Survey Seminar Series Spring 2015

The Survey of English Usage organises a number of seminars each year for staff and students from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and beyond. They are generously sponsored by the English Department.

The following seminars took place in the Spring term.

Both seminars took place in Room 101, 16-18 Gordon Square.

Monday 26 January

  Gabriel Ozón (Sheffield)
Rethinking the light verb category: evidence from Cameroon Pidgin English
- with Miriam Ayafor (Yaoundé) and Melanie Green (Sussex)

As Seiss (2009) observes, while it is relatively straightforward to identify cross-linguistic criteria for distinguishing light verbs from auxiliary verbs, it is less obvious what cross-­linguistic criteria distinguish light verbs from serial verbs. Auxiliary verbs add temporal/aspectual/voice information to the event semantics of the main verb and occupy the opposite pole of the grammaticalisation continuum to lexical verbs. In contrast, light verbs and serial verbs are less clearly distinct, since both can function as independent lexical verbs, and both participate in forming complex predicates within monoclausal structures. Furthermore, Butt (2010) describes light verbs as modifying the main verb’s event semantics by contributing meanings including causative, resultative, benefactive, agentive, meanings that are coextensive with those of serial verbs. However, while light verbs are form identical to full verbs, resisting grammaticalisation and remaining stable in terms of frequency of use (Butt 2010, Traugott 1999), serial verbs have a tendency to grammaticalise into prepositions (Lord 1993).

We present a case study focusing on five high-frequency verbs in Cameroon Pidgin English (CPE), based on a small (100,000-word) corpus of consisting of (i) spoken CPE (Ayafor, Green and Ozón, in prep.), (ii) existing published sources (Ayisi & Longinotto 2005; Bellama et al. 2006; Todd 1979), and (iii) elicited examples. Focusing on the verbs ‘make’, ‘do’, ‘give’, ‘get’ and ‘take’, we find evidence for a productive light verb strategy and observe that, due to the high degree of multifunctionality in a contact language, a subset of these high frequency verbs participates both in light verb constructions (LVCs) (1) and in serial verb constructions (SVCs) (2). We also find evidence for the grammaticalisation of mek ‘make’ as a marker of deontic modality.

Our findings indicate that while light verbs and serial verbs share some overlapping properties (semantic bleaching, resistance to formal reduction, contribution of arguments), they are distinguished by (a) the ability of light verbs to co-occur with non-verbal predicates, and (b) their position on the grammaticalisation continuum:


Full abstract, including references

Monday 9 March

Lia Litosseliti (City University of London)
Gender and Language: Theory and Practice

In this talk, Lia Litosseliti introduces the key theoretical approaches that have shaped and continue to shape the gender and language field. She begins with past theoretical approaches, concentrating on a critique of the notion of 'gender differences', before moving on to discuss the current emphasis upon constructionist and discursive approaches. The discussion draws on examples from media texts and advertising to illustrate how gender can be constructed in discourse, in theory and in practice. This talk will be most relevant for those researchers who are new to the field or interested in an overview of the gender and language research landscape today.

About the speaker: Lia Litosseliti is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at City University London. Her research interests are in the areas of gender and language, discourse analysis and research methodologies. She is the author of Using Focus Groups in Research (2003) and Gender and Language: Theory and Practice (2006); editor of Research Methods in Linguistics (2010); and co-editor of Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis (2002, with Jane Sunderland), Gender and Language Research Methodologies (2008, with Kate Harrington, Helen Sauntson, and Jane Sunderland) and Gender and Language in African Contexts (2013, with Lilian Atanga, Sibonile Ellece and Jane Sunderland). Lia is 2012-14 President of the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA), Associate Editor of Gender and Language and reviewer for a range of funding bodies and journals.

This page last modified 14 May, 2020 by Survey Web Administrator.