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How languages signal highlights using mismatches as methodology

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Duncan Needham.

How do you indicate what is most important in your message? In English you can use intonation: “We’re going to DARWIN College”. Many African languages, however, have fascinating other ways of highlighting the focus of the sentence. For example, Luganda uses a reduces form of the noun:

Yagula e-bitabo ‘He bought books’ Yagula _-bitabo ‘He bought BOOKS ’

But how can we know whether this means ‘surprisingly he bought books’ or ‘books and nothing else’? And is that meaning baked into the grammar, or is it something we infer from context? Come along and learn how other languages signal highlights, using mismatches as methodology.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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