Yaron Matras at LEL Research Seminar

Posted on May 7, 2017 by

Next Tuesday, May 9,  LEL’s own Professor Yaron Matras will be presenting at the LEL Research Seminar. Yaron’s talk will aim to set out a functional definition of clitics. Here is a short abstract:

Revisiting clitics: Toward a functional definition

Yaron Matras – University of Manchester

Clitics are often thought of as grammatical items that more readily encode meaning, contrasting with inflection, which is often regarded as encoding features. This fits with the canonical definition of clitics as elements that have the distribution of function words but the phonological properties of affixes (Spencer & Luís 2012). Taking as a point of departure a generically functionalist approach to predications as encoding events and participants, I’m interested in the question whether we can define clitics, or rather the contrast between clitics and inflection, in terms of their respective contribution toward capturing the relations between events and participant roles. My examples are based on two very closely related but typologically quite divergent varieties of Kurdish – Kurmanji, which behaves in a predominantly inflectional way when it comes to marking participant roles, and Sorani, which relies more heavily on clitics. I will test the proposition that person clitics are oriented toward the representation of generic argument/thematic roles, which is manifested iconically in their versatility, while person affixes are more closely bound to semantic roles that are tightly connected to the specific, local predication (and are therefore more likely to reflect local dimensions such as agency and topicality). In a sense, then, person clitics are more participant-oriented, while affixes are more event-oriented. I draw on data collected as part of the AHRC-funded project on The Dialects of Kurdish (in collaboration with Andrew Koontz-Garboden, and others).


The last time one of LEL’s staff members presented at the Research seminar was in September 2016, when Julio Villa-Garcia opened the new academic year with his talk on Spanish Syntax. We’re very proud to host one of our own on Tuesday, and we look forward to seeing you there. As usual, everyone is invited to stay for wine and crisps, before we take our speaker to dinner.

Event details:

Location: Sam Alex_A112

Date and time: Tuesday, May 9, 4.15pm-5.30pm

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