Linguistics Program Annual Homecoming Lecture

Nicholas J. Williams '08, University of Colorado
In this paper, I present an analysis of place reference in Kula from an interactional perspective. While much work has been done on the diversity of linguistic categorization of space and its relationship to spatial conceptualization (e.g. Levinson 2003), very little work has been done on how these diverse grammatical resources are used in everyday conversation to accomplish reference to places. Drawing on an extensive corpus of language use in interaction in Kula (Alor-Pantar, Indonesia), I re-define place reference as an interactional achievement, requiring careful coordination of both verbal and non-verbal resources to accomplish mutual recognition of the referent. These resources in Kula include a unique set of 'elevational' verbs and derived locational nouns, as well as both manual and non-manual (head/lip/eye) pointing gestures. By using video recordings of informal interaction as the basis of my analysis, I am able to account for the distribution of these practices to solve practical communicative problems. Finally, I compare the results of this analysis to prior work on person reference in conversation (Sacks & Schegloff 1979, Schegloff 1996, Stiver & Enfield 2007, Enfield 2012), arguing that place reference differs in several important ways. This case study of place reference in Kula points to the need for an interactional approach in both language documentation and grammatical description.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
Reed 104, 4:00 pm