Lectures by Marianne Mithun (University of California, Santa Barbara)
On September 17th and 19th, School of Linguistics will host 4 lectures by Marianne Mithun (Professor of University of California, Santa Barbara, US)
Marianne Mithun is widely known for her typological research and investigations of the indigenous languages of North America. The lectures are primarily intended for BA and MA students but open all visitors. The lectures will be held at School of Linguistics (Staraya Basmannaya street, 21/4, room A-307). The abstracts of the lectures are provided below. Please register at the following link. If you do not have an HSE pass to enter the building, please bring your passport with you.
Lecture 1. What is complexity?
Linguists often remark that a particular structural area of a certain language is complex. But what exactly is complexity? There is a traditional idea that the most elegant formal description matches speaker knowledge. But is complexity really the same for the analyst, the speaker, and the language learner? Here different approaches to complexity are discussed, along with strategies for assessing them and hypotheses that have been proposed for how complexity may be built up in language over time.
Lecture 2. Beyond generalization
As linguists we are constantly seeking to find order in apparent chaos, to discover basic underlying principles which govern the myriad structures we observe in speech. But sometimes we can jump too soon. In many languages, pronominal forms representing core arguments (subjects and objects, ergatives and absolutives, agents and patients, etc.) match those representing possessors. Here it will be shown that sometimes looking beyond superficial generalizations can reveal the complex routes that led to them.
Lecture 3. Sensitivity in typology
A good knowledge of typology, of the ranges of categories and patterns that occur across languages, is fundamental not only to our understanding of the essence of language, but also to insightful work with individual languages. Such awareness makes it possible to identify items much more quickly in a new language and to spot unusual ones. At the same time, hasty reliance on established categories can impede our progress in refining our typologies. This point will be illustrated with the grammar of alienability and of gender.
Lecture 4. Syntax beyond the clause: The emergence of clause chaining
We find strong areal concentrations of certain clause-chaining strategies, suggesting that they have been shaped by language contact. But how could such deeply-embedded grammar be transferred? Here processes are traced by which such clusters of parallel clause-combining strategies may develop.