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Share Paper 1207

Topic, Focus, and Point of View in Blackfoot
Heather Bliss
61-69 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


In the Algonquian language family, various pragmatic notions, such as topic, focus, and point of view, are grammaticalized via two morphosyntactic mechanisms: obviation and direct/inverse. Obviation and direct/inverse are typically conceived of as working together as a single concerted system, both marking the same type of discourse prominence. This paper argues that, in Blackfoot (Plains Algonquian: Alberta and Montana), obviation and direct/inverse are in fact distinct, each marking a different type of discourse prominence. The author shows that the relevant distinction for the ranking of third persons in the direct/inverse hierarchy is not one of obviation, as is typically assumed, but is one of sentience, or real-world animacy. The incorporation of sentience into the hierarchy supports the claim that direct/inverse grammaticalizes the pragmatic notion of point of view. Obviation, being distinct from direct/inverse, is argued to grammaticalize information structuring, or topic and focus.

Published in

Proceedings of the 24th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by John Alderete, Chung-hye Han, and Alexei Kochetov
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00