M.A. Theses in Linguistics at the University of North Dakota (Abstracts)
Sachs, April 2010
Motion events in Seri: Applying Talmy's typologies
Leonard Talmy’s typologies of motion hypothesize that in a language’s depiction of Motion events, the semantic components of the event will find characteristic expression in consistent morphosyntactic structures. In the motion-actuating typology, the main verb in an event of Motion will characteristically conflate Motion with either the Path, Figure, or Manner of Motion. In the motion-framing typology, the Path component will characteristically appear in either the verb or the satellite to the verb. These typologies, proposed in their most cited forms in Talmy (1985) and Talmy (1991), have been applied over the years to dozens of languages, with varying degrees of success. Various researchers, notably Jon Aske and Dan Slobin, have proposed solutions to problems they perceived in the typologies.
In this thesis, an analysis of the Motion events of Seri (a language of the Mexican state of Sonora) was conducted based on publicly available texts. Seri has a split system of conflation in the motion-actuating typology, with Path, Figure, and Manner verbs used in different types of Motion events; the use of Path verbs seems to be the most characteristic. Under Talmy’s criteria, the motion-framing type remains undetermined, but investigation using further guidelines reveals that Seri appears to be verb-framed.
During the course of this analysis, however, a number of difficulties were encountered in the application of the typologies. First, the definition and diagnosis of a Motion event (and therefore of Motion verbs) was unclear. Second, the identification of satellites was complicated by the imprecise nature of that category. Third, the semantic components of a given morpheme were often impossible to identify outside of a construction. Therefore, and because of the inherent limitations of the typologies, a certain amount of caution is advised in their application, and several more interesting questions are proposed for the further exploration of the treatment of Motion in language.
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