The Syntax-Semantics reading group and MULL-lab will be meeting on Thursday, April 4th at 1pm in Rm. 117 of the McGill Linguistics department, with a Zoom room open for those unable to join in person.

This week, Martin will be presenting a MULL-themed talk entitled: ‘Discourse and Prosody in Kanien’kéha’. The abstract is below:

Like many other Indigenous languages of North America, Kanien’kéha (Northern Iroquoian) is highly endangered, due to an abrupt colonially-induced break in intergenerational transmission in most families in the mid-20th century. Since the 1990s, immersion programs have attempted to produce new L2 speakers of the language, with the hope that they may raise L1 children in order to re-establish transmission (DeCaire 2023). However, although these programs have been very successful in providing students with a foundational grammatical knowledge and vocabulary, they often struggle to effectively teach higher-level structural patterns that are key to reaching “authentic” proficiency; including especially L1-like discourse and prosody (Green and Maracle 2018). The goal of my dissertation is to develop, based on a corpus of spontaneous L1 conversation, a description and analysis of major discourse and prosodic patterns in Kanien’kéha; which is both theoretically-informed by work on information structure (Lambrecht 1994; O’Hagan 2020; Ozerov 2021; Aissen 2023) and discourse flow (Chafe 1985, 1994; Mithun 2015, 2020), and pedagogically-friendly in order to inform and support the creation of pedagogical resources for advanced L2 acquisition. In this presentation, I will briefly go over several areas of interest within Kanien’kéha discourse and prosody; including different focus types, topic shifts, contrastive topics, antitopics, discourse particles, coherence, flow, the segmentation of speech into “intonation units” according to Chafe’s (1994) “One New Idea Constraint”, and the prosodic realization of different constructions. As work on the corpus is only in preliminary planning stages, most of the data comes from elicitation sessions run by Sophia Flaim with L1 speaker Wá:ri McDonald. I hope to solicit feedback on strategies to narrow down this broad interest into a coherent research topic of a more feasible size for the scope of a dissertation project. Thank you!

Please register in advance HERE to receive the Zoom link. You can also share this link with others who may want to join