Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

14.12. Colloquium on African linguistics: Rethinking dependency reversal (Rong Chen)

“Rethinking dependency reversal in noun-attributive constructions” - Talk by Rong Chen (HU Berlin) given within the digital colloquium of African linguistics and languages
  • When Dec 14, 2021 from 04:15 to 05:45 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100)
  • Where Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, room 410 & via Zoom
  • Contact Name Christfried Naumann (christfried.naumann (AT), please contact for Zoom access information)
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Dependency reversal describes an unusual phenomenon of noun-attributive constructions in which property attributes surface as the formal head of the construction, while nouns occur as the formal dependent. The dependency relation between property attributes and nouns in such languages is said to be reversed because the headhood of nouns in attributive constructions is widely presumed. However, in the current study I will argue that in a cross-linguistic context the headhood of nouns is not taken for granted as one may expect. The formal head of a construction in individual languages is a language-particular category, because it can only be identified by language-particular structural criteria. Thus, the formal head of a construction may vary across languages. On the other hand, property expressions contribute to the meaning and pragmatic function of the whole construction in a sense that a drop of property expressions will lead to a change of meaning and a switch of reference of the construction, although the drop may not have an impact on grammatical distributions. In consequence, the term dependency reversal is misleading and results in ignorance of some cross-linguistically less frequent characteristics of such constructions: possessive-like marking pattern on attributive constructions and possessee-like property attributes.