«La typologie des langues de l’Asie du Sud-est»

Séminaire du CRLAO sur les « Recherches actuelles en linguistique»

Professeur invité et Directeur d’Etudes associé à l’EHESS

Mathias Jenny Université de Zurich

présentera une série de 4 communications sur

 «La typologie des langues de l’Asie du Sud-est»

La première de ces communications aura lieu le mercredi 3 juin 2015 de 16h à 18h dans les Salons de l’INaLCO 2, rue de Lille

75007 Paris

«Multi-verb Predicates in Southeast Asian Languages»



One feature that is often mentioned as characteristic, even constitutive or diagnostic, of the Southeast Asian (SEA) linguistic area are Serial Verb Constructions (SVCs). The term SVC has been in use since the early 20th century, while the phenomenon was first described in the mid-19th century in Akan (Fante). The terminology was later applied to different languages, especially in East and Southeast Asia, as well as West African and Creole languages, resulting in a number of diverging definitions that are not easily reconciled. With no generally accepted definition available, the use and descriptive-typological usefulness of the term SVC has become disputed. Haspelmath (2015) is a recent attempt at a reconciliation of existing definitions.

            In this talk, I look at different patterns and functions of multiverb predicates in three languages of Southeast Asia belonging to three different families, namely Thai (Tai-Kadai), Burmese (Sino-Tibetan), and Mon (Austroasiatic). These languages differ greatly in the structures of multiverb predicates. A number of multiverb predicates in Thai, Burmese, and Mon fall outside  Haspelmath’s (2015) definition of SVCs, leaving only a reduced set of grammatical constructions and lexical compounds in each language. A given function may be expressed by a SVC or another construction, and a given verb can occur as part of an SVC or another construction within or across the languages.

            Given this finding, SVC does not appear to be a useful category for a typological description of SEA languages. Turning away from SVC as a given category, I propose to look more closely at the semantics and functional extensions of constructions involving two or more verbs without looking for a priori defined categories. This alternative approach in the analysis of multiverb predicates is expected to yield more telling results, not only in the languages in focus in this talk, and make the relevant phenomena comparable cross-linguistically without interference from (random) definitions. Rather than offering a fully-fledged theory of multiverb predicates and the analysis thereof, it is hoped this talk will lead to constructive discussions about the topic.

Conférences à suivre dans cette série:

2. Give and Get in the languages of Southeast Asia and beyond (le 10 juin 2015)

3. Exploring language contact in Myanmar (le 17 juin 2015)

4. New Situation (NewSit) – an aspectual category in Southeast Asia

(le 24 juin 2015)

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