Institutional Scholarship

Animacy & Topicality on a Scale of Cultural Context

Show simple item record

dc.contributor.advisor Schardl, Anisa Drexel, Ivy 2014-01-15T17:02:04Z 2014-01-15T17:02:04Z 2014
dc.description.abstract What is animacy? Animacy is literally the "cognitive distinction between animate and inanimate, and ... human and non-human" (Yamamoto 1999). However, linguistically and for the purposes of this paper, animacy hierarchy in language is defined by Thomas Payne as "a hierarchy of agent-worthiness (or by extension topic-worthiness [ ... ] [which] is not grammaticalized in any given language, but neither is it a theoretical model based on a pre-empirical notion of 'agent-worthiness.' Rather, it derives from a survey of languages that rely, at least partially, on pragmatics to distinguish f Agentl from [Patient]" (Payne 1997). In this paper I will support Payne's definition of animacy, and his notion that animacies in language always function from left to right (higher to lower animacy) in regards to agency and topic, unless grammatically marked. In other words, an entity of lower animacy will never act upon an entity of higher animacy because it defies this order, unless there is a specific method to grammatically mark this change. I also argue that there is a spectrum of animacy in language, ranging from those languages in which it is disregarded and not grammatically manifested, to those in which it is so closely bound to cultural contexts that it necessitates grammatical markedness. To explore this latter end of the scale, I will discuss at length the elaborate Navajo animacy hierarchy and its inextricability from Navajo religion and world view. I will then use Japanese and Hindi to demonstrate their intermediary position on the scale of animacy's influence in grammar. These three languages provide examples of different ways of connoting animacy, from word order, to affixes, to verbal morphology, as well as different ways of defining its animacy hierarchy. These categories, differentiating "animate" from "inanimate" and all levels in between, do not represent one universal worldview, but rather reflect the views of individual cultures and thus are manifested differently in each language. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship Swarthmore College. Dept. of Linguistics en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.rights Full copyright to this work is retained by the student author. It may only be used for non-commercial, research, and educational purposes. All other uses are restricted.
dc.title Animacy & Topicality on a Scale of Cultural Context en_US
dc.type Thesis (B.A.)

Files in this item

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record



My Account