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Can you quote an action? Iconic event descriptions in signing, speech, gesture, and writing

Date and Time: 
Thursday, October 23, 2014. 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 460, Room 126
Meeting Description: 
Sometimes form-meaning mappings in language are not arbitrary, but iconic: they depict aspects of what they describe. Incorporating iconic elements of language into a compositional semantics faces a number of challenges. In this talk I will compare the iconicity found in written language quotation with another form of iconicity common in sign languages: classifier predicates. I argue that these two types of verbal iconicity can, and should, incorporate their iconic components in the same way as (neo-Davidsonian) event modification via context dependent demonstration (Clark and Gerrig 1990). This unified account of quotation and classifier predicates predicts that a language might use the same strategy for conveying both, and I argue that this is the case with role shift in American Sign Language, which can be used both to demonstrate others' actions and language (Engberg-Pedersen 1993, Lillo-Martin 1995, Schlenker 2014). Throughout, sign languages provide a fruitful perspective for studying quotation and other iconic language due to (i) the rich existing literature on iconicity in sign language linguistics, (ii) the ability of role shift to overtly mark the scope of a demonstration and (iii) their lack of a commonly used writing system which is often mistaken as primary data instead of speech and co-speech gesture in the study of iconic language.
 
About the speaker:
Kathryn Davidson is a postdoc in Cognitive Science at Yale.

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