Language Variation and Change Workshop

December 6, 2019 | 3:30PM
Rosenwald 301
Argument structural variation in a shifting linguistic community: Findings from a controlled production study of Chukchi 
Jessica Kantarovich, University of Chicago
Speakers in endangered language communities often evidence considerable variation, but how should we best analyze linguistic differences among speakers with highly diverse experiences acquiring and using their language? What are the potential sources of this variation, and is it possible to attribute different linguistic features to these different sources and trace their propagation throughout the community? This study explores these issues among speakers of Chukchi (Chukotko-Kamchatkan) living in two regions in northeastern Siberia. Speakers of varying backgrounds and proficiency--including fluent speakers, attriting speakers, L2 learners, and speakers with interrupted acquisition--were asked to participate in a controlled production study that targeted their argument structural flexibility in constructing different types of sentences. Participants were shown pictures with predetermined words (in citation form) and asked to produce appropriate sentences. (The task was relatively free and participants were allowed to produce as many different sentences as they saw fit, provided the same or similar words were used.) The stimuli differed according to the following conditions: verbal valency (intransitive, transitive, ditransitive), semantic roles of the arguments (agent, patient, beneficiary, instrument, location), and argument animacy (animate vs. inanimate). I will report on preliminary findings from the study, focusing on differences in semantic role assignment, voice (and use of valency-changing operations), and verbal/nominal inflection. Feedback from attendees will be greatly appreciated!