PhD defense Silvia Terenghi: Structure and change in Romance demonstratives

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Sommige straatnaambordjes in Nice zijn tweetalig: Frans en Niçart. Foto: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

On 27 January, Silvia Terenghi will defend her PhD thesis entitled 'Missing Person: Structure and change in Romance demonstratives'. Demonstrative forms, such as ‘this’ and ‘that’, are everywhere in language. Languages vary when it comes to which information their demonstrative forms can express. Silvia Terenghi's thesis explores these different aspects of variation and provides an explanation both for the differences attested across languages for those that arise in time.

We use these words very frequently, for example to give information about where an object is in relation to us: ‘this bike’ is a bike near us, while ‘that bike’ is a bike further away. Interestingly, languages vary when it comes to which information their demonstrative forms can express.

Variation in the meaning of demonstrative pronouns

In some languages, an additional demonstrative form is used to indicate that an object is near our listener, such as ‘esse’ in European Portuguese. This form can be translate into English as ‘that near you’, as there is no one single word with that same meaning.

In other languages, demonstrative systems can also tell us something about how close or how distant an object it. This is the case for old-fashioned English ‘yonder’, used to indicate that something is very far away, further away than ‘there’.

Thesis on origins of differences between demonstrative pronouns

But why do some languages have a ‘that near you’ form while others do not? Silvia Terenghi's thesis explores these different aspects of variation and provides an explanation both for the differences attested across languages for those that arise in time. The goal is to understand which primitives lay behind the way in which demonstrative forms work in human language.

Start date and time
End date and time
Location
Hybrid: online (click here) and at the Utrecht University Hall
PhD candidate
Silvia Terenghi
Dissertation
Missing Person: Structure and change in Romance demonstratives
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. R.A.G. D'Alessandro
Prof. M.B.H. Everaert
More information
Full text via Utrecht University Repository