Temporality, Space, Colour and Quantification

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  • LHRI - Seminar Room 1, 29-31 Clarendon Place 2-4pm:
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You are warmly invited to the first event of “Language and Nature” seminar series in the second semester, themed Temporality, space, colour and quantification.
In this session Rosaleen Howard from Newcastle University and Eva Shultze-Berndt from University of Manchester will talk about “Language, nature, time & temporality: expression of time and points of time; changing notions of temporality”.

Rosaleen Howard, Newcastle University, Time, tense and landscape in Quechua storytelling

This paper will present some features of Quechua storytelling performances, recorded during fieldwork in central highland Peru. The stories tell of the mythic history of the community´s past and reveal how past and present converge, and are inscribed, in landscape. The Quechua concept of pacha (time-space) helps us appreciate the way that events of the mythic past are ever present (or latently alive) in the spaces of people´s daily existence.
The past-present relationship between human beings, as storytellers, and the animate landscape has its effect on the narrative structure of the stories, and on the very grammar of the Quechua language as the story unfolds.
The paper will outline the tense system of central Peruvian Quechua and illustrate how this is bound up with the category of evidentiality (grammatical marking of source of information). In story performances, as the narrators sit in their doorways looking out over the landscape that witnessed the deeds of the mythic ancestors, the tense and evidential system reveals, as the paper will suggest, the cognitive associations that storytellers make between past (personally unwitnessed) events and present space. The storytelling performance shapes and makes manifest the intrinsic relationship between humans and landscape.

Eva Shultze-Berndt, University of Manchester, Talking about the future in Jaminjung (Australia): Anticipated vs. hypothetical events

In this talk, I will discuss future time reference in Jaminjung, a Western Mirndi language spoken in Northern Australia. As is cross-linguistically common, future and modal notions overlap to a great extent in Jaminjung. There are two inflectional modal/future markers which cover the entire semantic domain of non-epistemic modality and future time reference. They encode a semantic distinction which is not easy to grasp with standard notions of modality or tense.
The first marker, which can be characterised as marking ‘potential’ or ‘anticipated’ events, interacts with tense and encodes possible events that follow in some way from the way the world is at reference time. This notion of “anticipation” covers semantic shades of intention, desire, obligation and teleological necessity, as well as prediction without any modal shade.
The second marker, which does not interact with tense, can be characterised as marking hypothetical events – events which can be judged as potentially occurring due to natural laws or stereotypical behaviours rather than because they follow from a particular constellation of the world at reference time. In actual discourse, in affirmative contexts, this marker is most frequently used to express possible but undesirable events, e.g. in warnings (‘watch out, a snake might bite you!’).
I will motivate the above analysis on distributional and semantic grounds, and discuss some of the challenges posed by this system for theoretical notions of modality. I will also tentatively suggest that this future/modal system mirrors cultural preferences in at least two ways: Firstly, it distinguishes, in the grammatical domain, knowledge derived from the observation of regular occurring events in nature (‘hypothetical’) as distinct from the temporary motivations and conditions that are typical of those potential events that are controllable and desirable by humans. Second, the distinction, at the pragmatic level, between desirable and undesirable future events (rather than the distinction between possibility and necessity standardly incorporated in modal systems of European languages) considers the autonomy of discourse participants: rather than being told what they ‘must’ do or avoid, they are presented with the potential undesirable consequences of their actions or lack of precautions.

All are welcome!

LeedsLanguage&Nature2018_Rosaleen Howard