The study of African American folklore has been grounded from its beginnings in the colonial period in discourses and power dynamics of race. This chapter posits that these beginnings have given rise to two folkloristic traditions, with differing agendas, methodologies, aesthetics, relationships to black communities, and investments in race. The mainstream tradition has been aligned with scholarly trends within academe and has seldom focused explicitly on the most pressing concerns of black people, or on the most obvious influence on the creation and expression of black folklore, namely race. The other tradition has been more aligned with the political interests, racial histories, and day-to-day needs of African American communities. This chapter critically examines these two tributaries, relative to issues of race, arguing for an African American folklore and folklife studies that embraces an African American–centered political focus while encompassing the unique intellectual contributions of both.
Folklore and folklife research is applied to a range of institutional settings that can be categorized in five different spheres of representation. These spheres overlap, but they include academic folklore, applied folklore, public sector folklore, public folklore, and private sector presentations of folk culture. This range of work revises the common dichotomy made between academic and public folklore. In addition to the overarching idea of heritage in applications of folklore and folklife research, key concepts such as preservation, interpretation, presentation, and representation that pervade the five modes of folkloristic work are discussed in relation to each sphere. The different situations within which folklorists work implicitly and overtly influence how they will preserve, interpret, and present folklore and folklife.
This article critically evaluates the notion of contrast and discusses the role that contrast has been claimed to have in grammar. It argues that a precise understanding of grammatical effects of contrast can only be gained if both the contrastive constituents with the kind of alternative set they evoke as well as the discourse relations that connect the discourse segments containing the contrastive constituents are subjected to detailed analysis for their effects on grammar (prosody, morphosyntax). It presents three hypotheses specifying the details for the identification of (a) contrast-related alternative formation, (b) contrastive discourse relations, and (c) grammatical manifestations of contrast. It reviews previous research on contrast in relation to these hypotheses, examining the linguistic materials that have been used to elicit grammatical manifestations of contrast, and discussing specific findings for particular languages from the prosodic and the morphosyntactic literature on contrast.
Anthony K. Webster
This article argues for the continuing importance of ethnopoetics/cultural poetics in the work of linguists and anthropologists. A heuristic definition of ethnopoetics (or cultural poetics) is given as the various traditions of such recurrent patternings of linguistic forms (and the thwarting of such expectations of such patternings). The continuing relevance of a Hymesian-inspired anthropological philology is noted. After framing the discussion of poetry and poetics as both linguistic and ethnographic questions, this article engages questions of linguistic relativity and its relationship to poetics, as well as poetry and poetics as social practices. Examples of parallelism and metaphor are given and discussed both in relation to their poetic form and to their social work. A final extended illustration is given concerning Navajo poetry as an example of a cultural poetics informed by both linguistics and anthropology. It is argued that research on cultural poetics/ethnopoetics encourages patience and reflection.
This chapter examines the phenomenon of focus projection: a sentence with prosodic marking of focus on a word can lead to ambiguity, in that different constituents containing the word can be interpreted as focused. Two general approaches to focus projection are compared. In Default Prosody analyses, focus projection is epiphenomenal, a consequence of general principles requiring that focus be prosodically prominent, coupled with default principles of default prominence. In the F-projection approach, focus projection is encoded more directly, in terms of licensing rules for F-marking on constituents. Overall, the evidence in the literature favors the Default Prosody approach, and this chapter concentrates on comparing these two general approaches, as well as briefly summarizing other aspects of focus projection. The chapter ends with discussion of Basque data that are problematic for widely assumed generalizations about focus projection, and a possible way of understanding the data in the Default Prosody approach.
Folk dramas and festivals are encapsulated units of culture that distill, concretize, and make manifest through enactment important cultural values and ideas. Bounded in time and space, they offer scholars an isolatable prism through which to examine culture, making them appealing objects of study. They are marked off in time and space and amalgamate other genres such as song, dance, art, costume, food, and narrative to produce synergistic events that are greater than the sum of their parts. They also happen in public arenas, rely on active audience participation, and invoke frameworks of play. Both festivals and folk dramas create alternative worlds in order to transform reality. Festivals in particular are characterized by license, inversion, and a high degree of ambiguity. Which ideas, values, or social arrangements are proposed, whose values they represent, and how these ideas are contested or contradicted in festival and folk drama arenas remain important fields of investigation.
This chapter discusses the cartographic approach to clause structure according to which information structure directly relates to syntactic heads that project within the clausal left periphery. This view is supported by data from languages in which information-structure-sensitive notions (e.g. topic, focus) are encoded by means of discourse markers that trigger various constituent displacement rules. Such empirical facts are compatible with the cartographic view in which lexical choices condition information packaging and clause structure. Put together, the cross-linguistic data presented in this chapter indicate that [FOCUS], [TOPIC], and [INTERROGATIVE] represent formal features that are properties of lexical elements and may sometimes trigger generalized-piping and snowballing movement.
The chapter provides an overview of the interaction between quantification and information-structural properties, especially focus, givenness, and topic. While quantification affects truth conditions, information-structuring devices can have an effect on the interpretation of quantificational expressions. After a short introduction to the nature of quantification, the chapter covers the main areas where such effects have been identified, in particular in adverbial quantification, in generic clauses, in conditional sentences, and in sentences with nominal (or determiner) quantification, including intersective determiners and comparative determiners like most. It reviews different theoretical proposals how this sensitivity to information-structural categories arises, in particular whether they are related to focus or givenness. It also discusses cases in which the quantifier itself is topical, given, or focused.
Cecilia Poletto and Giuliano Bocci
The chapter presents a general overview of several phenomena related to information structure in the Romance languages and varieties spoken in Europe and takes into account the left and the right side of the clause as the locus where information structure is encoded. The first part presents an overview of the syntactic and phonological properties of constructions like Hanging Topics, Left Dislocation, and fronted foci and of their pragmatic import as well as of the properties of constructions which occur on the right side of the clause (i.e. Right Dislocation, Marginalization, word order alternations, and focus). In the second part a general overview of syntactic and prosodic accounts proposed in the literature is provided with special attention to the problems each type of account raises with respect to the empirical domain considered.
Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky and Petra B. Schumacher
This chapter reviews neurophysiological and neuroanatomical investigations of information structural notions, with a view to working towards a neurobiologically grounded perspective. It first considers components of a neurobiologically plausible theory of information structure and outlines candidate mechanisms for higher-order cognitive processing, namely prediction and mental modelling, attention orientation, memory, and inferencing. The chapter then proceeds to neuroscientific investigations of information structure, highlighting differences between sentence- and text-level processing and discussing findings for the information structural notions of givenness, focus, and topic, before presenting further insights from syntax-induced information structural effects. The chapter concludes with a discussion of neurobiological models of information structure processing.