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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Tense, Aspect and the Semantics of Event Description: Towards a contrastive analysis of Italian and Japanese Add Dissertation
Author: Patrizia Zotti Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Università degli studi di Napoli L'Orientale, East and South Asia
Completed in: 2011
Linguistic Subfield(s): Applied Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Italian
Director(s): Paolo Calvetti
Masayuki Asahara

Abstract: Temporal analysis of events is an important part of many natural language processing tasks. We expect events to contain the same temporal information regardless of the language. However, the way temporal information is encoded via lexical or grammatical properties differs from language to language. While the lexical aspect of event semantics is relatively similar across languages, the grammatical aspect varies greatly, and concepts of tense and aspect may not be shared across languages, preventing a simple correspondence of verbal forms between two languages from being established, causing trouble for both human and machine translators alike. Divergence in temporal representations is illustrated by the following examples:

(1) 田中さんは 学校に電車で通っている
Tanaka san wa gakkō ni densha de kayotte iru
Il sig. Tanaka va a scuola in treno
'Mr Tanaka commutes to school by train'

(2) 田中さんは只今学校に電車で通っている。
Tanaka san wa tadaima gakkō ni densha de kayotte iru
Il sig. Tanaka ora sta andando a scuola in treno
'Mr Tanaka is now commuting to school by train'

The Italian and English translations use different verbal forms and aspectual configurations, the imperfective (habitual) aspect in (1) and the progressive aspect in (2), whereas both Japanese sentences contain the same verbal form -te iru and make use of the adverb ima 'now' to indicate the progressive aspect. In translating these sentences, we need to be aware of these differences in temporal information representations.

This work represents a first theoretical and empirical contrastive investigation on how temporal information is conveyed in Japanese and Italian with a focus on the semantics of events and how they are reported. We include a classification of eventuality types and their expression in tense and aspect, making this work useful for researchers working on tasks that require detailed, cross-lingual temporal analysis. We empirically
support our theoretical proposal by semi-automatically annotating a parallel Japanese-Italian corpus of novels, parliamentary proceedings and newspaper translations with temporality tags and conducting an investigation into the representation of temporal phenomena across languages.