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Conference Information

Full Title: Dynamics of Self-Expression Across Languages

Location: Antwerp, Belgium
Start Date: 26-Jul-2015 - 31-Jul-2015
Contact: Minyao Huang
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: The concept of the self is expressed in vastly different ways across languages. In Indo-European languages, while the first-person pronouns, such as 'I' in English, are the default forms to express the self that one is immediately aware of (Perry 1979), impersonal pronouns such as 'one' in English are often used for detached self-reference (Moltmann 2010). By contrast, in many Asian languages, honorifics for the first person enable the speaker to refer to herself in a way that requires conceptual mediation. In Thai for example, a female speaker can use the word for 'mouse' to refer to herself. Such a word exhibits the semantic characteristics of both a first-person pronoun and an indefinite description, as the sense of the self it conveys is shaped by the public concept of that small, insignificant rodent (Jaszczolt 2013). Furthermore, in some African languages, the first-person pronouns can be used to report a third party's self-awareness (Schlenker 2011). In Amharic for instance, the Amharic sentence that literally translates as 'Mary says that I am a genius' can mean that Mary says that she herself is a genius.

The purpose of this panel is to explore how the concept of the self is adapted for expression across languages, to draw out ways in which languages differ in the recruitment of structural and contextual resources for self-reference, and to enquire into the explicit vs. implicit conveyance of different kinds and degrees of self-awareness in self-reference.


Jaszczolt, K. 2013. First-person reference in discourse: Aims and strategies. Journal of Pragmatics 48. 57-70. Special Issue 'Focus on the Speaker'.
Moltmann, F. 2010. Generalizing detached self-reference and the semantics of generic one. Mind and Language 25: 440-473.
Perry, J. 1979. 'The problem of the essential indexical'. Noûs 13. 3-21.
Schlenker, P. 2011. Indexicality and de se reports. In: K. von Heusinger, C. Maienborn and P. Portner (eds). Semantics: An International Handbook of Natural Language Meaning. Vol. 2. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 1561-1604.
Linguistic Subfield: Pragmatics; Semantics; Sociolinguistics; Typology; Philosophy of Language
LL Issue: 25.2950

This is a session of the following meeting:
14th International Pragmatics Conference

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