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Temporal Adverbial Clauses in Persian

Date: Friday January 31, 2020

Time: 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

Location: ABB 166

Guest Speaker: Dr. Jila Ghomeshi

Bio: Dr. Jila Ghomeshi is Professor and Head of Linguistics at the University of Manitoba. She has carried out research and published articles on many aspects of Persian syntax and morphology.  In addition to her scholarly research, she has sought to bring linguistics to a more general audience with short radio columns and a book on prescriptivism entitled Grammar Matters. These efforts earned her a National Achievement Award from the Canadian Linguistic Association in 2014.

Abstract: It has been noted that adverbial clauses can precede or follow the main clause with which they are associated and that there are crosslinguistic tendencies that account for ordering preferences in given languages. Diessel (2001) shows that word order, position of the adverbial subordinator, and the semantic type of adverbial (conditional, temporal, causal, result, purpose) can affect whether the clause is preposed or postposed. Persian fits Diessel’s typological generalizations in that temporal adverbial clauses can precede or follow the main clause, however, Persian temporal clauses can appear in a ‘scrambled’ form in which case they must precede the main clause:

  1. (a) esterahæt=kærd-im     væqti=ke         mehmun-a                   ræft-æn                       

rest=did.1pl                                        when                           guests-pl                     left-3pl

‘We rested when the guests left.’

(b)               væqti=ke         mehmun-a                   ræft-æn                        esterahæt=kærd-im

when                           guests-pl                     left-3pl                        rest=did.1pl

‘When the guests left, we rested.’

(c)               mehmun-a                   ke                    ræft-æn                        esterahæt=kærd-im

guests-pl                     that      left-3pl                        rest=did.1pl

‘When the guests left, we rested.’ (lit. ‘The guests that left, we rested’)

I propose to analyze temporal adverbial clauses in Persian that lack an overt subordinator and that involve internal scrambling, as relative clauses in which the operator is not nominal but a time (t) that is concurrent with the time of the main clause. This operator can be realized via the use of a dedicated temporal expression or via scrambling of a clause-internal constituent. Support for this analysis comes from the fact that while ke-clauses can extrapose easily in other types of constructions, the string starting with ke in (c) above cannot be separated from the scrambled constituent.

Reference: Diessel, Holger (2001) “The ordering distribution of main and adverbial clauses: a typological study,” Language 77:433-455.