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Africa Table - The Performative Lexicon: Investigating Ideophones in African Languages

March 2, 2016 -
12:00pm to 1:00pm
Encina Hall West, Room 219, 417 Galvez Mall

Lunch will be served.

Join the Center for African Studies for our weekly lunchtime lecture series.
Speaker: Rebekah Baglini, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, Department of Linguistics, Stanford University.
Ideophones are words which vividly evoke sensory experiences through sound symbolism, and often play a central role in performance and social identity.  They are especially prominent among the languages of Africa: attested in all four phyla (Niger Congo, Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, and Khoisan), ideophones constitute up to 25% of the lexicon of some African languages. Despite this, ideophones are rarely integrated into linguistic descriptions and remain neglected by linguistic scientists. They are also vulnerable to attrition due to language change, urbanization, and the move towards written language, making their documentation a matter of some urgency. Based on my fieldwork in Senegal, I present a case study of ideophones in Wolof (Niger-Congo, Atlantic: Senegal) which highlights their grammatical properties and their use in different social and linguistic contexts. I ultimately suggest that ideophones reflect a general property of human languages to construct affect-oriented associations between form and meaning.
Rebekah Baglini is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford. She received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago in 2015 and her BA from Bryn Mawr College in 2007. From March 2011-March 2013 she was the Bloch Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America, and previously worked as a Visiting Lecturer in Linguistics at UC San Diego.  Baglini's primary research focus is cross-linguistic semantics: investigating variation and universality in the building blocks of meaning. As a field linguist, she has worked extensively on the Senegambian language Wolof and is presently teaching a course on linguistic field methods at Stanford. 

Event Sponsor: 
Center for African Studies
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