Free University of Berlin (DE) – Premier séminaire le 24 mai 2016

Professor Ekkehard König – Professor at Department of English, Free University of Berlin – University of Freiburg (Germany) is our next invited professor in the frame of the EFL International chair 2016.

More information about professor Ekkehard König here.

You will find hereafter the detail of his lectures starting in May 2016 :



Towards a typology of minor lexical categories

Venue / Lieu : INALCO, 65 rue des grands moulins, 75013 Paris 

Based on my own work and detailed knowledge of the relevant literature, I intend to discuss four interrelated topics within the general domain of minor lexical categories from a comparative and typological perspective. The domain selected is located at the borderline between syntax, semantics and pragmatics and thus requires the interaction of various methods of data collection, as well as the interaction of several approaches, concepts and models (semantic maps, componential analysis, formal semantics, canonical typology, ‘grammaticalization theory’, etc.). Moreover, the domain selected provides many opportunities to discuss the relationship between historical change and typological variation. The data presented and analyzed in the seminar include data from many European languages, which are essential as starting point for fine-grained semantic analyses, as well as data from a wide variety of non-European ones.

In contrast to the vast majority of recent typological work on morpho-syntax, which typically manifests a somewhat agnostic attitude to questions of meaning, these seminars will assign a more prominent role to questions of semantic analysis as a problem for establishing comparability and  as a basis for discussing types of encoding, types of syncretism and types of differentiation. It is, of course, a basic requirement of such an approach that one of the basic tenets of structuralism, viz, the inseparable unity of the significant and the signifié, has to be given up, without adopting the other extreme of establishing cross-linguistic generalizations purely on form or purely on meaning.

Lecture 1: Demonstratives and interrogatives  – date :  Tuesday 24th May 2016  / 14h-16h – Salle 4.10

Starting out from typological surveys like Anderson & Keenan (1985), Diessel (1999), etc., the seminar will broaden out the scope of these surveys by including new subdomains of demonstratives (manner, quality and degree), new data from lesser described languages (e.g. Krasnoukhova, 2012) and a discussion of the relationship between demonstratives and interrogatives. The latter are known to be closely related to demonstratives both in their forms and in the ontological domains expressed, as well as in their role as sources of specific processes of grammaticalization. Taking members of major lexical categories as their point of departure, such processes typically establish and strengthen intra-clausal relations through affixation, integration into paradigms, reduction of scope and ‘obligatorification’, whereas demonstratives and interrogatives, as members of minor lexical categories can be shown to establish inter-clausal relations, typically or even exclusively (cf. Diessel vs. Heine).

Demonstratives and interrogatives can be shown to be very flexible in their distribution but also to have a relatively simple semantic structure: locating entities in relation to a center of orientation + assigning these entities to an ontological type (demonstratives) and combining a free variable with a characterization of ontological types (interrogatives). It is a manifestation of the basic cognitive nature of these components that they also show up in a wide variety of other grammatical and lexical domains.

Lecture 2: Zooming in on subclass of demonstratives and interrogatives: Manner, Quality and Degree – date :  Tuesday 31st May 2016  / 14h-16h – Salle 4.07

Three of the content (ontological) domains of demonstratives almost completely neglected until recently (cf. Koenig, 2012) are the domains of manner, quality and degree (encoded inter alia by ainsi, tel/pareil, tellement in French, but typically replaced by comme ça in the latter two cases). Major points in the discussion of these subdomains are the inventories and differentiations found across languages, the formal make-up and the meaning of these demonstratives, the underlying cognitive process of comparison and the role of these demonstratives as starting point in the development of grammatical markers for a variety of constructions. It will be shown that there are wide-spread tendencies, but also clear differences in the anaphoric and cataphoric extensions of the basic exophoric uses of the demonstratives under discussion, which lead to further more or less wide-spread processes of grammaticalization. Another wide-spread phenomenon is the complete loss of the basic exophoric use of an expression or its renewal by more basic deictic components. In contrast to the highly language-specific and construction-specific processes most frequently identified in the literature, the relevant processes of grammaticalization involving demonstratives and interrogatives are general tendencies found in a wide variety of languages. The role of demonstratives and interrogatives in exclamatives constitutes another focal point of the lecture.

Lecture 3: Definite articles and their uses: Diversity and patterns of variation  - 
date :  Tuesday 7th June 2016  / 14h-16h - Salle 4.07

Definite articles, which typically develop from adnominal demonstratives (like Latin ille) or intensifiers (like Latin ipse) are often assumed to be an areal phenomenon of Europe. A rich body of studies on lesser described languages has revealed, however, that at least related grammatical categories are also found in many other areas and language families. These observations have led to the development of typologies for definite and indefinite article within major typological surveys such as WALS (Dryer in Haspelmath, et al., 2005). Impressive as such typologies may be, they lack, however, a clear semantic basis for the different types distinguished, for the assumed relationships between them and for their historical development. It will be shown that a clear semantic basis, which partly reconstructs the widely attested development from adnominal demonstratives to definite articles, leads to a more sound and convincing typology, even if it is more restricted in its areal and genealogical scope. In addition to looking at different inventories of article systems, transitional phenomena and emergent article systems, a detailed look will also be taken at the use of definite articles, which may differ significantly in certain conceptual domains, even in closely related languages.

Lecture 4: Towards a typology of focus operators - 
date :  Thursday 16th June 2016  / 14h-16h - Salle 4.07

Focus operators like même, aussi, seulement in French or also, too, even, only in English are highly versatile in their syntactic positions and interact with the information structure of an utterance type, analyzed as a proposition structured in terms of focus and background. Inspired by some seminal studies, such as Jacobs (1983), Rooth (1985) and Koenig (1991), a wide variety of language-specific and cross-linguistic specific studies on the meaning and syntax of these expressions is now available and first attempts have been made to formulate typological and areal generalizations (cf. Hole, 2004; Gast & van der Auwera, 2011; Zimmermann, 2014; Forker, to appear). In addition to discussing basic aspects of meaning, providing an outline of their historical development (inter alia from demonstratives and intensifiers) and distinguishing semantically defined subclasses of focus markers, this lecture will look at general tendencies and patterns of variation in the syntax, meaning and use of focus operators.

Given that focus markers interact with a structured proposition, portioned into focus and scope, a special instance are those cases where the whole sentence introduced by such a marker is focused. In those cases, the alternatives generally invoked by these markers are found in preceding sentences and these alternatives provide additional support, in the case of additive markers like also, plus, moreover or counterevidence in the case of exclusive markers like only, however, etc. This view provides new perspective on the analysis of a relevant subclass of ‘discourse markers’.