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ven. 02/02/2018 Séminaire DTT - Conférence
Maïa Ponsonnet (U. Western Australia)
14h-16h
ISH - Ennat Léger


What changes when language shifts?
The expression of emotions in a creole language (Kriol, northern Australia)


In this talk I will present the results of my ASLAN postdoctoral project (2013-2015), with a view to compiling them in a monograph recently accepted by Routledge. In this work, I study the effect of language shift upon a specific semantic domain. To this effect, I compare the linguistic encoding of emotions in Dalabon (Gunwinyguan, non-Pama-nyungan, Australia, Evans, Merlan & Tukumba 2004; Ponsonnet (2014)) and in Kriol, the English-based creole that has replaced Dalabon and other local Australian languages in recent generations (Ponsonnet 2010; Schultze-Berndt, Meakins & Angelo 2013).

Dalabon and Kriol are used in the same cultural context, but their respective typological profiles stand in sharp contrast. We may hypothesize that these diverging grammatical structures trigger differences in the linguistic tools available in each language to describe and express emotions.

However, the overall observation – very nuanced in its details of course – is that the consequences of language shift, even in the case of typologically contrasted languages, should not be overestimated. The study shows that adopting a new language has little effect on semantic contents, and that speakers tend to circumvent grammatical differences. In the case under consideration, figurative representations of emotions are significantly modified by language shift, but speakers’ gestures suggest that this linguistic variation does not necessarily correlate with cognitive variation. Here these results will be organized under four themes: the lexicon, prosodic contours, evaluative morphology, and figurative representations of emotions.


Evans, Nicholas, Merlan, Francesca & Tukumba, Maggie. 2004. A First Dictionary of Dalabon. Maningrida: Maningrida Arts and Culture, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.

Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2010. “Brainwash from English”? Barunga Kriol speakers’ views on their own language. Anthropological Linguistics 52(2). 24.

Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2014. The language of emotions: The case of Dalabon (Australia). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Schultze-Berndt, Eva, Meakins, Felicity & Angelo, Denise. 2013. Kriol. In Susan M Michaelis, Matthew Maurer, Martin Haspelmath & Magnus Huber (eds.), The atlas of pidgin and creole language structures (APiCS), 241–251. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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