The Diversity in Language, Culture & Cognition Colloquium series is a joint initiative of the Centre for Language Studies and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. It brings together the Meaning, Culture and Cognition, Languages in Contact, and Multimodal Language and Cognition groups, as well as the Language and Cognition department, for cutting-edge talks on diversity. It is co-organized by Ewelina Wnuk and Alex Carstensen. For further information, please contact Ewelina Wnuk. Meetings take place weekly on Thursdays at 3.45pm at the MPI.
28 SEPTEMBER 2017
Causality across languages: State of the art
This presentation introduces the project Causality Across Languages (CAL; NSF Award #BCS-1535846). The principal objective of CAL is the first large-scale comparison of how speakers of different languages categorize causal chains for the purposes of describing them. The presentation summarizes three ongoing studies, drawing on data from Datooga (Nilotic, Tanzania), English, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Sidaama (Cushitic, Ethiopia), Spanish, Urdu, and Yucatec (Mayan, Mexico and Belize). The first study targeted narrative production data. Results indicate remarkably parallel patterns of what is expressed (specifically or generically) and what is left implicit. The second study implemented a multiphasic design protocol combining production and the collection of goodness-of-fit judgments between descriptions and scenes. Regression models indicate a strong, highly significant correlation between domain (physical vs. psychological vs. speech act causation) and most compact construction type acceptable. Surprisingly, however, the involvement of an intermediate human participant did not exert a significant effect. The third study investigates the role of intentionality in attributions of responsibility. Participants watched scenes featuring two actors involved in a causal chain initiated by one of them. They then divided tokens into piles indicating their assignment of responsibility for the resulting event. A linear mixed effects regression model indicated a significant interaction between intentionality and population. This supports previous findings suggesting that the role of internal dispositions in responsibility attribution is variable across cultures. A follow-up question we intend to take up is whether folk theories of agency influence grammars.
05 OCTOBER 2017
19 OCTOBER 2017
02 NOVEMBER 2017
09 NOVEMBER 2017
17 NOVEMBER 2017
Early language experience in a Mayan village
Recent work on socioeconomically diverse Western samples has convincingly shown that children’s linguistic input affects their language learning. However, generally speaking, acquisition is quite robust. Children grow up to be competent language users under radically different conditions of caregiver-infant interaction across the world’s cultures. By studying development in non-Western cultures, we stand to better understand the scope of variation in early language experience—a crucial step toward finding out which aspects of language learning are sensitive to early experience and which are more robust. I will present initial findings from an ongoing project on linguistic and communicative development in children under age five from two non-Western cultures: one in which caregivers engage children in intensive, face-to- face verbal interaction from infancy (Papua New Guinean: Rossel Island) and one in which early caregivers instead aim to keep their infants calm and quiet (Tseltal Mayan: Tenejapa, Chiapas, Mexico). I will primarily focus on the Mayan community, in which caregiver-infant interaction is reported to most widely differ from Western middle-class norms.
23 NOVEMBER 2017
29 NOVEMBER 2017
Towards a semantic typology of complex predicates: Auxiliary verb constructions vs. serial verb constructions vs. light verb constructions
The terms serial verb, auxiliary verb and light verb have each been used by various authors to cover virtually every complex predicate subtype and it is not clear what a given scholar intends when using them. To put some order into this chaos, I offer a semantic approach to distinguish them across all of the different language groups and traditions. First all such terms are meaningful only in a larger constructional context. Such formations minimally consist of two elements, one of which is purely lexical. The other element in such constructional frames can be designated the serial verb, auxiliary verb or the light verb. I propose that an element is an auxiliary verb if it contributes functional semantics to the overall constructional sense, a serial verb if it contributes lexical semantics, and a light verb if it contributes no other semantics except instantiating valence and/or serving as an inflectable verbal element in a complex predicate, the other component of which has predicative potential but cannot be inflected as a verbal element in the language for a variety of different reasons (it’s an ideophone, a borrowed stem, phonologically defective, etc.). Examples from many languages are used to demonstrate these claims.