We are happy to announce a talk by Kathryn Barnes (GU Frankfurt) at the Semantics Colloquium.

Please register beforehand (s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de) to receive the access data to zoom on Thursday shortly before the talk starts.

Title: The At-Issue Status of Ideophones

Date: May 6

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


It has long been acknowledged that words, phrases and sentences can all contribute information in di erent dimensions (cf. Grice 1975, Potts 2005). Constructions such as appositives, as well as expressives such as damn, have previously been shown to contribute not-at-issue information (cf. Potts 2005, Syrett & Koev 2014). Recent research into iconic enrichments has also focused on the at-issue status of these phenomena, with experiments on iconic co-speech gestures indicating that such gestures are default not at-issue (cf. Ebert, Ebert & Hörnig 2020, Tieu et al. 2017, Tieu et al. 2018). Similarly, it has been argued that ideophones, such as English splish-splash or German plitsch-platsch do not denote, but rather depict; instead of using arbitrary linguistic signs to refer to concepts, they iconically illustrate an event (Dingemanse 2012). The research presented here is the first experimental investigation of the pragmatic status of ideophones. The experiments adapted the experimental design of Ebert et al. (2020) and tested the at-issue status of sentence medial-ideophones, as in (1), with a context-sentence matching task. 

(1) Der Frosch ging plitch-platsch die Treppe hoch.
`The frog went splish-splash up the stairs.‘

The results closely resemble those of Ebert et. al (2020) for co-speech gestures and therefore provide support for not at-issue status of ideophones, whilst also raising significant research questions about how ideophones can be shifted to at-issue status and under what conditions ideophones receive not-at-issue interpretations.