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Seminar: Events in language and thought - Rebecca Defina, 19 Aug, 12.30pm, US


Date: 4 August 2016

Seminar: Events in language and thought: The case of serial verb constructions in Avatime

Speaker: Dr Rebecca Defina, The University of Melbourne

When: Friday 19 August, 12.30pm-2.00pm

Where: University of Sydney


Events occur all around us in continuous streams of activity, yet we think and talk about them in terms of discrete units. These conceptual and linguistic event units are often assumed to align. For instance, serial verb constructions (SVCs) are often said to refer to single conceptual event units (e.g. Aikhenvald 2006; Bisang 2009; Comrie 1995). In this talk, I will present results from my investigation of SVCs and conceptual event units in Avatime, a Kwa language spoken in Ghana.

Conceptual event segmentation was investigated across three different kinds of thinking: thinking-for-speaking, memory, and perception. During thinking-for-speaking, analyses of co-speech gesture patterns suggested a strong alignment between SVCs and single event units. Also during perception, a study of the influence of syntactic priming found that SVCs lead people to segment events in a more unified manner. In contrast, no clear signs of alignment were found between SVCs and event units in memory. Together these results support the idea whereby rich and varied event concepts are aligned with linguistic structures when speaking or signing with some possible continued influence of this process of alignment on how further events are processed or conceptualized.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University