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Notes on the verbal domain in Meadow Mari

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Giulia Bovolenta.

Mari belongs to the Volgaic branch of the Uralic language family, along with Mordva. It is spoken in the Mari El Republic of Russia (about 291,000 speakers) and by a large diaspora in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Its main dialects, Meadow and Hill, are mutually intelligible. Both are classified by UNESCO ’s Red Book as endangered, spoken as native languages by children but in decreasing numbers, and restricted to certain domains. Mari syntax is typically Uralic, with a rich case system, verbal negation, and a wide range of non-finite forms, but long-term contact with speakers of Turkic has left its mark on both grammar and lexis. This talk will explore several topics of interest in Meadow Mari morphosyntax, starting with the system of tense/mood and the related categories of perfectivity, evidentiality and mirativity; these interact with negation in complex ways to yield an unusual clausal architecture. I also look at argument structure in several types of causative. The Mari have been described as “Europe’s Last Pagans” and were featured in Aleksei Fedorchenko’s film The Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari; I will discuss some cases where traditional Mari religious beliefs may underlie some unexpected linguistic phenomena.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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