Venice Research Webinar in Linguistics
Chiara Gianollo:Indefinites and cyclical change
Epistemic indefinites, such as e.g. English some or French quelque, signal ignorance on the part of the speaker with respect to the identity of the intended witness to the existential claim (cf. the volume edited by Alonso-Ovalle & Menéndez-Benito 2015 for a crosslinguistic overview). Epistemic indefinites have the function of blocking undesired inferences on the part of the hearer (avoidance of a false claim, avoidance of an exhaustivity inference). Given their semantic characterization, they are rarely found in assertive contexts. For this reason, they can be the starting point of a cyclical process of change, known as Argument Cycle (Ladusaw 1993) or Quantifier Cycle (Willis 2011), whereby an indefinite item goes from a ‘positive’ to a more ‘negative’ meaning. In this paper I show how the cycle applies to Latin aliquis ‘some (or other)’ and to its Romance descendants (Italian alcuno, French aucun, Spanish algún, etc.) (Gianollo 2018: ch. 2 and 3). By means of this case study I reach a more precise semantic and syntactic characterization of the starting point of the cycle, and I discuss similarities and differences with respect to similar diachronic developments within Germanic (English any, Dutch enig). Moreover, I show how the further development of this cycle is influenced by pragmatic pressures that are analogous to those motivating Jespersen’s Cycle and result in the emphatic expression of negation. Emphasis, which I analyze as a form of scalar focus, has important effects both on the semantics of the indefinite item and on its DP-internal syntax, as will be shown by means of a comparative study of the Romance descendants.
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For some reason, even if the event is set as public, some user need to be accepted manually. This may take some time if the audience is numerous (as I hope). The room will open at 13:45 to accept participants until 14:14. The talk will start at 14:15 sharp.
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bio della conferenziera:
Chiara Gianollo is Associate Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Bologna. She obtained her MA and PhD from the University of Pisa and has held appointments as lecturer and researcher at the Universities of Trieste, Konstanz, Stuttgart, and Cologne. Her main research areas are diachronic syntax and semantics, with specific focus on the use of formal theoretical linguistics to investigate the history of Greek, Latin, and Old Romance. She has recently published the monograph Indefinites between Latin and Romance. OUP, 2018.
L'evento si terrà in italiano
Dipartimento di Studi Linguistici e Culturali Comparati, Giuliana Giusti (email@example.com)
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