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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: The Grammatization of Telicity and Durativity in Dëne Suliné (Chipewyan) and German Add Dissertation
Author: Andrea Wilhelm Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Calgary, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2003
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics; Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Dene Suline
Director(s): Elizabeth Ritter

Abstract: This dissertation examines the relevance of two components of predicate meaning, telicity and durativity, to the grammatical system of natural language. More precisely, it examines to what extent telicity and durativity are evident in a productive morphosyntactic contrast (i.e., are grammatized) in a given language. The languages for which this question is studied are German and Dëne Suliné (Chipewyan), an Athapaskan language of Northwestern Canada.

Telicity and durativity are semantic notions which (together with stativity, which is put aside in this dissertation) underlie the well-known Vendler (1957) classification of predicates into accomplishments, achievements, activities, and states. This classification, and the notions underlying it, have become increasingly influential in the study of aspectual meaning and in theories on the grammatical, i.e., morphosyntactic, representation of such meaning. Currently, there is a broad consensus that telicity is grammatized universally, while the status of durativity is under debate: Is durativity extralinguistic, is it a semantic notion only, or is it grammatized as well?

My study sheds new light on the debate over durativity and, surprisingly, also challenges the universal status of telicity. It is found that while semantically, both notions are expressible in German as well as in Dëne Suliné, telicity is grammatized only in the former and durativity is grammatized only in the latter. Key evidence comes from a careful analysis of the aspectual function of particle verbs (German) and the so-called 'conjugation markers' (Dëne).

A comparison of the larger aspectual systems of the two languages reveals a connection between the presence of certain independent grammatical elements and the grammatization of telicity and durativity, respectively. This connection leads to the following hypothesis: 'If durativity is grammatized, it is grammatized in the IP domain, through viewpoint aspect. If telicity is grammatized, it is grammatized in the VP domain.' This hypothesis implies that durativity and telicity are profoundly different notions, as reflected in their different grammatization loci, and that their combination, as in the Vendler predicate types, does not lead to natural linguistic oppositions. I propose instead the constructs of 'inner aspect' and 'outer aspect'. A language which grammatizes telicity has inner aspect; a language which has a perfective–imperfective contrast and thus grammatizes durativity, has outer aspect.