“Language, nature, quantification and value”

  • Date:
  • Time: 2-5pm
  • Place: Seminar Room 1 - LHRI (29-31, Clarendon Place)
  • Categories:

You are warmly invited to the fourth meeting of Language and Nature Sadler Seminar series. This session will be about “Language, nature, quantification & value”, with presentations by:

Eva Shultze-Berndt (University of Manchester) presents the talk “Let’s sit face to face and pluck them iteratively all over together, to completion, in sets of one”: The preference of event quantification over entity quantification in Jaminjung (Northern Australia) :

Jaminjung – like many other Australian languages – has limited possibilities for DP/NP quantification, given the lack of obligatory number marking (except on pronouns, reserved for higher animate referents) and a very limited set of numerals and NP quantifiers. Conversely, Jaminjung lexically encodes fine-grained distinctions in spatial configurations involving multiple or internally complex participants, as well as possessing an intricate grammatical system of event quantification (pluractionality). Pluractionality marking in Jaminjung includes

·      clitics marking collective and “pairwise” action

·      reduplicated numerals which can be analysed as adverbial pluractional markers, as well as other adverbial quantifiers

·      reduplication of predicates, encoding distributivity in space or across multiple participants

·      iterative marking on predicates, encoding both event-internal and event-external event repetition.

 After giving an overview of the various systems of quantification in Jaminjung, this talk will focus on two issues: 

Relevant for the theoretical subdivision of the domain of pluractionality, event-internal iterativity has a special status in Jaminjung, as it influences the choice of light verb functioning as an overt event classifier. While all other types of pluractionality have no effect on the categorisation of the respective predicates, event-internal iterativity results in the overt categorisation of the event as atelic by means of the light verbs ‘be/stay’ or ‘go’, overriding their categorisation in other contexts. Moreover, the resulting construction borders in its discourse function on progressive aspect (Schultze-Berndt 2012).

More tentatively, and based on examples of quantification in naturalistic discourse and elicitation, I will suggest that the prevalence of event quantification over entity quantification reflects a preference for conveying information about processes and configurations rather than quantities of individuals, which in turn plausibly reflects the relevance of this type of information for social interactions and interactions with nature in a small-scale hunter-gatherer society.

Jon Lovett (University of Leeds) presents a talk on “Natural Capital and the Commodification of Nature“:

The term Natural Capital borrows from the language of neo-classical economics and is used to describe the stock of ‘nature’ that supports human economic activity. Until recently, this concept was a relatively obscure academic term, but is now part of mainstream environmental policy. However, there are alternative environment-policy models, notably the ecosystem approach, developed under the Convention for Biological Diversity. There are fundamental philosophical differences between these two models. In Natural Capital, humans are separate from nature in an anthropocentric system; where-as in the holistic Ecosystem Approach, humans and nature are integral in an ecocentric system. Applying language, policy and values that regard nature as a stock separate from humans, fails to recognise natural dynamics and increases the risk of degrading ecosystem health.


James Wilson (University of Leeds) and Neil Bermel (University of Sheffield) present on Animacy, nature and metaphor in the Slavonic linguistic area”:


This talk will explore the reflection of animacy in the grammatical systems of Slavonic languages and relate it to the place of nature in a human-centred world. Animacy functions as a form of differential agent and object marking (Aissen 2003, Croft 1998, Comrie 1981, Fauconnier 2011, Sinnemäki 2014), and in Slavonic languages is reflected in nominal and adjectival case marking and verb agreement. We will explore animacy marking in Russian and Czech (with some reference to other languages such as Polish) to outline the extent of the category and the gradations of it reflected in these languages, using descriptive accounts from grammars and scholarly literature (Cvrček et al. 2010, Grepl et al. 1995, Offord 1993, Petr et al. 1986, Šulc 2001, Wade 1992) and data from balanced and large-scale web-crawled corpora (SYN2015, SYN v. 6, Russian National Corpus, RUWAC, Ru Ten Ten). We find that animacy constitutes a radial category in Slavonic (cf. Janda 1996), with central and peripheral schemas that promote the adult male human as prototypically animate, but a variety of less-prototypically animate referents from animals down to protozoa, and the extension of animate marking to certain repeated categories in the non-animate world through metaphor.

We are looking forward to see you there.

All welcome!