[Lingtyp] CfP: SLE 2022 workshop "Disentangling topicality effects"

Pavel Ozerov pozerov at uni-muenster.de
Thu Oct 21 08:50:39 UTC 2021

 --Apologies for cross-posting--

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to the attached call for papers for the
SLE 2022 workshop proposal "*Disentangling topicality effects*". Please see
the attached file/text below for details.

Preliminary abstracts (max. 300 words, including examples) should be
submitted before November 15, 2021 to Doriana Cimmino dcimmino at unisa.it and
to Pavel Ozerov  pozerov at uni-muenster.de

Best regards,
Doriana and Pavel



Doriana Cimmino & Pavel Ozerov

(University of Salerno, University of Münster)

The concept of the proposition-level topic is central to multiple areas of
linguistic theory and analysis, but remains largely controversial regarding
its definition and the range of the phenomena to which it applies. In the
common pre-theoretical view, topicality is a property of information that
specifies the settings and the referents required for the interpretation of
the primary message conveyed by a sentence. Among the most generally
accepted theoretical definition is the aboutness understanding, which
describes topic as the referent the proposition is about (following
Strawson 1964; Reinhart 1981; Gundel 1988; Lambrecht 1994). Other
definitions opt for different analytical levels and core properties - topic
being defined, for example, among many others, as a context displacer for
the illocutionary force (following Hockett 1958), as an interpretative
framework for the proposition (following Haiman 1978), as a carrier of
discourse salience (following Givón 1983).

Often, the boundaries of this category, regardless the definition adopted,
are too broad for the study of linguistic phenomena. For example, in
grammar, topicality is commonly associated with a large set of prototypical
cross-linguistically recurrent constructions: constituent order with a
clause-initial position, Left Dislocation and Hanging Topic structures, *as
for*-type markers, wh-clefts and topical particles. However, in the
empirical description of data, the usage of the concept does not provide
sufficient resolution for language-specific research and for comparative
analysis. In fact, it is commonly acknowledged that topicality encompasses
a cluster of factors (Jacobs 2001), thus, the application of a unified
concept to a large set of heterogenous morphosyntactic constructions must
be questioned (Gómez-González 1997). These concerns can recall the recent
discussions on the conceptual and operational drawbacks of universally
defined linguistic categories (Haspelmath 2010; Bickel 2015). However,
since topic is assumed to be a category of communication and cognitive
processing (and not a grammatical category), disentangling this concept can
potentially suggest the need for a different, multifactorial model of
communication as outlined below.

This workshop aims at disentangling topicality effects, focusing on the
description of phenomena of natural discourse and spontaneous interaction.
Our purpose is to create a fruitful dialogue between scholars from
different theoretical and methodological backgrounds, in order to examine
the range of phenomena commonly dubbed “topical”, as well as discuss
whether and to what extent the traditional concept of topic is
theoretically and empirically relevant for the study of spoken and written

In this respect, a promising path of research has been traced from
interactional, corpus-based approaches, aiming at providing fine-grained –
and often cross-linguistic – descriptions of phenomena which have been
described under the too broad concept(s) of topic. Examination of specific
constructions traditionally associated with topicality reveals indeed a
panoply of factors that contribute directly to the process of dynamic
information structuring, producing aboutness and framing effects only
epiphenomenally. For instance, experimental studies by Tomlin (1997; cf.
also Myachykov et al. 2018) suggest that attention plays a direct role in
the choice of syntactic structure in English, with no need for a
postulation of an intervening pragmatic layer of topicality. Numerous
studies of natural interaction question topicality-oriented analyses of
common “topical” structures. For example, Left Dislocation (LD)
constructions have been found to be triggered by a variety of specific
interaction-managing and production related factors, such as incremental
utterance production, turn-taking, local attention alignment, resonance of
available material, and textual prominence. (Pekarek-Doehler et al. 2015;
Ozerov forthcoming; Cimmino forthcoming). These studies may suggest that an
apparent aboutness-effect is not a primitive factor, but a retrospective,
potentially epiphenomenal overgeneralization of the specific and diverse
local discourse moves performed by the speakers. In this case, the
identified specific factors can be modelled as guiding the interlocutors
directly in the dynamic process of utterance production and interpretation
(Ozerov 2021).

