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Source-Goal asymmetry: evidence from East Caucasian

The project focuses on asymmetries in the linguistic encoding of spatial relations, primarily on the asymmetric linguistic treatment of Source and Goal in East Caucasian (Nakh-Daghestanian) languages, and is integrated with SALTA (Spatial Asymmetries across Languages: A Typological Approach), a project funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR). The asymmetries observed cross-linguistically are multifaceted, and the scope of their empirical coverage across languages of the world is still relatively limited. As a result, while it is assumed that they are motivated by cognitive mechanisms underlying the linguistic conceptualization of space, it is not yet clear how exactly cognitive motivations shape the observed asymmetries; or, in a data-driven / analytical perspective, how one should reconstruct these motivations based on the observed asymmetries. On the one hand, Goal is more central to grammar, since it is expressed by more grammaticalized means (i.e. more strongly bounded forms). On the other hand, Source appears to be conceptually more salient, since it tends to be expressed more often by dedicated formal means. Including data of East Caucasian languages - languages which have extremely rich systems of inflectional locatives and for which I have extensive first-hand data based on my own fieldwork - will extend the empirical basis of the study of asymmetries. The project I propose here will contribute to disentangling these different perspectives on the asymmetry and thus further our understanding of spatial cognition.

Activities / Resume


Michael Daniel’s areas of interest include languages of the Caucasus, linguistic typology, particularly morphology and morphosyntax, and sociolinguistics, particularly variationist studies and contact linguistics. Major projects he took part in include the World Atlas of Language Structures, Eastern Armenian National Corpus, the Ustja River Basin Corpus, the Atlas of Multilingualism in Daghestan and Number in the World’s Languages. He does descriptive, documentation and sociolinguistic fieldwork in various languages of Daghestan, including Archi, Mehweb, Rutul, and Tukita; as well as Alutor (Chukotkan), Nganasan (Uralic), Mishar Tatar and Chuvash (Turkic). He does typological research on grammatical categories, including number, case and spatial relations.