Iconicity as Evidenced in Saisiyat Linguistic Coding of Causative Events

By Huang, Shuping; Su, Lily I-wen | Oceanic Linguistics, December 2005 | Go to article overview

Iconicity as Evidenced in Saisiyat Linguistic Coding of Causative Events


Huang, Shuping, Su, Lily I-wen, Oceanic Linguistics


Causatives have been subjected to intensive scrutiny by linguists in recent years. Cross-linguistic studies suggest that the formation of causatives reflects the real world perception of cause-result relations, though some studies contradict this finding. The aim of this study is to explore the underlying principles that determine the way an event is encoded linguistically in Saisiyat, a Formosan language. Following Croft's model of idealized single events, we promote the study of causatives to the discourse level. The results show that the iconicity of language is reflected in the ordering of linguistic elements as well as their grammatical integrity.

1. INTRODUCTION. (1) Causatives have been receiving considerable attention from linguists recently. A simplified definition of causatives refers to an action that is transferred from a causer to a causee, and brings change to or influences the causee. In other words, two microevents, Cause and Effect/Result, are linked because of the causal relations between them.

Previous studies by Fillmore (1977) and Comrie (1989) present the grammatical forms of causatives at the lexical, morphological, and syntactical levels, and provide a foundation for functional studies of causatives. Comrie (1989), Haiman (1985), and Dixon (2000) point out further the iconic relation between the form of causatives and the conceptualization of event integration. Their findings confirm that the compactness of linguistic structure corresponds to the degree of integrity in reference to the inherent causal relation, pushing causatives studies toward a cognitive level by advancing the Iconicity Principle (Pierce 1932) and Cognitive Grammar (Langacker 1999, 2003). Contradictory evidence is, however, to be found in Japanese and Marathi (Shibatani and Pardeshi 2001), showing cross-linguistic idiosyncrasy with respect to causative iconicity.

The aim of this study is to explore the underlying principles that determine the way an event is encoded linguistically, and to see whether the integration of an event indeed corresponds to its grammatical form. We do so by promoting causative studies to the discourse level in accordance with Croft's model of idealized single events, because in recent linguistic studies, discourse grammar employs the perspective that permit us to have a broader scope on how languages are manifested in human interaction. The focus of this study will be on how the linguistic coding of an event is related to the perception of that event. We will explore this relation by examining discourse-analytic evidence as well as syntactic cues in order to come up with some tentative answers to the following research questions:

(i) How are causative events encoded in Saisiyat?

(ii) How does the linguistic form of a causative event in Saisiyat represent iconically the perception of that event in the physical world? Could the iconicity of language be observable in discourse-analytic as well as syntactic cues?

2. LITERATURE REVIEW. In 2.1 we begin with a brief introduction to the results of previous causative studies. As will be seen, those studies are limited to the yntactic level. During a discourse episode, (2) however, the structure of a causative event is often expressed cross-sententially. We therefore appeal to a discourse model of causative structures to encompass all three elements: Cause-Become-State. Accordingly, in 2.2 we introduce the use of Lakoff's Idealized Cognitive Model (ICM) for dealing with the event structure of causatives. This is adopted as the central criterion for our definition of causatives in this study.

2.1 CAUSATIVES. Semantic studies of causatives identify two types of causative events: direct (contactive) causation and indirect (distant) causation (Wierzbicka 1998). (3) The former involves an agent-causer that is directly responsible for the change of the patient-causee. The latter is also known as "manipulation," and is conceived of as involving two agents, because the causee acts as a volitional entity capable of executing the required action. …

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Iconicity as Evidenced in Saisiyat Linguistic Coding of Causative Events
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