Typologizing interjections

For Rabbit Day, the first of the month — 🐇 🐇 🐇 — and as a Mary, Queen of Scots, cry that I am Not Dead Yet (things have been very bad, though inclined to great pain and disability rather than intimations of mortality), this announcement — of a workshop and then a cool-sounding research project — from Maia Ponsonnet on the Variationist list in e-mail on 9/26:

On 21 Nov, Maia Ponsonnet, Aimée Lahaussois, and Yvonne Treis are convening a one-day workshop entitled “Typologizing Interjections”.

The workshop will take place from 9am to 5pm CET, in Lyon (Dynamique du Langage), and via Zoom

Context: This workshop is the first step of a [CNRS: Centre national de la recherche scientifique] research project on the typology of interjections. The broader project aims to publish an open-access edited volume, featuring a larger number of descriptive contributions on the semantics and functions of interjections in individual languages across the world. To start this scientific conversation and launch joint research efforts, we propose a one-day workshop, accessible in hybrid mode

Background [AZ: with one bit I’ve boldfaced for discussion below]: Wilkins (1992: 124) seminally defined interjections as conventional lexical forms which frequently constitute utterances on their own, and rarely (or never) enter into constructions with other word classes. This syntactic independence probably explains why, despite their probable universality across the languages of the world (Wierzbicka 1999: 276) and their ubiquity in usage (Kockelman 2003), interjections remain understudied in linguistics (Dingemanse 2017, 2023; Colombat & Lahaussois 2019)

So far, a number of published case studies have described individual interjections, mostly within one single language (e.g. Schourup 2001 [English]; Evans 1992 [Mayali (Australia)]; Goddard 2014 [English, Polish, Cantonese]; Ponsonnet 2014 [Dalabon (Australia)]; Levisen 2019 [Danish] inter alia). As for typology, Ameka (1992) and Ameka & Wilkins (2006) devised seminal partitions of interjections, later adjusted by Heine (2023); and Ponsonnet (2023) has explored the semantic distribution of interjections in a sample of Aboriginal Australian languages. Beyond these foundational insights, much remains to be done regarding the typology of these key communicative resources.

Our “Typologizing Interjections” project aims to address this gap with the publication of an open access edited volume. This will include some framing articles (theory, methods, typology etc.), as well as a larger number of shorter, descriptive contributions on the semantics and functions of interjections in individual languages across the world. To start this scientific conversation and joint research effort, we propose a one-day workshop accessible in hybrid mode. The first part of the day will feature framing contributions about the aims and underpinnings of the enterprise. The second part will host a small number of descriptive contributions presenting the semantic and functional distribution of interjections in individual languages across continents.

The English description. The reference (as it appears in the bibliography in the proposal):

Schourup, Lawrence. 2001. Rethinking well. Journal of Pragmatics 33(2001). 1025–1060.

Here I really perked up, because this is one item from a considerable body of work on discourse particles in English by Schourup, beginning with his Ohio State dissertation:

Lawrence Schourup, Discourse Particles in English Conversation. OSU PhD dissertation, 1982.

— OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, 1983.

— Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics (Routledge), 1985.

And yes, I was the adviser, and I am extraordinarily proud of that. Though mostly my role was not to get in his way unnecessarily, and to offer useful comments on his research plans and thesis drafts.

It was something of a surprise to see his 2001 Journal of Pragmatics piece on English well listed as an exemplary description of an interjection in a specific language, but it’s a fair cop. What a delight.

(I should extract from him his full bibliography on discourse particles. Just on rooting around aimlessly, I’ve found lots of stuff I didn’t know about.)


One Response to “Typologizing interjections”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    A list of LS publications on particles / markers after the dissertation; LS writes: “I’ve left off half a dozen highly forgettable reviews and comments”:


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