Slot:       28A-6          Dec. 28, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.                                                

Panel:     Semantics and Discourse

Chair:     Christina Kramer, University of Toronto


Title:       The Second Plural in Georgian: A Semantic Analysis

Author:   Bert Beynen, Free Library of Philadelphia

Georgian has two plurals: one is formed by inserting the infix -eb- before the singular endings. The other, sometimes called the archaic plural, has the ending -ni for the nominative plural and the ending -ta for the other cases, although the instrumental and adverbial cases have no second plural ending. This paper provides an explanation for the absence of these case endings. In addition, the personal pronoun for the third person has only the second plural endings, which needs an explanation as well.  Although the second plural is sometimes called “archaic,” it is frequently used in contemporary expressions, e.g. sabcho-ta kavshiri, “soviets-of union.” Also, Vogt provides contrasting examples where the use of a different plural results in a different meaning, e.g.: kal-eb-is mushaoba vs. kal-ta mushaoba, “the work of the women,” vs. “[typical] women’s work.”

The paper argues that the second plural indicates that the plurality can not be verified by speaker and addressee in the described situation. It refers hence to previous situations. Kal-ta mushaoba indicates the presence of a type of work in the described situation that in previous situations was performed by women. This explains why words like isi-ni, “they,” have the second plural endings since they always refer to a previous situation, and why the instrumental and adverbial cases do not have a second plural ending: they have the semantic feature of marginality, which van Schooneveld has redefined as being restricted to the described situation, hence they cannot refer to preceding situations.


Title:       What do you want on your tombstone?: The Correlation between Informational Weight and Language Choice in Russian Old Believer Gravestone Inscriptions in the Eastern United States

Author:   Jeffrey D. Holdeman, Indiana University

In an ethnic cemetery, the choice of languages for gravestone inscriptions can be very problematic: use your heritage language and risk the possibility that present and future generations will not be able to find the grave; use your liturgical language and risk even fewer people finding it; use the local language and risk the "penalties" of non-compliance with canonical practices or the perception that you have abandoned your ethnic and religious identity; use all three languages and run up an enormous gravestone and engraving bill.  Russian Old Believers living outside Russia are faced with this dilemma, and many communities and individuals have developed their own solutions.

In this paper, the problem is approached from the point-of-view of informational weight: what information is most critical (name, birth/death dates), what is important but less critical (familial relations, birth location), and what information has low importance (formulaic phrases, marriage dates)?  What information can vary widely in importance (religious affiliation, "artwork", baptismal names)?  In this study, over thirty discrete bits of gravestone information within the fields of names, dates, familial relations, formulaic phrases, geographical information, emblems, and affiliation are delineated, then every stone within each cemetery is analyzed in order to determine which languages are used to convey each bit of information.  Comparisons are made both between stones within a cemetery and trends in other cemeteries.  As source material, two hitherto unstudied Old Believer cemeteries in the eastern United States are analyzed in order to discover strategies and trends in language use (English, Russian, Church Slavonic; numerals).  The methodological approach is described and then illustrated with specific examples.  External information from attitude surveys and personal interviews (Holdeman 2002) are used to shed light on choices and motivations.  The results from previous language use analysis of Old Believer cemeteries in the United States and Poland (Holdeman 2000, 2003) are also compared.  Complex issues such as multilingual gravestones, orthography, comprehensibility, identity, and informational weight are also discussed.


 Holdeman, Jeffrey D.  2000.  The Sociolinguistics of the Cemetery: Using Gravestones as a Source for Sociolinguistic Data (on the Basis of Three Russian Old Believer Communities in Poland and the Eastern United States).  AATSEEL National  Convention, December 2000.

Holdeman, Jeffrey D.  2002.  Language Maintenance and Shift among the Russian Old Believers of Erie, Pennsylvania.  Ph.D. dissertation.  The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.   

Holdeman, Jeffrey D.  2003.  Erie Old Believer Russian: A Grave Situation.  Endangered and Minority Languages and Cultures Working Group of the Institute for Collaborative Research and Public Humanities, The Ohio State University, January 31, 2003.


Title:       Onomatopoeia and inflection: Semantics and discourse functions of suffix-like formations in Czech

Author:   Masako Ueda Fidler, Brown University

Recent research on discourse suggests that onomatopoeia, just as other utterances, may have a function beyond imitation of sounds. For example, Clark and Gerrig (1990) state that onomatopoeia is similar to quotations, a type of “demonstration” that depicts a situation rather than describe it.  Existing studies also find that onomatopoeia interact with morphosyntax more significantly than it was assumed. Rhodes argues that the structure of certain onomatopoeic expressions in English parallel that of a root and a suffix (1994). Sereno finds a correlation between parts of speech and the vowel height in English (1994).

In this presentation I will examine several types of interaction between Czech onomatopoeic expressions and morphosyntax. I will show that some parts of onomatopoeic expressions can be closely related both in function and in form to the suffixes used for morphological derivation and inflection. Those include  “semi-suffixes” of the type –y (e.g. dupy dup ‘sound of an undefined number of thuds’), -ity (cupity ‘sound of an undefined number of tiny steps), -k (e.g. frk ‘a fast movement by flying with a fluttering sound’), and –ky (šupky ‘a command to start an action that can be easily achieved’). Using minimal pairs, I will show that these semi-suffixes are associated not only of semantic properties of plurality, aspectuality and diminution, but also of discourse properties such as speech act and irony, which can be viewed as extensions of the former. I will describe the semantics and discourse functions, using models used in cognitive linguistics (Langacker 1987).

The results of this study will point to a possible iconic relationship between certain morphemes and sound. The data for this presentation comes from the eight-volume dictionary of Czech language (Slovník spisovného jazyka českého, 1989), literature, comics, the internet, and the databases from the Czech National Corpus (Syn2000 and Syn2005).