The Syntax of Meadow Mari: Language contact on the Volga River

This talk will explore several topics in Meadow Mari grammar.

This talk will be presented by Dr Diane Nelson (Linguistics & Phonetics, University of Leeds)

Abstract: Mari belongs to the Uralic language family, along with Finnish and Hungarian. It is spoken by about 300,000 people in the Mari El Republic of Russia and by a large diaspora in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. The main dialects of Mari, Meadow and Hill, are mutually intelligible. Both are classified by UNESCO’s Red Book as endangered, spoken as native languages by children but in decreasing numbers. Like other Uralic languages, Mari syntax has a rich case system, head-final syntax, negative auxiliary verbs, and a wide range of non-finite forms, but long-term contact with speakers of Turkic during historical invasions has left its mark on both the grammar and the lexicon in interesting ways. This talk will explore several topics in Meadow Mari grammar, starting with the system of negative auxiliary verbs. I will discuss the system of tense-aspect-mood (TAM) and how these interact with the related categories of evidentiality (related to the evidence the speaker has for deciding that something is true) and mirativity (unexpectedness or surprise that something is true) as well as negation to yield an unusual clause structure. I also look at argument structure and animacy in several types of causative verb, and look ahead to further research.