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Maïa Ponsonnet to present on "Comparing descriptions of emotions in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol", 7 August 2015

Australian National University, Shape

Date: 7 August 2015

When: Friday 7 August 2015, 3.30-5pm

Where: Seminar Room B, Coombs Building, The Australian National University

Maïa Ponsonnet:

My PhD thesis (ANU 2010-2013, now published as Ponsonnet (2014a)) offers an account of the linguistic encoding of emotions in Dalabon, a severely threatened Gunwinyguan language of south-western Arnhem Land (Evans, Brown & Corbett 2001; Evans & Merlan 2003; Evans, Merlan & Tukumba 2004). My post-doctoral research (CNRS, 2013-2015) continues to explore the language of emotions in this region of Australia, studying emotions in Barunga Kriol – the creole that has now replaced Dalabon (Sandefur 1979; Sandefur 1986; Schultze-Berndt, Meakins & Angelo 2013). In this talk, I will present some of the results of this on-going project, comparing Dalabon and Barunga Kriol with respect to the descriptions of emotions.

On the one hand, there are important resemblances between the two languages in terms of lexical categories. In the first part of the talk, I will show that many emotion words of Barunga Kriol bear strong semantic resemblances with Dalabon words. On the other hand, one of the most remarkable characteristics of descriptions of emotions in Dalabon, namely the prominence of body-parts in these descriptions, is not structurally matched in Barunga Kriol.

In Dalabon, both descriptive and figurative associations between emotions and body-parts are entrenched in conventionalized linguistic forms that are part of the lexicon or grammar of the language (Ponsonnet 2014b). By contrast, the association between body-parts and emotions remains relatively marginal within the lexicon and grammar of Barunga Kriol. However, some traces of these associations can be observed in aspects of linguistic descriptions that are the least constrained by linguistic conventions – for instance, gestures.

This suggests that the conceptual association between body-parts and emotions may still be conceptually salient for some speakers, albeit no longer anchored within the linguistic system itself. In addition, the comparison between Dalabon and Barunga Kriol allows for some hypotheses – to be further tested in broader cross-linguistic research – as to which linguistic features may have channeled key differences between linguistic descriptions of emotions in the two languages.

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