Siena Weingartz scoops up an LAGB award

Posted on September 2, 2021 by

Congratulations to LEL alumna, Siena Weingartz who has won this year’s LAGB (Linguistics Association for Great Britain) Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Dissertation in Linguistics. There is a national competition for the award in which only four students can triumph, so it’s quite an achievement. In fact, Manchet can reveal that Siena is the first Manchester student who has won it since LAGB funded the award in 2017.

The dissertation, supervised by Vera Hohaus, is on “Analysing comparative and superlative constructions in Ndebele: A Bantu language spoken in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa“. Below is more info about the work, in Siena’s own words.

My UG dissertation focused on certain kinds of comparison constructions found in Ndebele, which is spoken in Zimbabwe. In using comparison constructions, an ordering relation is established between two individuals and makes reference to a measurement scale, for example, height. In the sentence ‘Peta is taller than Monika’, Peta (the comparee) and Monika (the comparison standard) are placed into an ordering relation making reference to their heights.

There are many different kinds of comparison constructions, such as the one above, but also differential comparatives like ‘Peta is 14cm taller than Monika’. The way these are constructed varies across languages (fairly systematically, excitingly!). Ndebele encodes these relations in two ways: through an EXCEED-type comparative ‘Peta is tall, exceeding Monika’, and a locative comparative, roughly translating as ‘Peta is tall on Monika’.

Collecting data from conversations with native speakers was an amazing experience, and learning what is – or isn’t – possible in constructing comparatives and superlatives in a language very different from English was a good challenge (massively thankful for supervisors who know what to look for!). Of course, there’s still much more to discover, so I have lots left to learn (superlative ambiguities, serial verb constructions, covert comparative operators..?)! Looking forward to doing the MA programme this academic year *grins*.