September 17, 2019

Research Groups: Friday, September 20

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Language Variation and Change Research Group
Arvind Iyengar (visiting scholar): "Scripting change: The orthographic and sociolinguistic impact of intergeneration phonological change in Indian Sindhi."

Sindhi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in southern Pakistan and in various parts of India. In Pakistan, the language is officially written in the Perso-Arabic script – a modified version of the Arabic script. However, the minority Sindhi community in India has vigorously debated for several decades now on which script to write the language in – in Perso-Arabic, or in the Devanāgarī script otherwise widely used in India. Supporters of the Devanāgarī script emphasise its supposedly superior representation of Sindhi phonology compared to the Perso-Arabic script.

However, the Sindhi language in India has been undergoing subtle shifts in phonology over the last seventy years. Because of this, certain features of the Devanāgarī script touted as an advantage by its supporters might actually hinder reading and learning, while features of the Perso-Arabic script might  somewhat ironically  lend themselves well to a pan-dialectal Sindhi orthography.

This talk will explore the details of the orthographic nuances mentioned above, which are often lost in the noise of emotional debates on script, language and identity within the Indian Sindhi community. It will also outline the potential impact of phonology-orthography mismatches on pedagogy and literacy in, and maintenance of this minority language in India.

11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Phonology Research Group
TBA

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
Semantics Research Group
Naomi Francis (MA 2014, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Presupposition denials with even."

This talk will explore a puzzle about even and its crosslinguistic kin. Even-like items in several languages are subject to a surprising restriction when they appear in declarative sentences that deny presuppositions: these items acceptable in negative presupposition denials but not in positive ones, as shown in (1) for English.

(1) A: Did Kenji bring his wife to the picnic? (Presupposes: Kenji has a wife, i.e., is married) 
B: Kenji isn’t even married!
B': #Kenji’s even unmarried/a bachelor!

The contrast between sentences like (1B) and (1B') is not straightforwardly reducible to independent properties of even or of presupposition denial, but instead reflects something about how even and presupposition denial interact. I propose a solution to the puzzle that makes crucial use of i) the controversial additive presupposition of even, ii) presuppositions triggered within the salient focus alternatives, and iii) an independently motivated mechanism for denying presuppositions under negation. I explore crosslinguistic predictions of the proposed analysis and discuss what the puzzle can teach us about focus-sensitive operators, presuppositions, and focus alternatives in discourse.

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