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Article

Discourse coherence is motivated by the need of the speaker to be understood, which is a psychological phenomenon reflected in the organization of natural discourse. It can be realized via the continuity or recurrence of some element(s) across a span (or spans) of text; alternatively, it can be defined in terms of cohesion, where the interpretation of some element in the discourse is dependent on that of another. The study of Chinese discourse can be traced back to the Han Dynasty, when the area of endeavor known as classical article-logy (Wénzhāngxué: 文章学) was affiliated to literature. The study of discourse coherence of modern linguistic sense starts from the late 1980s, when counterparts of ‘discourse analysis’, ‘discourse coherence’, and ‘cohesion’ in Chinese linguistic study were assigned a roughly equivalent connotation to those in the West. Two different approaches are differentiated based on the different foci of attention on this issue, namely the entity-oriented and the relation-oriented approach. The former focuses on the continuity of a particular element called “topic” in discourse and the topic chain thus formed, while the latter concerns itself with the connective relations within a discourse and the devices being adopted to realize these relations. Existing analyses toward discourse coherence in Chinese provide different classifications of coherence realization, most of which can be grouped into either of these two orientations. Topic continuity is one way of realizing discourse coherence in Chinese. The topic of a discourse is what the discourse is about, and always refers to something about which the speaker/writer assumes the receiver has some knowledge. Headed by the topic, a topic chain is a stretch of discourse composed of more than one clause that functions as a discourse unit in Chinese. A topic can play a continuing or (re)introductory role with regard to the previous discourse and a chaining or contrastive role with regard to the subsequent discourse within a topic chain. It is via these specific functions that the coherence of a discourse is maintained. Traditional approaches to composite sentences and clause clusters in Chinese provide careful description of the realization of both coordination and elaboration relations, which to a large extent are consistent with the systemic functional approach toward the cohesive devices and the Rhetorical Structure Theory framework. These traditional classifications of cohesive relations are still referred to by current studies. Via the connective devices (implicit ones such as the underlying logical relation, or explicit ones such as connective adverbs and conjunctions), the logical relation between adjacent clauses are specified, and in turn a global coherent discourse is constructed. A coherent discourse is a cluster of clauses bearing all kinds of semantic relations realized via explicit or implicit connective devices. The coherence of discourse relies on the internal cohesive relations within a topic chain as well as the connection among all topic chains of the discourse in question. The study of inner-sentential composition as well as the inter-sentential discourse connectiveness are both investigations on the cohesion of a discourse in Chinese.

Article

Anne Zribi-Hertz

French-based creole languages (FBCLs) may be characterized as a group by one historical and two linguistic properties. Their shared historical feature is that they arose between the 16th and 19th centuries as vehicular (hence oral) languages in French colonies, through language contact between the colonial variety of French spoken by the French settlers and the typologically and genetically diverse languages spoken upon arrival by the imported slaves—the imported workers or the local people in the case of Tayo, which emerged in the 19th century after the abolition of slavery and whose status as an FBCL is controversial. The linguistic features characterizing FBCLs are (a) that their lexicon is dominantly derived from French while their phonology and morphosyntax are both reminiscent of, and different from, those of known dialectal varieties of French; and (b) that they stand as first languages (L1s), namely, are acquired by children and are used for all-purpose communication—as opposed to pidgins, types of contact languages used only as vehicular L2s for specific-interaction purposes (e.g., trade). Beyond these broad defining features, there is much variation among FBCLs with respect to the locations, periods, and historical conditions of their emergence; the relevant contact languages involved in their development; and the grammatical properties of the resulting creoles. And the details of the linguistic change process known as creolization are yet to be settled. FBCLs thus defined currently include on the American continent: Guyanese 1 (in French Guiana), Karipúna (Brazil, near the French-Guiana border), and Louisiana Creole (on the decrease), in Louisiana; in the Caribbean: Haitian (in the independent Republic of Haiti), St. Lucian (in the state of Sainte-Lucie), and the creoles spoken in the French-controlled territories of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominique, Saint-Barthélémy, and Northern part of Saint-Martin; in the Indian Ocean, off the shores of Eastern Africa: Mauritian (in Mauritius), Seychelles Creole (in the Seychelles), Rodrigues Creole (in the Rodrigues Island, controlled by Mauritius), and Reunion Creole (in the island of Reunion, a French-controlled territory); and in Southern New Caledonia: Tayo.

