We are happy to announce a talk by Marianne Huijsmans and Daniel Reisinger (University of British Columbia) in the Semantics Colloquium.

Please note that the talk will place online. If you want to participate, please register via email to s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de beforehand.

Title: Demonstratives in ʔayʔaǰuθəm: Managing joint attention through gesture and salience

Date: November 4

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


In this talk, we provide the first detailed description and analysis of the demonstrative system in ʔayʔaǰuθəm (a.k.a. Comox-Sliammon; ISO 639-3: coo), a Coast Salish language spoken along the northern Strait of Georgia in British Columbia, Canada. Drawing from original fieldwork with five speakers, we show that the demonstratives in ʔayʔaǰuθəm not only encode deictic distance, evidentiality, gender, and number, but also whether or not joint attention (cf. Diessel 2006) has been established between the speech participants. The Gesture Demonstratives rely on the use of co-speech gesture to establish joint attention, while the Salience Demonstratives are used where joint attention is already established and, consequently, do not require gesture. To analyze the former, we incorporate gesture into the semantic analysis as the means of identifying the referent (following Ebert et al. 2020). We analyze the latter as requiring contextual salience (inspired by Roberts 2002, Schwarz 2009). In more provisional terms, we also present less common uses of demonstratives, where gesture is used to refer to manners, qualities, or degrees (cf. König & Umbach 2018). This research adds to the growing body of super-semantic literature which argues that the contribution of gesture be included in the compositional semantics and provides evidence from an understudied language that demonstratives relying on gesture to identify their referents may in fact be encoded by distinct forms from those that rely on contextual salience/uniqueness.