mardi 15 novembre 2016

Séance du 22 novembre 2016

Date et heure: Mardi 22 novembre 2016 de 19h à 21h
Lieu: INALCO, 65 rue des Grands Moulins - 75013 Paris
Salle: 6.06 (6e étage)

A macrosyntactic approach of Information Structure in Zaar

Bernard CARON 
Llacan-UMR 8135 (Inalco, CNRS)

Résumé : 

This paper will use the study of identifying clauses in Zaar, as in [1], to illustrate my approach to syntax and intonation structure.

Note : Examples are annotated for macrosyntax (Berrendonner 1990; Blanche-Benveniste et al. 1990), with illocutionary units (henceforth IlU) as the basic annotation unit (Cresti & Moneglia 2005). IlUs are composed of 3 kinds of components: a nucleus (obligatory), pre-nuclei (optional) and post nuclei (optional). In the annotation, ‘<’ follows a pre-nucleus and precedes a nucleus or another pre-nucleus; ‘>’ precedes a post-nucleus and follows a nucleus or a previous post-nucleus; and ‘//’ indicates the right boundary of an IlU. When microsyntactic dependencies override IlU boundaries, a sign “+” is added to these boundaries: “//+” for final IlU boundaries; “<+” and “>+” for non-final. In clefts, the “>+” and “<+” signs indicate that the peripheral units (resp. pre- and post-nucleus) are in a dependency relationship with an element of the nucleus. (Caron 2016; Lacheret, Kahane & Pietrandrea s.p.)

My work is motivated by an on-going frustration when approaching the study of information structure in Hausa and Zaar. I wanted to go beyond a few basic intuitions that date from my first work on Hausa (Caron 1987; Caron & Mohamadou 1999) and consequently placed much hope in the work I did as part of the CorpAfroas and Cortypo ANR projects initiated by Amina Mettouchi (Caron 2015; Caron et al. 2015), started dabbling in the study of intonation, but the frustration remained. Most of the literature available, most of the methodology went against my intuitions about the languages, and the annotation tools offered were mostly derived from very abstract and elaborate phonological theories that seemed to apply crude patterns derived from the study of English to languages that suffered much in the process. This type of phenomenon is parallel to [2] & [3] below. 


The structure is thus characterized by the presence of a proleptic pronoun (it), a copula (was), and a relative clause (that Peter ordered for lunch). However, the expletive pronoun ‘it’ is missing in Zaar in [1]. A further morphological reduction of the structure is observed in [4] where the left-dislocation of the foregrounded element gíː ‘this’ is not accompanied by a copula. 


A new approach to this type of phenomenon is offered by the concept of macrosyntax as developed by the Aix School (Blanche-Benveniste et al. 1990) and the ANR-Rhapsodie programme (Lacheret et al. 2014) to do a bottom-up study of IS through a detailed annotation of my corpus based on illocutionary units. 

This methodology comprises : 

• Full annotation of the corpus, including disfluencies, repetitions
• Illocutionary (subsuming information) and syntactic structures.
• Illocutionary units (macro-syntax) and Dependency units (micro-syntax)

Two interesting features in this approach are : (i) the choice of the illocutionary unit as the basic information unit, operating at the level of macrosyntax (See also Cresti & Moneglia 2005); (ii) the concept of syntactic piles, which straddes illocutionary units and turns of speech. 

The macrosyntactic level describes the whole set of relations holding between all the segments that make up one and only one illocutionary act. Illocutionary units are made up of: nucleus (obligatory), pre-nuclei (optional) and post nuclei (optional): Pre-nucleus < Nucleus > Post-nucleus. Piles are the multiple realization of one and the same structural position, which occurs in continuous speech in various types of segments, especially syntactic disfluencies. 

I have implemented this model in a new a module of Elan-CorpA developed by Christian Chanard and Mourad Aouini (Chanard 2014a; 2014b). I started to use this module to exploit the Rhapsodie annotation system on my corpus in Elan. This is all very new and tentative, but encouraging enough to prompt me to present you with the method and preliminary results. 

This module is made of two tables. In the first table (called Groups), the annotator selects a set of annotations in any of the existing tiers, gives this group a name and a type that can be selected in a constrained vocabulary. These sets consist of a single or several annotations that can be selected from one or several tiers, and can be discontinuous. In the second table (called Links), the annotator creates links between two sets of annotations built on the same principle as groups. One set is called the source, and the other set is called the targets. The links created are given a name and a type in the same way as for groups. Either the source or the targets can be taken from the Groups table. In this case, the sets selected from the groups table can be viewed either by showing either the annotations in the tiers, or the types and names given to the groups in the groups table.

I have used the annotated files to study identifying clauses in Zaar (a.k.a cleft sentences). I have  examined what characterises these foregrounding structures beyond the formal components defining them in e.g. English or French, and to find a unifying definition based on Halliday’s concept of identification (1967a:233). In the process I will present a description of copulas in Zaar and argue that this type of syntactic structure is best accounted for within the framework of Universal Dependency Grammar (UD) which only considers content words as governors in dependency relations, thus accounting for the absence of copula in Zaar identifying clauses. 

As in Zaar (and other languages), macrosyntactic equivalents of cleft structures miss the morphological exponents generally used to define them and distinguish between ‘it-clefts’ and ‘wh-clefts’, another type of definition is needed for these structures “Sans ‘it’, sans ‘COP’, sans ‘REL’, sans everything”. A new definition and nomenclature is proposed, using Halliday’s concept of ‘IDENTIFYING CLAUSE’. An identifying clause is defined as equating a variable in a nominalised clause (the Identified) to a value given by an NP (the Identifier). The identifier corresponds to the illocutionary nucleus and bears the main sentence stress. The identified is backgrounded, or pre-asserted. When the default order topic-comment (or theme-rheme) is respected, the identifying clause has the order Identified - Identifier, and the structure is called an UNMARKED IDENTIFYING CLAUSE. When the order is inverted and the Identifier precedes the Identified, the structure is called a MARKED IDENTIFYING CLAUSE. 

The absence of copulas in nominal clauses in Zaar is taken as supporting the analysis of the Universal Dependencies syntax which, following the ‘Primacy of Content Words’ principle, considers that nominal clauses are governed by the nominal predicate, and the copula is a dependent of the predicate. This primacy of the nominal predicate explains why copulas are not compulsory in Zaar nominal clauses. The three Zaar copulas (yi, nə and kən) are studied in detail and their prosodic properties used to differentiate between copular and verbal uses of yi. The grammaticalisation of yi to express the Continuous aspect in Zaar is accounted for in this unified presentation of the various uses of yi. 

This new approach to syntax, based on dependency grammar and the primacy of content words, opens new perspectives on typology in which the description of valency is central. This means that the main weight of the description is transferred from the syntax to the lexicon where dictionary of verbal valency will be essential in the production of what can be called “Word Grammars”. 


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