14.09.2021 - 14:15 to 16:15
On 14 September at 14:15 Helen Hint will defend her doctoral thesis “From full phrase to zero: a multifactoral, form-specific and crosslinguistic analysis of Estonian referential system” in the field of general linguistics.
Professor Renate Pajusalu, University of Tartu
Associate Professor Elsi Kaiser, University of Southern California (USA)
Professor Marja-Liisa Helasvuo, University of Turku (Finland)
When we talk, we always refer to persons, things and other referents who are involved in the described actions. It is important to choose a suitable referring expression (e.g., an apple, child, this, he) in a particular speech situation, so that a hearer can easily understand the message. Linguists who study the relationship between language and cognition seek which factors, be they grammatical, semantic, and pragmatic, affect referential choice. The thesis also derives from this question and aims to explain the underlying factors that affect the choice of typical referential expressions in Estonian. The data includes spoken and written language, and experimentally elicited as well as natural text.
The results suggest that it is effective to explain the referential patterns based on the specific type of referential expression and several factors at once. These factors may relate to meaning or usage context. For example, Estonian personal pronoun ta ‘s/he’ tends to refer to animate entities, whereas demonstrative pronoun see ‘this’ depend on the referent’s mention order and distance with previous mention. Grammatical factors are relevant, too. For instance, the use of zero reference (ø ate an apple) depends on clause type, syntactic role and case form. Grammar and meaning-related factors may also combine, as Estonian definite and indefinite determiners illustrate.
Estonian referential system is contrasted to Finnish and Russian ones in the thesis. The findings show that while usage frequencies of types of referential devices are similar, there are important differences in the exact functions of devices with similar names (e.g., demonstrative pronouns). Different factors affect the choice of a particular device across languages. Also, the same factor may influence different devices. In sum, speakers of different languages rely on different referential practices, which in turn depend on a language’s grammar, usage frequencies of the devices, and speech situation in general.
Ülikooli 18–139, Tartu or via video bridge