[Lingtyp] CfP: The semantics and pragmatics of apprehensive markers in a cross-linguistic perspective

Eva Schultze-Berndt Eva.Schultze-Berndt at manchester.ac.uk
Tue Oct 17 22:20:22 UTC 2017

Call for abstracts (Apologies for cross-posting)

Workshop proposal for the 51st Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), Tallinn, 29 Aug – 1 Sept 2018

Organisers: Martina Faller and Eva Schultze-Berndt (University of Manchester, UK)

The semantics and pragmatics of apprehensive markers in a cross-linguistic perspective

Presumably speakers of all languages have strategies at their disposal to communicate warnings, as in (1), or threats. Warnings typically alert the addressee to a potential, but undesirable event which can be avoided by appropriate action, and at the same time perform a directive illocutionary act with the aim to bring about this action (Carstens 2002; Dominicy and Franken 2002; Searle 1969: 67).

(1) (Get down from up there!) You might fall!

However, languages differ in whether or not they possess grammatical markers which are specialised for just this communicative task. For example, the English modal auxiliary might in combination with a non-past verb form has a broad meaning of future possibility which is not restricted to undesirable possibilities; the undesirability of the consequence (e.g. in (1), falling can lead to injury) is merely implied.

In contrast, many languages possess a dedicated grammatical item to encode a future possibility deemed by the speaker to be undesirable for the addressee, such as the particle ngaja in Ngarinyman, a Ngumpin-Yapa language of Australia, shown in (2). As one would expect, warnings are the typical pragmatic context for markers of this type.

(2) ngaja=nggu bayalany dawujbany-du!
     APPR=2SG.O bite:PRS perch-ERG
     (A: ‘I will bathe here’) – B: ‘(watch out), a perch (fish sp.) might bite you!'
     (fieldwork Schultze-Berndt)

Grammatical elements with meanings of this type have been labelled with a number of terms including “apprehensive”, “admonitive”, “evitative” or “timitive” in linguistic descriptions. In this workshop we will focus on markers (e.g. modals or particles) at the level of the main clause, of the type illustrated in (2). However, clauses with apprehensive markers are generally pragmatically dependent in that they are employed as justifications e.g. for a directive, as pointed out in many language-specific descriptions, very explicitly so by François (2003: 304–310). For example, the implicit directive associated with the utterance in (2) is ‘Don’t bathe there’ or ‘Be careful when you bathe there’. Main clause apprehensive markers are therefore semantically and functionally, and possibly diachronically, related to subordinate clause markers expressing a negative purpose, i.e. the state of affairs to be avoided by the action encoded by the main clause, like the (archaic) lest in English.

Although main clause apprehensive markers figure in numerous language-specific descriptions – for example of languages from the Australian, Papuan, South Pacific, and Amazonian areas – there exist very few works that address the phenomenon from a cross-linguistic perspective (but see Dobrushina 2006; Lichtenberk 1995; Pakendorf and Schalley 2007; Vuillermet to appear). Apprehensive markers only receive passing mention – if at all – in works on modality or speech acts from a typological-functional perspective (Bybee et al. 1994: 211; König and Siemund 2007; Palmer 2001 [1994]: 22) and have been largely ignored in the formal semantic literature on modality.

Dedicated apprehensive markers may actually exist, but have gone unnoticed, in better-described languages, possibly due to a lack of awareness of the cross-linguistic category. Examples are temporal adverbs which have taken on a secondary apprehensive function in German (3) and Dutch (Boogaart 2009), and a number of other languages (Angelo & Schultze-Berndt 2016).

(3) Ich glaube,             ich nehme lieber nicht am     Gewinnspiel teil.
      I     think:PRS:1SG  I    take     rather NEG P:DEF lottery        part
     Nachher      gewinne      ich noch
     Later/APPR win:PRS:1SG I    PART
     und kann das CL Finale nicht zu Hause schauen.
     and can DEF CL final NEG at home watch
     ‘I think I’d rather not participate in this lottery.
      I might win [a trip]
      and would not be able to watch the Champions League final at home.’

