The Problem of the Adverb 2020
Abstr. due: 06.10.2020
Dates: 26.03.20 — 27.03.20
Area Of Sciences: Humanities;
Organizing comittee e-mail: adverb AT sciencesconf.org
Organizers: Sorbonne University and partners
The conference is aimed at presenting new approaches to the adverb. Following questions will deserve careful consideration : What use can we make of the notion of adverbial? Can we deal with the adverb, as opposed to the adverbial, by dispensing with the criterion of invariability? Can we define the adverb based solely on syntax? Will traditional adverbs still be adverbs in this case? Where and how can we draw a line between adverbs and neighboring categories in the languages of the world? What can we learn from language history that could help us establish definitory criteria? Can we propose a universal definition of the adverb at all?
Although the necessity of robust definitions of parts of speech in the description of a given language is widely acknowledged (see Haspelmath 2001: 16538 for general argumentation), the degree of language-specific variation and the respective role of functional and formal criteria are still under discussion. Among the parts of speech of traditional grammar there is one which, although probably no less useful than the others, appears less satisfactory: the adverb.
The notion of “adverb” sometimes seems to be used in order to lump together all the items that do not satisfy the definitions of the other parts of speech (Quirk et al. 1972: 267).
In face of this extreme fuzziness, some grammarians have looked for a renewed definition of the adverb based on prototypical features (Ramat/Ricca 1994). But which criteria should be chosen to define a prototype of the adverb? Should frequency data play a role in this definition? Should one take some semantic features as more prototypical than others? Can the manner adverb constitute the prototype? Should we follow follow Hengeveld’s position (1992, 2004) that the only way to come up with typological generalizations is to focus on manner adverbs?
Other scholars have chosen to do away with the category of adverb and replace it by the functional category of adverbial (Nølke , Pittner ), with the latter being defined in a purely syntactic way if necessary (Chomsky , Steinitz ). Similarly, some linguists even take the adverbial as the more basic notion and derive the notion of adverb from it (Maienborn & Schäfer 2019). However the notion of adverbial is not very clear either (Eisenberg 2013: 212), as, like its cousin the adverb, the adverbial has ill-defined boundaries: if the adverbial is a phrase that is not defined as a specific type of sentential component (Nølke 1990: 17), this means that any type of circumstantial, be it an adjective, a prepositional phrase, a subordinated clause etc., falls into this category. Further, the question of the syntactic domain of adverbials and of their semantic scope is as difficult as it ever was for adverbs: should we really lump together in one category manner adverbials, speaker-oriented modal adverbials, evaluative adverbials, circumstantials, or even discourse markers?
The whole question is to examine whether other approaches to the adverb can be taken. What use can we make of the notion of adverbial? Can we deal with the adverb, as opposed to the adverbial, by dispensing with the criterion of invariability? Can we define the adverb based solely on syntax? Will traditional adverbs still be adverbs in this case? Where and how can we draw a line between adverbs and neighboring categories in the languages of the world? What can we learn from language history that could help us establish definitory criteria? Can we propose a universal definition of the adverb at all? These are all questions that deserve careful consideration, whether one is working within the limits of the study of a given language or in a typological framework.
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