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I-language and interspeaker variation in a refugee community

Mary Paster, Pomona College

November 6, 2019 · 4:30 pm · 1-S-5 Green Hall

Program in Linguistics

This talk advocates an approach to interspeaker linguistic variation that aligns with the ‘I-language’ view (Chomsky 1986). On this view, the object of study in linguistics is mental grammar; language is understood as being internal to the individual, in contrast to the ‘E-language’ approach, where language is external to individual speakers. In this talk I present a case study from Maay (a Cushitic language spoken in southern Somalia) in which interspeaker variation in a refugee community defies analysis in E-language terms. An I-language approach allows for a straightforward analysis of the observed variation, specifically in the domains of (1) plural noun morphology, (2) semantics of plural nouns, and (3) vowel length alternations.

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