Froukje Henstra, Trying to look at you was in the language of Horace Walpole and his friends: Some issues and results concerning the use of Social Network Analysis

Milroy argues that “[a]s language use … cannot take place except in social and situational contexts … our analysis – if it is to be adequate – must take account of society, situation and the speaker/listener” (Milroy 1992: 5-6). One of the socio(historical)linguistic models that have been developed since the eighties is that of social network analysis (Milroy 1980), which was adapted for a historical context with varying degrees of success by Bax (2000) and Henstra (2006) (see also Sairio 2005). In this paper I will discuss some of the issues and complications that occur when using Social Network Analysis. This is illustrated by an attempt at a case study of variation in usage of you was and you were in the language of Horace Walpole and his friends from Eton. I will also compare the Social Network Model with another model for predicting linguistic influence, based on the notion of involvement which was used by Sairio (2005) (see also Chafe 1987 and Pallander-Collin 1999), for similar historical data.

Bax, Randy C. (2000). “A Network Strength Scale for the Study of Eighteenth-Century English”. Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Ingrid, Terttu Nevalainen and Luisella Caon, eds. (2000), Social Network Analysis and the History of English, 277-89.

Chafe, Wallace L. (1987), “Linguistic Differences produced by differences between speaking and writing”, In:Literacy, Language and Learning. The nature and consequences of reading and writing, David R. Olson, Nancy Torrance & Angela Hildyard, eds. (1985), 105-123.

Henstra, Froukje. 2006. A Family Affair. Social Network Analysis and the Lnaguage of the Walpoles. Unpublished MA thesis, Leiden University.

Milroy, Lesley. 1980. Language and Social Networks. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Milroy, James. 1992. Linguistic Variation and Change. On the Historical Sociolinguistics of English. Oxford & Cambridge: Blackwell.

Pallander-Collin, Minna (1999), “Male and female styles in 17th century correspondence: I think”, in: Language Variation and Change, 11 (1999), 123–141.

Sairio, Anni (2005). “‘Sam of Streatham Park’ A linguistic study of Dr. Johnson’s membership in the Thrale family”. Palander-Collin, Minna and Minna Nevala, eds., Letters and Letter Writing, EJES 9.1, 21-35.

Juliette Huber, Referring to Space in Makalero

Makalero is a non-Austronesian/Papuan language spoken by a community of about 8000 in East Timor. It is situated in a mountainous area and has a largely isolating profile. Several authors have noted that small, rather isolated languages spoken in such environments tend to have complex systems of spatial reference, and that there is indeed a relation between these. This seems to apply to Makalero; the specification of location and direction is a pervasive feature in everyday speech, and locative expressions are among the most complex fields in Makalero grammar. They include a rather sophisticated deictic system, which specifies not only vertical distance, but also an object’s elevation with respect to the deictic centre. Each of the deictic particles also has a nominal and a verbal form, regularly derived from the corresponding particle. Furthermore Makalero abounds in items of as yet unspecified category, which express location and/or direction; their respective meanings are not always straightforward to delimitate.

This talk is based on work in progress and will present preliminary findings on spatial reference in Makalero, giving an overview of first results, as well as an outlook and a description of the phenomena still in need of more detailed analysis.

Everybody who was hoping to gain valuable insights into Makalero phonology, sorry – this seemed more interesting to me.

Leo Wong, Structuring event with postverbal particles in Cantonese

 In Chinese languages, Cantonese features particularly rich particle systems in two domains: 1) the sentence final particles mark speaker-oriented and discourse-oriented meanings; 2) the postverbal particles define event structure, primarily with respect to telicity/inner aspect, perfectivity/outer aspect, and event quantification. My research project concentrates on the semantic and syntactic properties of the latter group.

 In general, up to three particles can cooccur in the predicate, each of these having a distinct semantic function. The sheer quantity (one to possibly two dozens) poses a technical challenge of studying the linguistic properties of these particles. Despite the existing descriptions in several reference grammars, the exact nature of these particles and their systematic relations remain poorly understood.

 In this talk, I will present an overview of the distribution and meanings of the postverbal particles, followed by a proposal of the systematic organization of these particles based on three parameters: word order, cooccurrence, and several simple (semantic) diagnostics. The hypothesis is that the proposed system is not language-specific but is in alignment with a more general mechanism of event structuring studied in other genetically and typologically remote languages.

Note: The focus of this talk is not on the formal and theoretical analysis. You are most welcome to discuss data of other languages.

