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Linguistic Typology

Ed. by Plank, Frans


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Spatial coordinate systems in demonstrative meaning

Niclas Burenhult1

1 Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Correspondence address: Language and Cognition Group, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P.O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands; e-mail:

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology. Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 99–142, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: 10.1515/LITY.2008.033, July 2008

Publication History

Received:
2007-06-27
Revised:
2007-09-19
Published Online:
2008-07-11

Abstract

Exploring the semantic encoding of a group of crosslinguistically uncommon “spatial-coordinate demonstratives”, this work establishes the existence of demonstratives whose function is to project angular search domains, thus invoking proper coordinate systems (or “frames of reference”). What is special about these distinctions is that they rely on a spatial asymmetry in relativizing a demonstrative referent (representing the Figure) to the deictic center (representing the Ground). A semantic typology of such demonstratives is constructed based on the nature of the asymmetries they employ. A major distinction is proposed between asymmetries outside the deictic Figure-Ground array (e.g., features of the larger environment) and those within it (e.g., facets of the speaker/addressee dyad). A unique system of the latter type, present in Jahai, an Aslian (Mon-Khmer) language spoken by groups of hunter-gatherers in the Malay Peninsula, is introduced and explored in detail using elicited data as well as natural conversational data captured on video. Although crosslinguistically unusual, spatial-coordinate demonstratives sit at the interface of issues central to current discourse in semantic-pragmatic theory: demonstrative function, deictic layout, and spatial frames of reference.

Keywords:: deixis; demonstratives; figure-ground; frame of reference; Jahai; semantic typology; space

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[1]
Holger Diessel
Language and Linguistics Compass, 2014, Volume 8, Number 3, Page 116

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