25 diagrammed scenes to help eliciting demonstratives

Author : David Wilkins

Publication date : 1999

Questionnaire URL : http://fieldmanuals.mpi.nl/volumes/1999/1999-demonstrative-questionnaire-this-that/

Bibliographical references :

Wilkins, David. 1999. The 1999 demonstrative questionnaire: 'this' and 'that' in comparative perspective. In David Wilkins (ed.), Manual for the 1999 Field Season, 1-24. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.2573775.


"This 'questionnaire' is an eliciation tool which is meant to help a researcher begin to identify the (extensional) range of use of (some of the) basic spatial demonstrative terms in their research language. It attempts to correct some of the short-comings of previous tools that we have developed for the exploration of demonstratives. Previous tools were both too narrow and too open-ended: they focused to narrowly on contrastive use of demonstratives for objects in table-top space, and they did not constrain situations sufficiently to allow for rigorous cross-language comparison. Prior trialing of the current elicitation tool suggests that it will allow us to design a similarity space for the extensional comparison of (some) demonstrative terms cross-linguistically, much in the same way that we were able to compare the application of "COME" and "GO" verbs across languages.
It is important to note, at the outset, that this elicitation tool has NOT been designed to cover all the relevant distinctions that are known to exist within the demonstrative systems of the world's languages. Instead, it has concentrated on those parameters within systems which, cross-linguistically, appear to be the most common. Thus, it has been designed to help differentiate and compare:
(i) speaker-anchored vs. addressee.;.anchored vs. speaker&addressee-anchored vs. other-anchored terms
(ii) distance distinctions (up to at least four degrees of distance distinction from speaker)
(iii) distinctions of visibility versus non-visibility.
Further, if employed as intended, it should help the researcher assess the roles played by gesture, addressee knowledge and attention, and different domains of object access in guiding the selection and use of demonstrative terms." (Wilkins, 1999: 1)


Protocol summary

''This elicitation tool centers around a set of 25 diagrammed scenes in which a speaker is referring to a single object (non-contrastively) within the context depicted. These are NOT stimuli to be shown to language consultants. They are scenes to help you organize your own elicitation tasks and to help you keep track of relevant parameters and oppositions to test. [...] It is most preferable if you recreate the scene at the appropriate scale. You are also advised to keep track of natural demonstrative usage and see which, if any, of the 25 scene types they appear to represent. Next to each diagram is a description of the main features of the scene. Different manipulations of the same scene are also listed. Typical sentential frames in English are given as an example, but these are only intended as a guide to the intended distinctions.'' (Wilkins​, 1999: 1)

Development context

"Numerous people have contributed to the initial design and/or subsequent improvements of this questionnaire. These include: Felix Ameka, Michael Dunn, Jiirgen Bohnemeyer, James Essegbey, Raquel Guirardello, Birgit Hellwig, Sotaro Kita, Steve Levinson, Anna Margetts, Asli Ozyurek, Angela Terrill, and Barbara Villanova." (Wilkins​, 1999: 1)

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