Research Seminar: Lisa Matthewson & Henry Davis

Dr. Lisa Matthewson and Dr. Henry Davis will present a research seminar on Micro-variation in discourse particles: From St’át’imcets to German.



Discourse particles convey information about the discourse status of propositions and the belief states of interlocutors. They are cross-linguistically understudied; there is no typological landscape, little understanding of what makes a possible vs. impossible particle, and few established categories of particles with similar meanings.

In this talk we advocate for a radically decompositional approach to discourse particles, which will eventually allow us to uncover the semantic ‘building blocks’ which make them up. As a case study we examine the St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish) ‘frustrative’ séna7, and compare it to similar elements in Tohono O’odham, Kimaragang and German. We argue that the particles display micro-variation in properties such as (lack of) reference to the common ground, (lack of) reference to a contextually salient proposition, (non-)existence of a contrast entailment and (a)symmetry of the contrast entailment.



*Note: This event is eligible for LOC credit. That said, we remind students to please treat this event respectfully: please attend only if you are able to be present for the entire presentation and discussion (within the posted time limits, i.e. arriving by 12:30 and staying until 1:30), and understand that this is a high-level, research-oriented session. The topic and discussion may not be entirely accessible to those without a fair bit of linguistic training.