[b-greek] Re: forground & background, boundry markers-Longacre'sModel

From: Kimmo Huovila (kimmo.huovila@helsinki.fi)
Date: Wed Nov 07 2001 - 10:07:22 EST

I would guess that topicality is even harder to define formally than
grounding. But actually your comment goes somewhat together with
Wårvik's thesis. She found several correlates of grounding, but not one
of them alone would suffice to describe the phenomenon. She did a good
job in explaining grounding by looking at several correlates.

Kimmo Huovila

c stirling bartholomew wrote:
> on 11/6/01 7:53 AM, Kimmo Huovila wrote:
> > c stirling bartholomew wrote:
> >>
> >> On page 100 Heimerdinger* concludes his critique of R. Longacre's
> >> treatment of foreground and background in narrative with a statement which
> >> should strike terror into the hearts of a few Ph.D. candidates:
> >>
> >> ". . . the notion of foreground cannot be seen as grammaticalized in Old
> >> Hebrew."
> >>
> >
> > That is probably true, if you are looking for one single grammatical
> > element reliably describing grounding. But what needs to be borne in
> > mind is that grounding _correlates_ with _various_ grammatical elements.
> > It should indeed be possible to study grounding based on grammatical
> > indicators.
> Kimmo,
> Let's take a look at the question of Topicality, which is related to but
> distinct from foreground.
> Heimerdinger demonstrates with a statistical analysis of Topicality in Gen.
> 22 that there is a high correlation between the topical prominence of a
> discourse participant and the grammatical role of Subject (where the subject
> is the semantic agent).
> He does not however consider the grammatical role of Subject (semantic
> agent) as a means for marking topicality. He argues that topical prominence
> is marked "cognitively" (I would call this semantic marking). This means
> that the marking of topic takes place at the level of ideas not at the level
> of syntax.
> He further demonstrates how the topical prominence of a participant is
> indicated by referential density to that participant. The more references
> made in an episode to a participant the higher the level of topical
> prominence.
> The main point here is that correlation does not indicate causation. Even if
> we can demonstrate that the grammatical role of Subject (where the subject
> is the semantic agent) is statistically more likely to have a high level of
> topical prominence, this does not permit us to conclude that Subject marking
> is also a marking of topical prominence.
> If we look at subject marking across the entire episode and see that the
> most prominent participant is also the most frequent subject, we need to
> keep in mind that we are also measuring the referential density of that
> participant. The referential density is the key indicator. A very prominent
> participant may in fact be the victim in the story and not be frequently
> found in semantic role of agent (grammatical subject).
> Thanks for the dialogue,
> Clay

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