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Did you know that in English there is a strong tendency towards using the Saxon genitive ’s with humans instead of the preposition of? Did you ever hear that some Chinantecan languages encode the animate/inanimate distinction in almost every word, and that in Hatam only human nouns distinguish plural number?
Animacy influences the grammar of languages in different ways, although it often goes unnoticed. This book offers for the first time a comprehensive cross-linguistic study of its effects on morphological systems. How does the theoretical definition of animacy fit real data? Do we observe different types of animacy? Which techniques are employed to encode it? Which categories and features are affected, and how? Data from more than 300 languages provide answers to these (and other) questions.
A Synchronic, Diachronic, and Sociolinguistic Analysis
When I entered her shop, my friend turned to me and said: «Arà, che si dice?» (‘Hey there, how you doing?’). This was not a full-fledged sentence in Italian, as she had thrown a little Sicilian word in – arà. It was a greeting, of course, but also a way of expressing her surprise at seeing me there, and a way of prompting me to start our conversation. The fact she used Sicilian had a clear meaning too: the vernacular indicates a shared social identity.
In a nutshell, this book analyses the cases of Sicilian arà and mentri to understand the complexity of discourse markers: what functions they perform, how they evolve historically, and what their social meaning is in a bilingual speech community.