The aim of this workshop is to bring together scholars from different subfields of linguistics and working within a variety of theoretical frameworks, to shed light on the elusive category of apprehensives and apprehensive strategies. We invite abstracts addressing one or more of the following questions from the perspectives of language-specific analysis, corpus linguistics, typological comparison, semantics and pragmatics, acquisition, or grammaticalisation.

a) What is the precise semantic characterisation and pragmatic function of grammaticalised apprehensive markers in the individual language(s) considered? Are there several markers in a single language, e.g. in precautionary and preventive function (Lichtenberk 1995; Vuillermet 2013, to appear)? What apprehensive “strategies” – i.e. ways of expressing warnings or threats – can be identified in languages without fully grammaticalised markers?

b) What is the place of apprehensive markers/strategies in the systems of modality and mood of the languages concerned? What are the semantic contrasts involved? Do they co-occur with particular modal or mood markers, or are they markers of modality or mood themselves?

c) What parameters can serve to describe cross-linguistic variation between markers in this domain?

d) How is the pragmatic import of apprehensive markers conveyed in second language teaching and translating/interpreting?

e) What are the diachronic origins of grammaticalised apprehensive markers? What light do apprehensive strategies (weakly grammaticalised or multifunctional markers) shed on the semantics of the apprehensive category, and the pragmatic conditions that give rise to such markers?

f) What is the status of apprehensive utterances in speech act theories and in discussions of the relationship between modality/mood and speech acts? What is their relation to directives?

g) Does the prevalence of apprehensive markers or strategies reflect cultural preferences, e.g. for indirectness of expressing directives/order (by spelling out potential negative consequences of non-adherence)? How are such markers employed in the socialisation of children?

Potential participants are invited to contact the workshop organisers with an expression of interest as soon as possible, by emailing
    martina.faller at manchester.ac.uk
    eva.schultze-berndt at manchester.ac.uk

The final date for the submission of an abstract for a 20-minute presentation (up to 300 words, exclusive of references) is Friday, 10 November 2017. Submission at this stage is non-anonymous, by email to the workshop organisers.
Notification of inclusion of the abstract in the workshop proposal is by 15 November 2017.

Notification of acceptance/rejection of the workshop proposal by the SLE organisers is by 15 December.

If the proposal is successful all participants will need to submit a full abstract by the regular SLE conference deadline of 15 January 2018.

For further information on the conference, see http://sle2018.eu/.

Boogaart, R. 2009. Een retorische straks-constructie. In R. Boogaart, J. Lalleman, M. Mooijaart & M. van der Wal (eds.), Woorden wisselen. Voor Ariane van Santen bij haar afscheid van de Leidse universiteit (pp. 167–183). Leiden: Stichting Neerlandistiek Leiden.
Bybee, J., Perkins, R., & Pagliuca, W. 1994. The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect and Modality in the Languages of the World. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Carstens, A. 2002. Speech act theory in support of idealized warning models. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 20(4): 191-200.
Dobrushina, N. 2006. Grammaticheskie formy i konstrukcii so znacheniem opasenija i predosterezhenija [Grammatical forms expressing warning and apprehension]. Voprosy jazykoznanija, 2.
Dominicy, M., & Franken, N. 2002. Speech acts and relevance theory. In D. Vanderveken & S. Kubo (eds.), Essays in Speech Act Theory (pp. 263–283). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
François, A. 2003. La sémantique du prédicat en mwotlap (Vanuatu). Leuven/Paris: Peeters.
König, E., & Siemund, P. 2007. Speech Act Distinctions in Grammar. In T. Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description. Vol. 1: Clause structure. [2nd edition] (pp. 276–324). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lichtenberk, F. 1995. Apprehensional epistemics. In J. Bybee & S. Fleischman (eds.), Modality in grammar and discourse (pp. 293–328). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Pakendorf, B., & Schalley, E. 2007. From possibility to prohibition: A rare grammaticalization pathway. Linguistic Typology, 11: 515-540.
Palmer, F. R. 2001 [1994]. Mood and modality (Second edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Searle, J. R. 1969. Speech Acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vuillermet, M. to appear. The Apprehensional Domain in Ese Ejja: Making the Case for a Typological Domain? (Special issue on Morphemes and Emotions across the World’s Languages, edited by Maïa Ponsonnet and Marine Vuillermet). Studies in Language, 42(1).

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