We are pleased to announce that the Workshop on Impersonality and Correlated Phenomena: Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives will take place at the University of Salzburg on November 10 – 11, 2016.
The aim of this workshop is to gain a more profound theoretical understanding of the encoding of impersonality on a syntactic and/or a semantic level and to investigate how impersonal constructions are intertwined with other factors within a language system.
- Dalina Kallulli (University of Vienna)
- Florian Schäfer (Humboldt University of Berlin)
The notion of impersonality generally comprises phenomena that show agent alternation/defocusing/absence or (de-)masking which include configurations like (non-)referential indefinite pronouns (fr. on, dt. man, nl. men, engl. one, sp. uno/a, pt. a gente etc.), expletives, se-constructions, periphrastic passives, p-labile verbs and (reflexively marked) anticausative alternations, deponent verbs and their evolution, middles, etc.
Furthermore, we are especially interested in analyses that focus on how impersonal constructions are linked to other properties of a language system, some of which are illustrated here drawing on Romance languages:
For example, in recent decades, it has been observed that there seems to be a relation between the pro-drop parameter and the availability of impersonal se/si (cf. Belletti 1982). Further evidence in this direction is provided by Brazilian Portuguese which is claimed to be a partial pro-drop language and which shows considerable differences in the use of se as compared to European Portuguese, a consistent pro-drop language (cf. Holmberg et al 2009).
An interesting case is also Old French whose pro-drop status is widely debated (cf. Adams 1987, Vance 1997 and many others) and which also shows less flexibility in using se as compared to other Old Romance varieties. In opposition to that, there are theoretical implementations that indicate that the correlation might not be as straightforward as sketched above (cf. Dobrovie-Sorin 1998, Roberts 2010). Another interesting question is how different degrees of grammaticalization of impersonal constructions are linked to more general characteristics such as word order phenomena or high/low Transitivity.
In this respect it is interesting that we find so-called man-constructions in several Old Romance languages (though with different frequencies) regardless of their null-subject status: Old Spanish om(n)e, Old Catalan/Old Occitan (h)om, Old French om/on etc. In later stages of the null-subject languages, man-constructions become less frequent and in the case of Old Spanish, omne got lost completely in the 16th century (cf. Brown 1931). In Catalan hom is viewed as archaic and se is preferred (cf. Bartra Kaufmann 2002). How can we account for this pan-romance evolution?
Moreover, we find different degrees of grammaticalization among man-constructions and in a last step of their grammaticalization paths man-constructions tend to be reanalyzed as plural markers in some languages like e.g. Abruzzese nomǝ or as a pronoun that is able to refer to generic subjects as well as 1.P.pl. like Modern French on. What factors condition the different degrees in grammaticalization cross-linguistically? (cf. Giacalone Ramat/Sansò 2007; D’Alessandro 2013).
Other interesting questions include:
- How do impersonal constructions reflect differences in the interpretation of the subject as generic, arbitrary, inclusion/exclusion of the speaker/or discourse situation?
- Why do some languages clearly favor se-constructions and why do others show a preference for strategies like periphrastic passives?
- What triggers p-lability and why are there reflexively marked and non-reflexively marked anticausatives?
- Peter Herbeck (University of Salzburg)
- Bernhard Pöll (University of Salzburg)
- Anne Wolfsgruber (University of Salzburg)