Fredagskollokvium: How to talk about the weather: Meteorological linguistics

Pål Kristian Eriksen - Institutt for lingvistiske og nordiske studier, UiO

Sentences referring to the weather, like “It is cold” or “It is snowing”, are considered by linguists to be a quite peculiar class of sentences. Whereas other sentences usually describe events which have at least one semantic participant (e.g. in the sentence “Pål is speaking” Pål is a participant, and in “The man put the book on the table” the man, the book and the table are all participants), weather sentences are unusual in the sense that they refer to events without inherent participants.

When we say “It is cold” or “It is snowing” in English, we do not state any participants in the event, i.e. there are no persons or objects ‘doing’ the snowing. The subject it found in both these sentences are by linguists referred to as a dummy subject, a meaningless subject inserted in lieu of a proper participant.

These semantic peculiarities have led to weather sentences exhibiting many strange forms in the languages of the world, not only the dummy subjects of English and Norwegian, but also other weird solutions, like “Rain is raining” or “The world is raining”. In my talk I will give you a grand tour of weather sentences in the world’s languages, and also show a way in which these sentences can be classified into a system of linguistic types.



Publisert 10. okt. 2013 11:36 - Sist endret 25. nov. 2014 11:23