Article

Ariel Cohen

Generics are sentences such as Birds fly, which express generalizations. They are prevalent in speech, and as far as is known, no human language lacks generics. Yet, it is very far from clear what they mean. After all, not all birds fly—penguins don’t! There are two general views about the meaning of generics in the literature, and each view encompasses many specific theories. According to the inductivist view, a generic states that a sufficient number of individuals satisfy a certain property—in the example above, it says that sufficiently many birds fly. This view faces the complicated problem of spelling out exactly how many is “sufficiently many” in a way that correctly captures the intuitive truth conditions of generics. An alternative, the rules and regulations view, despairs from this project and proposes instead that generics directly express rules in the world. Rules are taken to be abstract objects, which are not related to the properties of specific individuals. This view faces the difficult problem of explaining how people come to know of such rules when judging the truth of falsity of generics, and accounting for the strong intuition that a sentence such as Birds fly talks about birds, not abstract objects. What seems to be beyond dispute is that generics, even if they do not express rules, are lawlike: they state non-accidental generalizations. Many scholars have taken this fact to indicate that generics are parametric on possible worlds: they refer to worlds other than the actual world. This, again, raises the problem of how people come to know about what happens in these other worlds. However, a rigorous application of standard tests for intensionality shows that generics are not, in fact, parametric on possible worlds, but only on time. This unusual property may explain much of the mystery surrounding generics. Another mysterious property of generics is that although there is no language without them, there is no linguistic construction that is devoted to the expression of genericity. Rather, generics can be expressed in a variety of ways, each of which can also express nongenerics. Yet, each manifestation of generics differs subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) in its meaning from the others. Even when these and other puzzles of genericity are solved, one mystery would remain: Why are generics, which are so easy to produce and understand in conversation, so difficult to analyze?

Article

Anne Carlier and Béatrice Lamiroy

Partitive articles raise several research questions. First, whereas a vast majority of the world’s languages do not have articles at all, and only some have a definite article as well as an indefinite article for singular count nouns, why did some Romance languages develop an article for indefinite plural nouns (Fr des hommes art.indf.m.pl man:pl ‘men’) and singular mass or abstract nouns (It del vino art.indf.m.sg wine ‘wine’, Fr du bonheur art.indf.m.sg happiness ‘happiness’)? Secondly, unlike the definite article and the indefinite singular article, whose source is already a determiner (or pronoun), that is, the distal demonstrative and the unity numeral respectively, the partitive article derives from a preposition contracted with the definite article. How did the Latin preposition de grammaticalize into an article? And why was the grammaticalization process completed in French, but not in Italian? Thirdly, given that the source of the partitive article was available for all Romance languages, since some form of partitive construction was already attested in Late Latin, why did the process not take place in Rumanian and the Ibero-Romance languages?

