, description of itinerary)

(e) Detachments and other devices of spoken language (discourse 
particles, prosody)

(f) Detachments in an evolutionary perspective (diachrony, synchronic 
dynamism, languages in contact)


The abstracts (in MSWord or pdf format) should be sent to the following 
addresses :

m.m.jocelyne.fernandez-vest at 
<mailto:m.m.jocelyne.fernandez-vest at>

r.etxepare at <mailto:r.etxepare at>.

Abstracts are invited for 20 minutes presentations with 10 minutes 

Important dates

*Submission of provisional abstract : 13 November 2011.*

15 November 2011submission of Workshop proposals (description + abstracts)

15 December 2011 :notification of acceptance/rejection

15 January 2012 :submission of all abstracts

31 March 2012 :notification of acceptance

-àIf the Workshop is accepted, all abstracts will need to be submitted 
to SLE by 15 January 2012, via the SLE Conference website : 

Notification of acceptance : 31 March 2012

Registration :From April 2012 onwards

Conference :29 August -- 1 September 2012

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                 M.M.Jocelyne FERNANDEZ-VEST
                 Directrice de Recherche au C.N.R.S.
         Linguistique G?n?rale, Ouralienne et Nordique
      CNRS-LACITO UMR 7107, Universit?s Paris 3&  Paris 4
             29, rue Descartes. F-75005 PARIS
                T?l.&  Fax : 33.(0)



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