ILS Colloquium


15 September 2022
15:30 - 17:00
Online in MS Teams

Norbert Corver

There is plenty of manner!

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Utrecht University

There is plenty of manner in human life. When we do things, we often do them in a particular way. You wake up happily, brush your teeth properly, read the newspaper quickly, and drive to work carefully before starting to teach your class enthusiastically. Besides these manners of acting in a person’s daily life, manners are also found in institutional settings: a teacher can teach her class frontally or in a blended manner, a nurse can inject medication subcutaneously or intravenously, and a concert pianist can decide to play a note pianissimo or fortissimo. Manners matter also in social contexts. They are often defined —implicitly or explicitly, as in codified standards (e.g., etiquette)— as norms of behavior. A system of rules and conventions tells you how to conduct in social life: “Chew with your mouth closed! (table manners); Caution: Drive slowly! (traffic manners); “Please dress California casual!” (party manners). Given the ubiquity of manner in human life, it is not surprising that this basic property is reflected in our language. Besides talking about events and their participants (‘John brushed his teeth’), or about the where (‘in the bathroom’), the when (‘yesterday’), and the why (‘because of his visit to the dentist’) of events, we crucially also talk about the how of events, as in John brushed his teeth properly. In view of its wide-spread occurrence across the languages of the world, it could hence be assumed that manner is an inherent property of the human language faculty. If so, the obvious question to ask is: How is ‘manner’ encoded in the structural build of human language? Or more succinctly: What is the grammar of Manner Adverbials? The research project Mind your Manner Adverbials! (MiMa), which started in October 2021, aims to contribute to answering this question. In this talk, I will start by briefly summarizing the major aims of the MiMa-project. I will subsequently explore the grammar of a number of intriguing manner-adverbial patterns. Guidelines for my exploration will be the following: (i) There is plenty of structure!; (ii) There is plenty of uniformity (of structure)!; and there is plenty of hidden (silent)  structure.