Kittilä and Dahlgren at LEL seminar

Posted on February 6, 2023 by

At this week’s seminar (Tuesday 7th Feb.), we’ll have not one but two talks. The speakers will be Seppo Kittilä on “New typologies of evidentiality” and Sonja Dahlgren on “A phonetic typology of five languages“. Each of the talks will be ca. 30 minutes, starting at 4:10pm. The talks will be in Simon Building 2.61. All are welcome!

New typologies of evidentiality 

Seppo Kittilä 

University of Helsinki 

In this talk, I will propose two new typologies of evidentiality, or in more common terms, epistemic markers. First, I will propose a more schematic and simpler way of defining existing recognized EVIDENCE TYPES. (This typology has features in common with Plungian’s 2010 seminal typology.) Among other things, the definitions of inference and assumption will be modified because, in their current form (as defined, for example by Aikhenvald, Plungian and de Haan), these notions can explain only a small percentage of actual uses of inferentials and assumptives. 

Second, I will propose a new typology of EPISTEMIC MARKERS, based not only on the evidence type the markers code but also taking into account the evaluation of the evidence. I will distinguish the following four types of markers: 

1. Markers of information source 

2. Markers of mode of knowing 

3. Markers of evaluation of evidence 

4. Markers of subjective evaluation 

Markers of the first type take information source into account, and their use is determined by the nature of the evidence the speaker has for his/her claim. These markers correspond rather directly to what is typically labeled as “evidential markers.” The second type of markers do not code the speaker’s (original) information source; rather, they code the current status of the evidence for the speaker (for example, does the speaker know or think that a given state of affairs applies, without specifying the information source in any direct way?). Markers of the third type —the most heterogeneous of the four— evaluate the speaker’s evidence. I distinguish two subtypes here, based on whether the evaluation concerns other people’s evidence (e.g., markers of shared or private knowledge) or the speaker’s previous own evidence (e.g., mirative markers). Finally, markers of Type 4 are usually labeled as “modal markers.” 

A phonetic typology of five languages:  

A pilot study for a phonological typology of consonantal and vocalic languages 

Sonja Dahlgren 

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh 

In this talk, I present results of a phonetic typology conducted on ultrasound tongue imaging. The project is part of a phonological typology aiming to categorise languages based on their coarticulation directions i.e. whether coarticulation mainly occurs from consonant to vowel or from vowel to consonant. I also study whether coarticulation directions are connected to specific vowel reduction and stress types. The data for this talk comes from on-going collaborative studies on Finnish, American English and Italian. 

Previous speech studies offer examples of language-specific preferences for the direction of coarticulation (Öhman (1966) English and Swedish vs. Russian; Manuel (1999) language-specific coarticulatory patterns resulting from differing needs of phonological contrasts; Traunmüller (1999) consonant-to-vowel coarticulation in NW Caucasian and Northern Chinese languages; Hardcastle and Hewletts (1999) vowel-to-consonant coarticulation in English; Scobbie and Sfakianaki (2013) vowel-to-consonant coarticulation for Greek). The current study adds to the evidence of language-specific coarticulatory patterns. 

I hypothesise that coarticulatory preferences are connected to the ratio between vowels and consonants in the phoneme inventory (cf. Maddieson 2013), creating differing needs of phonological contrast and leading to language-specific word formational/inflectional patterns. For example, Finnish with its eight vowels and 11-12 native consonants is vocalic and Arabic with its three to five vowels but up to 28 consonants is consonantal. Reducing Finnish or Greek vowel qualities would lose e.g. case distinctions (Finnish talolla ‘at the house’ vs. talolle ‘to the house’), so motivation behind a specific strategy seems to be largely functional. 

The languages of the study span the continuum of stress- vs. syllable/mora-timing and differ in vowel reduction. According to our findings, English has similar vowel-to-consonant coarticulation to Finnish and Greek. This means that neither the stress system of a language, nor its tendency for vowel reduction, can necessarily predict its coarticulatory bias.