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Auteur: Liisa VILKKI

The semantic diversity of inferentials in some endangered languages of North and South America

Abstract/Résumé: Inferentiality encompasses different types of inference as the source of information. In this presentation, I will discuss the meanings of inferential forms in some endangered languages of North and South America, such as Maricopa (Gordon 1986), Hupda (Epps 2008) and Tariana (Aikhenvald 2003). I will also consider cognitive motivations for the great variety of encoding patterns of inferentiality in these languages, focusing on the theory of mental models (Johnson-Laird 2006) and some construal operations (Verhagen 2007). The presentation is based on my typological study of inferentiality and epistemic modality, involving hundreds of grammatical forms in 130 languages. In this study, I distinguish 33 functions as comparative concepts (cf. Haspelmath 2010). The inferential forms may be purely inferential, or they may combine inferential properties and epistemic degrees of certainty. Inferential forms of individual languages may also be polysemous. I will argue that the illustrated semantic distinctions as well as different kinds of polysemy patterns are in conformity with the assumptions of the theory of mental models. In addition, I will argue that especially granularity and focusing are construal operations that are important in accounting for diverse encoding possibilities in the domain of inferentiality. References: Aikhenvald, Alexandra 2003. A Grammar of Tariana. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Epps, Patience 2008. A Grammar of Hup. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Gordon, Lynn 1986. Maricopa Morphology and Syntax. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press. Haspelmath, Martin 2010. Comparative concepts and descriptive categories in cross-linguistic studies. Language 86:663-687. Johnson-Laird, Philip 2006. How we Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Verhagen, Arie 2007. Construal and perspectivization. In Geeraerts, Dirk and Hubert Cuyckens, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 48-81.