Sino-Kwa project: two talks on 2nd March

The Leiden-UvA Sino-Kwa project is happy to announce two talks on the topic of analytic/isolating languages, by Prof. Alain Peyraube (CRLAO, CNRS-EHESS, Paris) and Prof. Nigel Duffield (The University of Sheffield).
Date and time:     Friday, March 2nd 2012, 13:30-15:30
Venue:                Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities, Matthias de Vrieshof 2, room 001
Language:           English
All are welcome. For any questions, please contact The organisers hope to see you there!
"Has Chinese changed from a synthetic language into an analytic language or vice versa?"
by Prof. Alain Peyraube (CRLAO, CNRS-EHESS, Paris)
The terms ‘analytic’ and ‘synthetic’ should be used in a relative rather than absolute sense. For example, languages like English are less inflectional, and thus more analytic than most of the other Indo-European languages.
Chinese is said to be an isolating language and consequently an analytic language, i.e. a language that conveys grammatical relationships syntactically, via the use of words or free morphemes. It does not possess bound morphemes, such as inflectional prefixes, suffixes or infixes. However, it is also claimed that Archaic Chinese (11th-2nd c. BCE), and especially Late Archaic – the Classical Chinese par excellence (5th – 2nd c. BCE) – had an inflectional morphology, and not just derivational affixes.
With this idea of degrees of analyticity and syntheticity in mind, some scholars have hypothesized that Classical Chinese has been moving from less analyticity to more analyticity between Archaic and Medieval Chinese (5th – 14th c. AD), and from more syntheticity to less syntheticity from Medieval to Modern Chinese (14th – 18th c. AD) and then on to Contemporary Chinese (from 18th c. on).
This hypothesis will be discussed in the paper and it will be shown that this cyclic change is far from being well-founded.
"Unpeeling an onion: what Vietnamese tells us about the lexicon-syntax interface"
by Prof. Nigel Duffield (The University of Sheffield)
Among isolating languages, Vietnamese is relatively unusual in having at its disposal a large inventory of functional (grammatical) vocabulary: elements that carry semantic information with respect to tense, ‘Outer’ and ‘Inner’ Aspect, mood, illocutionary force, and—what is termed here—assertion. Given that it is also a rigidly head-initial language with very little uninterpreted syntactic movement, the distribution and interpretation of these elements relative to each other and to the thematic verb-phrase (vP) provides a fairly direct ‘cartography’ of the functional syntax of Vietnamese (and—it may be argued—of other languages, such as English or Dutch, in which this phrasal architecture is obscured by the effects of head-movement). In this paper, I shall discuss the significance of Vietnamese for a layered approach to syntactic representation, focussing on Tense, Assertion, Negation and the representation of events (Event Structure). First, I present some basic distributional facts previously discussed in Duffield (2007, in press) to show that the syntactic features determining emphasis in both affirmative and negative sentences in Vietnamese are realized in a relatively low position in the clausal syntax, immediately above the maximal thematic verb-phrase (‘Low Modality’). It will then be argued that this position is directly event-related, associated with an ‘event variable’ in the sense of Davidson (1967), Pustejovsky (1995). Next, I shall argue on the basis of constraints on Yes-No questions that syntactic features associated with affirmative emphasis in Vietnamese are necessarily projected lower than—and independently of—the functional projection that hosts sentential negation: that is to say, the claim will be that affirmative emphasis is a special case of assertion, rather than the polar opposite of negation (cf. Laka 1990). Finally, I shall review some of the distributional differences between English and Vietnamese in declarative clauses: resurrecting earlier generative analyses—in particular that of Chomsky (1957)—I offer some speculative suggestions for a uniform approach to finiteness and emphasis in the two languages.

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