Article

Michael Ramscar

Healthy aging is associated with many cognitive, linguistic, and behavioral changes. For example, adults’ reaction times slow on many tasks as they grow older, while their memories, appear to fade, especially for apparently basic linguistic information such as other people’s names. These changes have traditionally been thought to reflect declines in the processing power of human minds and brains as they age. However, from the perspective of the information-processing paradigm that dominates the study of mind, the question of whether cognitive processing capacities actually decline across the life span can only be scientifically answered in relation to functional models of the information processes that are presumed to be involved in cognition. Consider, for example, the problem of recalling someone’s name. We are usually reminded of the names of friends on a regular basis, and this makes us good at remembering them. However, as we move through life, we inevitably learn more names. Sometimes we hear these new names only once. As we learn each new name, the average exposure we will have had to any individual name we know is likely to decline, while the number of different names we know is likely to increase. This in turn is likely to make the task of recalling a particular name more complex. One consequence of this is as follows: If Mary can only recall names with 95% accuracy at age 60—when she knows 900 names—does she necessarily have a worse memory than she did at age 16, when she could recall any of only 90 names with 98% accuracy? Answering the question of whether Mary’s memory for names has actually declined (or improved even) will require some form of quantification of Mary’s knowledge of names at any given point in her life and the definition of a quantitative model that predicts expected recall performance for a given amount of name knowledge, as well as an empirical measure of the accuracy of the model across a wide range of circumstances. Until the early 21st century, the study of cognition and aging was dominated by approaches that failed to meet these requirements. Researchers simply established that Mary’s name recall was less accurate at a later age than it was at an earlier one, and took this as evidence that Mary’s memory processes had declined in some significant way. However, as computational approaches to studying cognitive—and especially psycholinguistic—processes and processing became more widespread, a number of matters related to the development of processing across the life span began to become apparent: First, the complexity involved in establishing whether or not Mary’s name recall did indeed become less accurate with age began to be better understood. Second, when the impact of learning on processing was controlled for, it became apparent that at least some processes showed no signs of decline at all in healthy aging. Third, the degree to which the environment—both in terms of its structure, and its susceptibility to change—further complicates our understanding of life-span cognitive performance also began to be better comprehended. These new findings not only promise to change our understanding of healthy cognitive aging, but also seem likely to alter our conceptions of cognition and language themselves.

Article

In Romance–Slavic language contact, both language families have had foreign influence, with Romance varieties as donor and as recipient languages. Slavic has been in contact with languages of the Latin phylum at least since the first encounters of South-Slavic tribes with the Balkan–Romance population in the 6th century ce. Mutual language contact became especially visible in South-Slavic influence on Romanian and its South Danubian varieties (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian) and also the other way round, in the form of Romance borrowings in the Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian–Croatian–Montenegrin, Serbian) continuum, Bulgarian / Macedonian, and Slovene. However, pre-Balkan contacts of Proto-Slavic with Italic or Latin have also been claimed. Balkan Latin derived from common Latin and split into Western and Eastern Balkan Romance, forming the basis of local Romance vernaculars, with (extinct) Dalmatian in the west of the peninsula and Proto-Romanian in the east. Proto-Romanian and Old Bulgarian mutually influenced each other, which led to a divergent position of Romanian and Bulgarian / Macedonian in their respective language families. Mutual Romance–Slavic language contact continued even after the Middle Ages, between Romanian, Italo-Romance, French, and Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Bulgarian / Macedonian. The vocabulary of all Balkan languages and varieties in contact has been heavily affected by words and concepts of the respective contact languages—in the case of Romanian-based varieties as a donor language by distributing shepherd and dairy terminology throughout South Slavic. As for grammar, Macedonian developed a possessive perfect by copying the Aromanian model. In the situation of South-Slavic minority languages in all-embracing contact with Italo-Romance in southern and northern Italy, many contact-induced developments occurred, not only in the lexicon but also in the grammatical system. Examples of the effect of 500 years of bilingualism of the Molise Slavs, following immigration from Dalmatia to southern Italy in the 16th century, include the loss of the locative due to the homonymic expression of motion and state in the Italo-Romance donor varieties, the loss of the neuter gender of nouns, and the preservation of a fully functional imperfect. Others are the formation of a new de-obligative future and a venitive passive. Loans were fully integrated in the existing morphological systems, for example, by developing special integration rules for verbs, including a procedure of forming aspectual pairs from telic source verbs. One thousand years of Romance–Slavic contact have had similar effects on Slovene-based Resian in northeastern Italy, although to a lesser extent. The opposite case of Slavic (Croatian) influence on a Romance microlanguage is found in far-reaching contact-induced changes in Istro-Romanian grammar, such as the rise of a neuter gender and, especially, the development, at least in part, of a Slavic-type aspect category, formally marked by affixes. The numeral systems of the recipient languages have often been restructured by the influence of their donor languages, resulting, as a rule, in mixed systems with higher numbers (starting from 5) being predominantly of foreign provenience. The Slavic way of counting teens (one on ten, etc.) has spread throughout the Balkans.

