Archives pour la catégorie RESEARCH

In progress

[Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to know more about these works.]

Post-doctoral project 2016-2018:
‘Can the language we speak change the way we feel?
Language and emotions in Indigenous Australia’

In 2016 I won an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA). My project under this research fellowship extends my work on emotions to a whole region of Australia’s Top End, as well as to other Australian languages via collaborations with colleagues. During this project I am collecting primary data in three languages of the same family as Dalabon (the language I did my PhD on, see below): Bininj Gun-wok, Rembarrnga and Jawoyn. I will then compare the encoding of emotions in these languages with Dalabon and with Barunga Kriol, and with other languages across Australia. This will give us an idea about the scope of linguistic variation in this semantic domain, and about the cultural significance of this variation. Comparing this data with languages from other continents will give us an idea of what is typical of the Australian languages, and of what is universal.

Post-doctoral project 2013-2015:
‘The language of emotions in Barunga Kriol: Towards an Australian typology’
From 2013 to 2015 I was a researcher at Dynamique du Langage (CNRS, Lyon), conducting a project on the language of emotions in Barunga Kriol. After describing the linguistic encoding of emotions (lexicon, metaphors, syntax, interjections, prosody…) in Dalabon (doctoral research, see below), I am examined the linguistic encoding of emotions in Barunga Kriol, the variety of the Australian creole which is now replacing Dalabon.

In this project, I compare the two languages, and assess what has changed and what has been preserved, the influences of various languages within the post-colonial linguistic ecology, as well as the weight of various cultural and linguist factors upon linguistic emotional resources. I have compiled a 16 hour corpus, based on which I am currently finalizing publications on emotion metaphors, the emotion lexicon, as well as expressive functions such as intonation contours and interjections, in each case showing what is common and what differs between Dalabon and Barunga Kriol.

Edited volume
Morphology and emotions across the world’s languages
With Marine Vuillermet
To appear in Studies in Language (42(1), 2018).
This volume is the outcome of a 2-day workshop held in Lyon (CNRS laboratory Dynamique Du Langage) on 29-30th April 2015. It contains 10 articles that explore the morphological encoding of emotions across languages on 5 different continents (South America (3), Europe (1), Africa (2), Asia (1), Australia (1)). The introduction and the last article adopt a cross-linguistic perspective. Four of the contributions discuss evaluative affixes (focusing on their emotional values), two deal with the expressive functions of reduplication, three with the emotional value of verbal and other miscellaneous morphology. The introduction (Ponsonnet & Vuillermet) offers a preliminary typology of the morphological encoding of emotions. We consider, for instance, which specific emotions (endearment, anger etc.) are more typically taken charge of by which type of morphological features (evaluative morphology, verbal morphology); whether areal patterns can be identified in this respect; in diachronic terms, what are typical etymologies and extensions for emotional morphemes.

Papers to appear
A preliminary typology of emotional connotations in morphological diminutives and augmentatives
To appear in M. Ponsonnet and M. Vuillermet ed., Morphology and emotions across the world’s languages, special issue of  Studies in Language (42(1), 2018).
This article presents a preliminary typology of emotional connotations in evaluative morphology, starting with diminutives and augmentatives. I inventory the emotional meanings and connotations found in a sample of nineteen languages for diminutives, and nine languages plus a few additional regional studies for augmentatives. Given the small size of the samples, this typology remains preliminary, but it does highlight a number of points. Across languages and continents, diminutives can express positive emotions such as compassion, love and admiration, as well as negative emotions such as contempt. The emotional connotations of augmentatives are more limited, but do display a blend of positive and negative emotions including contempt and repulsion, admiration and respect, endearment and compassion. Diminutives and augmentatives do not contrast sharply with respect to emotional valence (positive or negative), but while diminutives are anchored in intimacy, the emotions conveyed by augmentatives more often relate to broader social contexts.

Expressive values of reduplication in Barunga Kriol (northern Australia)
To appear in M. Ponsonnet and M. Vuillermet ed., Morphology and emotions across the world’s languages, special issue of  Studies in Language (42(1), 2018).
This article describes the semantic values of reduplication in Barunga Kriol, with a focus on its expressive functions. Barunga Kriol reduplication has two types of functions. Its most frequent meaning is aspectual atelicity. In addition, it has a number of expressive meanings and connotations: hypocoristic usages; descriptions of children’s games and imitations; and a softening role in imperatives and reprimands. Contrary to the aspectual value of reduplication which is iconically motivated, expressive values are motivated by the pragmatic association of reduplication with children.
Expressive uses of reduplication are rarer and less regular than its grammaticalized aspectual uses, which are very frequent. Aspectual reduplication is optional most of the time, so that explaining its actual distribution in discourse is a complicated matter. This article shows that this distribution can often be explained in the view of the expressive values of reduplication (some of them also conveyed by affixal evaluative morphology in the Australian languages that have been replaced by this creole). Thus, taking into account the expressive dimension of reduplication contributes significantly to the linguistic analysis of the grammaticalized aspectual function of reduplication.

Lexical semantics in language shift. Comparing emotion lexica in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol (northern Australia)
To appear in The Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages (33(1), 2018)
This article analyzes some of the lexical semantic features of Barunga Kriol, in comparison with Dalabon, which is one of the Australian Aboriginal languages replaced by Barunga Kriol. Focusing on the semantic domain of emotions, this study spells out the exact nature of the lexical resemblances between the two languages, and highlights major differences as well. The conclusions of the study are two-fold. Firstly, I show that the Barunga Kriol emotion lexicon shares a great many properties with the Dalabon emotion lexicon. As a result, speakers in Barunga Kriol and Dalabon respectively are often able to package meaning in very similar ways: the two languages offer comparable means of describing events in the world. From that point of view, language shift can be considered to have a lesser impact. Secondly, I show that the lexical resemblances between Barunga Kriol and Dalabon are not limited to simple cases where the lexemes in each language share the same forms and/or meanings. Instead, lexical resemblances relate to a number of other properties in semantics and combinatorics, and I devise a preliminary typology of these lexical resemblances. Beyond the comparison between Barunga Kriol and Dalabon, this typology may tentatively serve as a grid to evaluate lexical resemblances between languages more generally.

Generic term of subsections (‘skins’): sources and semantic networks
To appear in P. McConvell and P. Kelly ed. Skins, kin and clans, ANU E-Press.
With Patrick McConvell (Australian National University, Austkin project)
A number of Australian groups use a system of socio-centered kin classification called subsections—also known as ‘skins’ in English. In some languages, the generic term for ‘subsection’ is polysemous with ‘skin’, but in many other languages, the words display different polysemies: with body, smell and taste, country… We study these polysemies, explore their semantic networks, suggest graphic representations under the form of semantic maps, and question the correlation with geographic distribution and historical diffusion.

Documentation corpora
The corpus of Dalabon that I collected and elaborated between 2010 and 2013 can be accessed from ELAR, the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project archive. The corpus is still in the course of being edited and glossed. My corpus of Barunga Kriol will also be archived at the end of 2015.

Teams and collaborative projects

Conception and organisation the workshop
‘Emotional « sprinklers »: Interjections and evaluative morphology in Australian languages and elsewhere’
The University of Sydney, Linguistics Department.
First workshop of the research network on expressivity and emotions in Australian languages.

Conception and organisation of 2-day workshop MorphEm.
Dynamique du Langage, Lyon
Morphology and emotion across the world’s languages
Financement ASLAN WP2.
See edited volume (with Marine Vuillermet).

Coordinating the monthly seminar ‘Atelier Typologie Sémantique’
In collaboration with Anetta Kopecka

Coordinating the monthly seminar ‘Atelier de Morphosyntaxe’
Topic: The morphosyntax of emotions
In collaboration with Antoine Guillaume and Françoise Rose

Since 2013
Research project ‘Frames’ within the Labex ‘TransferS’
Coordination: Myriam Bouveret, LaTTiCe (CNRS, Paris)
In this project we explore the semantics and syntax of verbs and constructions expressing transfer, and more particularly gift, in several languages.

Since 2013
Member of the board of Société des Océanistes
Member of the editorial board of Journal de la Société des Océanistes

Research group of the Fédération typologique des universaux linguistiques (Fédération TUL), ‘Typologie de l’expression des émotions : syntaxe et sémantique’
Coordination: Nicole Tersis (SeDyL, CNRS, Villejuif/Paris) and Pascal Boyeldieu (LLACAN, CNRS, Villejuif/Paris)

Member of editorial board of pacific-credo Publications
(publishing arm of Centre de recherche et de documentation sur l’Océanie, CNRS, Marseille)

Adjunct researcher at the
Centre de recherche et de documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO, CNRS, Marseille)


Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Post-doctoral Fellowship
(Australian Research Council)

Project: Can the language we speak change the way we feel?
Emotions, language and culture in Arnhem Land (Australia, Katherine region)’
– 3-year research fellowship
– 3-week field-work in Northern Australian per year