We invite submissions for papers aiming at describing effects associated
with topicality, teasing them apart from syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic
components in the description of discourse level phenomena. Every discourse
phenomenon related to the concept of topic can be the object of study and
it can be approached from every theoretical and methodological angle.
to the workshop may include, but need not be limited to the following
theoretical and empirical issues:

- Theoretical discussion of discourse phenomena associated with topicality
and possible alternative conceptual categories for their description;

- Theoretical discussion on the place/benefit/evidence for a unified view
of the diverse topicality-like phenomena;

- Possible fruitful operationalization of the concept of topic for
language-specific or comparative studies;

- Language-specific and comparative studies of linguistic phenomena
associated with topicality-like effects, combined with the examination of
the factors triggering these effects;

- Crosslinguistic variation in the identification/description of
topicality-like effects;

- Cross-linguistic variation in the assignment of topical-like effects in
parallel contexts.

As we wish this workshop to be a free and fruitful forum of discussion,
each paper needs to describe the definitions of the discussed categories in
terms understandable also to other theoretical frameworks. Furthermore,
methods adopted in the operational application of the concept of topic in
corpora or experiment must be clearly described. Papers taking a
theoretical approach must also hint to empirical case-studies, and, in
turn, empirical case-studies must also clearly state their theoretical
contribution. Both intra-linguistic and cross-linguistic studies are

Please send your non-anonymous 300 words abstracts to Doriana Cimmino (
dcimmino at unisa.it) and Pavel Ozerov (pozerov at uni-muenster.de) by 15
November 2021. The convenors will select the papers to include in the
workshop proposal and notify the authors by 20 November 2021. The
notification of acceptance of the workshop will be communicated by SLE
conference organizers by 15 December 2021.


Bickel, Balthasar. 2015. “Distributional Typology: Statistical Inquiries
into the Dynamics of Linguistic Diversity.” In *The Oxford Handbook of
Linguistic Analysis*, edited by Bernd Heine and Heiko Narrog, Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Cimmino, Doriana. Forthcoming. On the topic-marking function of Left
Dislocations and Preposings. Variation across spoken and written Italian
and English. In Mattiola, Simone & Barotto, Alessandra. *Discourse
phenomena in typological perspective*. Amsterdam/Philadephia. John

Givón, Talmy. 1983. “Topic Continuity in Discourse: An Introduction.” In *Topic
Continuity in Discourse: A Quantitative Cross - Language Study*, edited by
Talmy Givón, 1–42. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Gómez-González, María A. 1997. “On Theme, Topic and Givenness: The State of
the Art.” *Moenia* 3: 135–55.

Gundel, Jeanette K. 1988. “Universals of Topic-Comment Structure.” In *Studies
in Syntactic Typology*, edited by Michael Hammond, Edith A Moravcsik, and
Jessica R Wirth, 209–39. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Haiman, John. 1978. “Conditionals Are Topics.” *Language* 54 (3): 564–89.

Haspelmath, Martin. 2010. “Comparative Concepts and Descriptive Categories
in Crosslinguistic Studies.” *Language* 86 (3): 663–87.

Hockett, Charles F. 1958. A Course in Modern Linguistics. The Macmillan
Company, New York.

Jacobs, Joachim. 2001. “The Dimensions of Topic-Comment.” *Linguistics* 39
(4): 641–81.

Lambrecht, Knud. 1994. *Information Structure and Sentence Form: Topic,
Focus, and the Mental Representations of Discourse Referents*. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Myachykov, Andriy, Simon Garrod, and Christoph Scheepers. 2018. “Attention
and Memory Play Different Roles in Syntactic Choice During Sentence
Production.” *Discourse Processes* 55 (2): 218–29.

Ozerov, Pavel. 2021. “Multifactorial Information Management: Summing up the
Emerging Alternative to Information Structure.” *Linguistics Vanguard* 7
(1): 2020039.

Ozerov, Pavel. forthcoming. “This Research Topic of Yours – Is It a
Research Topic at All?” *Language Documentation & Conservation*.

Pekarek-Doehler, Simona, Elwys De Stefani, and Anne-Sylvie Horlacher.
2015. *Time
and Emergence in Grammar: Dislocation, Topicalization and Hanging Topic in
French Talk-in-Interaction*. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Reinhart, Tanya. 1981. “Pragmatics and Linguistics: An Analysis of Sentence
Topics in Pragmatics and Philosophy I.” *Philosophica* 27 (1): 53–94.

Strawson, Peter F. 1964. “Identifying Reference and Truth-Values.” *Theoria*
30 (2): 96–118.

Tomlin, Russell S. 1997. “Mapping Conceptual Representations into
Linguistic Representations: The Role of Attention in Grammar.” In *Language
and Conceptualization*, edited by Eric Pederson and Jan Nuyts, 162–89.
Cambridge: CUP.

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Pavel Ozerov
Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
Universität Münster
Aegidiistraße 5 48143 Münster, Tel.: 0251/83-24490
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