Article

Sign languages in the Romance-speaking countries constitute a rather representative sample of the languages in the visual–gestural modality documented to date throughout the world in many respects. The types of historical and thus linguistic relations that exist among them have to do with the history of education for the deaf, colonization, and missionary work. Contact phenomena with spoken languages are attested in certain parts of the grammar and the lexicon, but they also arise among sign languages. The existing language types can be classified into urban versus rural sign languages, which determines certain aspects of the languages and their sociolinguistic setup. The transmission patterns rely on educational institutions and Deaf organizations because most deaf people are born into hearing and non-signing families. Despite non-negligible differences among regions in the world (e.g., between European and West African countries), the underlying sociolinguistic issues in Deaf communities are similar, and the cross-linguistic and typological variation and similarities observed among them are comparable to those found in other sets of sign languages but also reflect the range of variation found across spoken languages. The state of research, still incipient but steadily growing, also reflects the overall situation of the field more generally.

Article

Phonetic transcription represents the phonetic properties of an actual or potential utterance in a written form. Firstly, it is necessary to have an understanding of what the phonetic properties of speech are. It is the role of phonetic theory to provide that understanding by constructing a set of categories that can account for the phonetic structure of speech at both the segmental and suprasegmental levels; how far it does so is a measure of its adequacy as a theory. Secondly, a set of symbols is needed that stand for these categories. Also required is a set of conventions that tell the reader what the symbols stand for. A phonetic transcription, then, can be said to represent a piece of speech in terms of the categories denoted by the symbols. Machine-readable phonetic and prosodic notation systems can be implemented in electronic speech corpora, where multiple linguistic information tiers, such as text and phonetic transcriptions, are mapped to the speech signal. Such corpora are essential resources for automated speech recognition and speech synthesis.

Article

Spanish and Portuguese are in contact along the extensive border of Brazil and its neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. Transnational interactions in some border communities allow for ephemeral language accommodations that occur when speakers of both languages communicate during social interactions and business transactions, facilitated by the lack of border control and similarities between the languages. A different situation is found in northern Uruguay, where Spanish and Portuguese are spoken in several border towns, presenting a case of stable and prolonged bilingualism that has allowed for the emergence of language contact phenomena such as lexical borrowings, code-switching, and structural convergence to a variable extent. However, due to urbanization and the presence of monolingual dialects in the surrounding communities, Portuguese and Spanish have not converged structurally in a single mixed code in urban areas and present instead clear continuities with the monolingual counterparts.

Article

This article investigates the structural properties of interrogative clauses in the Romance languages. Interrogative clauses are typically produced by the speaker in order to elicit information from the addressee; depending on the kind of information requested by the speaker, one can distinguish between two basic types of interrogatives: polar interrogatives and constituent interrogatives. In Romance main polar interrogatives, the interrogative interpretation of the utterance may be triggered only by prosodic means, through a final raising tone. While main polar interrogatives may employ different morphosyntactic strategies, embedded polar interrogatives display a greater degree of uniformity and are invariably introduced by the interrogative complementizer. As for constituent interrogatives, across Romance we find languages employing different strategies: Beside the ordinary fronting of the wh-item in the sentence-initial position, we also find wh-clefting, in which the sentence-initial wh-item is followed by an inflected copula and the complementizer; wh-in situ, with the wh-item appearing in sentence-internal position; wh-doubling, with two wh-items appearing, one in sentence-initial position and the other in sentence-internal position; and multiple wh-fronting, with both wh-items sitting in a left-peripheral position. In nonstandard questions the wh-item is obligatorily fronted, even in the languages that allow for wh-in situ in standard questions.