Raffaella Zanuttini speaks at CUNY colloquium

October 6, 2017

Professor Raffaella Zanuttini spoke at the Linguistics colloquium of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her talk featured joint work with Assistant Professor Jim Wood on presentatives. Presentatives are sentences that introduce something to the conversation and draw the listener’s attention to it. The talk gave the following sentences as examples of presentatives in several languages.

  • Here’s Maria. (English)
  • Ecco Maria. (Italian)
  • Voilà Maria. (French)
  • Evo Maria. (Serbian)

Although presentatives are commonly used in language, their syntactic structure had not yet been studied by linguists. Raffaella and Jim made some of the first steps in this direction by describing the usage of presentatives in English and Italian and providing an analysis in terms of modern syntactic theory. They propose that presentatives have a special syntactic structure that encodes new information about the time and location of the speaker. This contrasts with the structure of other types of sentences, such as declaratives and interrogatives, which encode information about the time and place at which the event described by the sentence took place, but not necessarily about the time and location of the speaker. When the information about the time and location of the speaker is added to the discourse after the utterance of a presentative, the listener’s attention is drawn to this new information. In the examples above, this new information says that Maria is here now.

The talk took place on September 14. The abstract can be found on the CUNY website.

People Tags: