I am happy to (finally) share a link to an article of mine that was published last year: Common Ground in Demonstrative Reference: The Case of Mano (Mande). The paper appeared in a special issue of Frontiers in Psychology, Demonstratives, Deictic Pointing and the Conceptualization of Space, edited by Holger Diessel, Kenny Coventry, Harmen Gudde and Olga Capirci. The argument is very simple and self-evident and at the same time controversial, depending on the kind of language you are used to studying and the kind of linguistics you are used to doing. In short, the idea is that often when we refer to objects physically present at the interactive scene – the so-called exophoric reference – we construe reference depending on the level of familiarity and shared knowledge: whether the act of reference is routine or whether, on the contrary, there is something unexpected that calls for securing additional attention from the addressee. In other words, exophoric reference and reference that presupposes knowledge of the object from prior discourse and, broader, prior experience become routinely blended. In Mano, there are two sets of demonstratives used for exophoric reference and their use is sensitive to these distinctions: in particular, only items from one set are used in such routinized referring activity, the same items are also typically used when the referent is not physically present but is identifiable through the same common ground.
I do not by any means invent the wheel here. I owe the idea to William Hanks, who is my major inspiration in the studies of deixis. It was very reassuring, but also a tiny bit disappointing to hear from one of the reviewers precisely that the argument lacks novelty. But there is new and exciting data across speech genres, including plenty of overheard stuff, narrative data and data from ritual language, both Christian and “traditional” (the role of genre in itself is also quite interesting, I think).
I have been working towards this argument for quite some time now, and presented a paper at the Discourse Functions of Demonstratives workshop in Oslo in 2018. (That conference had a life-changing effect, because in my strolls across the city I went to a small wine bar, run by an enthusiastic guy from Portugal, a buddy of a Norwegian friend of mine from Paris, and there he made me taste a wine which was nothing I had tasted before and which has become my unbeatable favorite – called Miss Terre, check it out!)
My contribution to the edited volume following the conference received a revise and resubmit. Either the argument was not yet developed, or the reviewer had more of a spatialist mindset and was not inclined to easily accept the role of non-spatial factors in demonstrative reference (so unlike the reviewers of the Frontiers paper!), or, as it is often the case, both. But during the period when I received the reviews – autumn of 2019 – I felt devastated for a variety of personal reasons, and decided not to deal with the uncertainty of the resubmission process, especially in quite a short timeframe given to me. So, for the first time in my life, I withdrew the paper, despite the fact that so much of other people’s work had been put into it. (That, too, had a very strong effect on me, because I knew from then on that personal life may overweigh professional commitments.) And then I had that invitation from Frontiers and a timeframe which allowed me to present my case a bit more convincingly, and I hope it was all worth it.
I should have some time during the summer to cover other publications appeared last year – it was quite a harvest! – so stay tuned!