NEH banner [Return to Query]

Products for grant FN-260668-18

Completing Phase I of Making Kutenai Tales Accessible: Searchable Text, Interlinearized Narratives, and Audio Recordings
Irene Appelbaum, University of Montana

Grant details:

The Importance of Being Not-Obviative (Article)
Title: The Importance of Being Not-Obviative
Author: Irene Appelbaum
Abstract: In this paper, I discuss the notion of obviation in the language isolate, Ktunaxa,2 and in the Central Algonquian language, Meskwaki. While there are important differences between these two languages with respect to obviation, my concern in this paper is with a feature of obviation found in both languages—namely, that proximate shifts are often not accompanied by proximate switches. That is, while a proximate shift introduces a new proximate, the previous proximate need not, and frequently, does not, become obviative when a new proximate is introduced. Although this fact is well known, I believe it has a consequence that has been under-appreciated. I will argue that an implication of proximate shifts not being proximate switches, is that proximate shifts fail to track discourse prominence in a narrative. By 'track discourse prominence', here, I mean, systematically identify the most discourse-prominent referent in the narrative. It is widely assumed that when a proximate shift occurs, the new proximate becomes most discourse prominent at that point in the narrative, and remains so until the next proximate shift. Nevertheless, the central aim of this paper is to argue that this assumption should be rejected. Specifically, I will argue that when a proximate shift does not include the previous proximate becoming obviative, the previous proximate retains its proximate status and that, therefore, the status of the new proximate is not more discourse prominent than the preceding proximate; instead their relationship is one of discourse parity. Because such proximate shifts without switches are frequent, it will often be the case that a proximate shift does not produce a new most-discourse-prominent referent. Hence, simply tracking the new proximate in successive proximate shifts will not systematically identify the most discourse-prominent referent in a narrative
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Algonquian Conference Publications website
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Papers of the Algonquian Conference
Publisher: Michigan State University Press

Double-Obviatives and Direction-Marking in Kutenai (Article)
Title: Double-Obviatives and Direction-Marking in Kutenai
Author: Irene Appelbaum
Abstract: Kutenai morphosyntax exhibits both direction-marking and obviation. Direction is a binary distinction that characterizes transitive clauses in terms of the relative rank of the clause's two arguments. Obviation is a binary distinction that characterizes noun phrases in terms of their relative rank insofar as it distinguishes the most highly-ranked NP in a sentence from any and all other NPs in the sentence. While recognized as distinct phenomena, obviation and direction-marking are widely thought to interact as follows. The relative rank of arguments is determined by obviation status, and obviation status, in turn, is determined largely by pragmatic and semantic factors.  Despite the widespread acceptance of this view,  the central aim of this paper is to argue that there are good grounds for questioning it. I'll argue that there is a class of cases—double-obviative constructions—that the standard view does not account for. The import of these cases is not that they are exceptions per se , but that the attempt to account for them reveals that the received view is problematic even in the standard cases. In the first instance, accounting for double-obviative constructions leads to the conclusion that obviation status is not needed to mediate between discourse and semantic considerations on the one hand, and direction-marking, on the other. But closer examination shows that instead of simply being superfluous, the received view seems to fundamentally reverse the order of priority between discourse decisions that the speaker makes and the linguistic encoding of these decisions. While this paper deals exclusively with Kutenai, its conclusion may have implications for discussions of obviation and direction in Algonquian languages as well.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Western Conference on Linguistics Proceedings website
Format: Other
Periodical Title: Proceedings of the Western Conference on Linguistics
Publisher: Department of Linguistics California State University, Fresno