Pepijn Hendriks, Foreign sources, questionable reliability? On a German source for Russian data

One of the most important documents for the study of the early modern stage of Russian was not written by Russians at all. It is a 17th-century German-Russian phrasebook compiled by Tönnies Fenne, a young merchant from Lübeck. Its linguistic importance has been recognised by leading scholars, such as A.A. Zaliznjak.
    However, linguists have recently come to realise that this document is firmly rooted in a tradition, as was shown by A. Bolek, A.L. Xoroškeviè and others. In fact, its similarities with two earlier German-Russian phrasebooks are so striking that a genetic relationship must be assumed. How does this affect the use of Fenne’s phrasebook as a reliable source for 17th-century Russian? After all, the earlier texts may very well have reduced the linguistic awareness of the non-native copyist.
    In my presentation, I will address this question by analysing one telling feature in Fenne’s phrasebook, namely the expression of futurality. Whereas the older phrasebooks closely follow the original German and prefer a periphrastic future tense combining the verb xotìti ‘to want’ with an infinitive, this construction is almost absent in Fenne’s phrasebook, and other constructions are favoured in its stead.
    Comparison of Fenne’s data with those in the earlier phrasebooks will show that the material, used time and again, was not simply copied mechanically, but underwent a process of revision, arguing in favour of Fenne’s reliability as an informant for 17th-century Russian.

Elizabeth Koier & Elena Tribushinina, Subjectification in adverbs: two case studies

Subjectification is “a semantic-pragmatic process whereby meanings become increasingly based in the speaker’s subjective belief state/attitude toward the proposition” (Traugott, 1989/1995). In this paper, we present two case studies illustrating the role of subjectification in the historical development of adverbs. The first case study deals with the Ancient Greek adverbs takha ‘soon > probably’ and mçn ‘in reality (> truly) > really’. The second case study discusses recent semantic change in two near-synonymous Russian adverbs: vpolne ‘fully > extremely > very > rather’ and ves’ma ‘wholly > extremely > very > rather’.

Rinus Verdonschot, Multiple phonological representations in Japanese kanji: cascading activation after all?

An unresolved issue in psycholinguistics is whether activation spreading is limited to selected instead of "merely" activated lemmas. This has been investigated with several paradigms. Most of these experiments, however, have either used pictures or alphabetic scripts which might put limitations on parameters of interest. We have used Japanese kanji which have multiple readings and were able to show that multiple phonological activations become active upon presentation of a single kanji prime. These findings provide further evidence for cascaded processing.

Camelia Constantinescu, On Romanian (sub)comparatives

In this investigation of Romanian (sub)comparative structures we start from the following observation: in Romanian there is a contrast between “ordinary” comparatives, where there is no (overt) adjective in the comparative clause, illustrated in (1), and “subcomparatives”, where the comparative clause contains an (overt) adjective, illustrated by the perfectly grammatical English example (2), in the sense that the latter are degraded (but also subject to variation in acceptability among speakers). Interestingly, however, there is no such contrast between “ordinary” nominal comparatives (3) and nominal “subcomparatives” (4). Such (sub)comparative clauses are introduced in Romanian by the element decât (lit. ‘of_how.much’ ~ than). But Romanian also has another strategy for introducing (sub)comparative clauses: the prepositional phrase faþã de (lit. ‘face of’ ~ compared to) + cât (‘how / how much’). The latter strategy gives rise to perfectly grammatical sentences in all the types of comparative and subcomparative constructions mentioned above.

We will attempt to explain where these contrasts in acceptability stem from by examining the structure of the (sub)comparative clause. We will pay particular attention to the properties of the element that introduces the comparative clause, i.e. decât, which will be investigated both synchronically and diachronically, with a view to establishing whether the cât component inside decât still functions as a true wh-element (‘how / how much’) syntactically (and semantically). This will be contrasted with the other type of (sub)comparative clauses – those introduced by faþã de – which include the (separate) wh-word cât and which exhibit different syntactic properties.

The results of this investigation will hopefully shed some light on the reasons for the differences in grammaticality between the cases when an (overt) adjective is present in the comparative clause introduced by decât vs. comparative clauses introduced by decât which do not contain an (overt) adjective.


For ease of exposition, here are the relevant (types of) examples in English:

(1)       John is more intelligent than Peter (is).

(2)        The table is longer than the bed is wide.           – perfectly grammatical in English, but                      

not so in Romanian

(3)       John has read more books than Peter has.

(4)       John reads more books than Peter reads magazines.