Monash Linguistics Seminar Series

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Date/Time
Date(s) - 12/03/2013
11:00 am - 11:30 am

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Monash Linguistics would like to invite you to our Annual Honours Seminar.  This is an opportunity for the linguistics program to showcase its top students of 2012.  Firstly, the program will present the annual Linguistics Program Honours Prizes.  These will be presented to our two top-performing students at the Honours level.  Secondly, these students will present the findings of their theses.  The abstracts for these theses may be found below.  The 2013 Linguistics seminar series will also be announced on the day.     

Tuesday, March 12th, 11am-12:30pm
Room E561, Building 11 (Menzies)
Followed by lunch & coffee in the Staff Club (You can also bring your own food to the club). 
All are welcome! 

 
Abstracts
 
 “GIVING A RAT’S” ABOUT NEGATION: THE JESPERSEN CYCLE IN MODERN AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH 

Isabelle Grace BURKE

 This thesis is an overview of syntactic negation strategies in modern Australian English. The phenomenon of the Jespersen Cycle of negation is well known: minimisers such as French pas ‘step’ are recruited for emphasis and subsequently reanalysed as the negator, eventually triggering the old negator’s omission. Recently, efforts have been made to align developments in British and American English negation with this model, such as Cheshire’s description (1998) of the punctual never (e.g. I never went to school today) and Hoeksema’s investigation (2009) of the reanalysis of taboo ‘minimisers’ such as jack all as negators. Anderwald (2002) has also examined forms such as invariant ain’t and don’t and negative concord in British English, arguing that they are functionally motivated, as well as being efforts to move towards greater typological normality. As yet, Australian English negation has been unexamined.

This study investigates these constructions and others in Australian English using the conversational data of the Griffith, Monash and ICE-Aus corpora, analysing 5749 tokens of negation in total. A picture of surprising conservatism emerges: multiple negation and invariant forms are rare, as is the punctual never, contra Kortmann and Szmrecsanyi (2004). This paucity indicates not only the stigma attached to some of these constructions, but also prompts a reimagining of the two schools of thought on the Jespersen cycle, informed by Yaeger-Dror’s findings on the contraction of negation being less face- threatening in conversational contexts (1998). While taboo ‘minimisers’ have been reanalysed in some cases, the data shows that the role of multiple negation is less prominent than has been claimed, and also suggests that the absence of an article is especially propitious for syntactic reanalysis.   

 

STRUCTURE AS X-PHEMISM: MORPHOSYNTACTIC TECHNIQUES IN THE LABELLING OF TABOOED MINORITY GROUPS

Jonathon LUM

Studies of euphemism and its counterpart, dysphemism, have typically stressed that a range of linguistic devices are used in the creation of new ‘X-phemisms’ (e.g., Allan & Burridge 1991: 14-20); however, these studies have focused almost entirely on lexical and semantic techniques rather than morphosyntactic ones.

I defend Allan and Burridge’s (2006: 90-111) claim that non-discriminatory or ‘politically correct’ (PC) language is euphemistic, and argue that the grammatical constructions promoted by PC guidelines (e.g., Pauwels 1991) are therefore euphemistic too, while non-PC morphosyntax is dysphemistic. In particular, I examine the morphosyntax of labels for a range of stigmatised minority groups (including minorities of sexuality, religion, disability, and others). Data is drawn from a corpus of transcripts of Insight, a popular television discussion program, as well as from an online survey investigating the perceived (im)politeness of various labelling constructions.

The survey results reveal that regardless of the minority group being labelled, postmodifying constructions (e.g., person with a disability) are considered the most ‘polite’ or euphemistic, followed by premodifiers (e.g., disabled person), nouns (e.g., the disabled), and finally shortened or diminutive forms (e.g., crips, oldies), which are the most likely to be considered offensive. However, the Insight data suggests that in polite, public discourse, speakers tend to focus on avoiding the most dysphemistic constructions rather than actively using the most ‘polite’ forms available. Nonetheless, the Insight and survey data together show that X-phemisms for minority groups are characterised as much by morphosyntactic choices as by lexical or semantic ones.