– Domestic and international travel expenses
– Additional research budget from The University of Sydney Fellowship

University of Sydney Fellowship
Three-year salary plus research budget
Relinquished in favour of DECRA award ($AU30,000 retained)

Endangered Languages Documentation Project Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship
Two-year salary plus GBP27,800 field-work budget
Relinquished in favour of DECRA award

Post-doctoral Fellowship

Labex ASLAN (Advanced Studies on the Complexities of Language),
Dynamique du Langage, CNRS, Lyon
Project: ‘The language of emotions in Barunga Kriol: Towards an Australian typology’

– 2-year researcher’s fellowship
– 4-weeks field-work in Northern Australian per year

Individual Graduate Scholarship
(IGS0125, GBP18,000),

Endangered Languages Documentation Project (ELDP),
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London
Project: ‘A Culturally Informed Corpus of Dalabon, Descriptions of the Person

as a Body and as Kin’
– 5 field-sessions (a total of 12 weeks) in South-Western Arnhem Land (communities of Weemol,
Bulman, Barunga and Beswick) between 2010 and 1013
– c.90 hours of audio- and video-documentation on body descriptions, emotions and kinship
in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol
– c.60 hours transcribed and annotated, presented as ELAN files, archived with ELAR:

Australian National University (ANU, Canberra) PhD Scholarship
– Stipend ($AU24,500 per year for 3 and a half years)

– ANU courses and registration fees
– $AU7,000 towards field-work and other research-related expenses

Grant G2009/7439 ($AU9,300),

Australian Insititute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS, Canberra), administered by Australian National University, Canberra
Project: ‘Semantics of Emotions in Dalabon and Kriol’

– field-session in South-Western Arnhem Land (communities of Weemol, Bulman,
Barunga and Beswick)
– c.10 hours audio recordings on emotions in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol
– c.8 hours transcribed and annotated, presented as ELAN files, archived with the AIATSIS audio-visual archive in Canberra:
– Compilation of a Dalabon-Kriol-English glossary, available from the AIATSIS archive:

Grant G2007/7242 ($AU9,300),

Australian Insititute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS, Canberra) administered by Diwurruwurru-Jaru Aboriginal Corporation,
Katherine (Northern Territory, Australia)
Project: ‘Semantics of Reason and Mind in Dalabon and Kriol’

– 2 field-sessions in South-Western Arnhem Land (communities of Weemol, Bulman,
Barunga and Beswick), in 2007 and 2008
– c.25 hours audio recordings on knowledge and intellectual subjectivity in Dalabon
and Barunga Kriol
– c.15 hours transcribed and annotated, archived with the AIATSIS audio-visual archive in Canberra:

Monograph (PhD Thesis)

In December 2013 I completed a PhD diploma in Linguistics, under the supervision of Pr Nicholas Evans, Linguistics, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. The thesis is now published as a volume. The thesis is entitled:

The language of emotions: The case of Dalabon (Australia) – John Benjamins, 2014
(Based on The language of emotions in Dalabon (Northern Australia) – PhD, ANU, 2013)

In these volumes, I document and analyze the linguistic devices available to Dalabon speakers to exprePonsonnet_2014_Benjamins_couvplatess or describe emotions. Expressive devices include diminutives, interjections, and various prosodic features. Descriptive features consist mostly of a wealth of lexical devices. While expressive features are prominent in terms of frequency, and relate to culturally-central categories, the Dalabon emotion lexicon is also very large, numbering at least 160 lexemes, most of them adjectives or verbs. A lot of them are morphologically compound, often involving a body-part. After discussing the semantics, morphology and syntax of these lexemes, I question the linguistic association between body-parts and emotions in Dalabon.

Like most languages in the world (and like many Australian languages in particular) Dalabon uses metaphors grounded in physical and physiological metonymies in order to describe emotions (like in English: ‘I’m broken-hearted’ means ‘I’m very sad’). I discuss which metonymies and metaphors are at play in Dalabon, how speakers interpret them, and whether they are culturally specific. Another question is whether these metaphors may be constrained by some of the semantic and grammatical features of Dalabon, and if so, which ones.

While metaphors are an important and interesting aspect of the linguistic relation between emotions and body-parts in Dalabon, they are not the only thing body-parts ‘do’ in the Dalabon emotion lexicon. I describe various other processes of lexical production, having little to do with metaphors, and yet leading to close linguistic associations between body-parts and emotions.