AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Nakanai syntax

by Raymond L. Johnston

Institution: Australian National University
Year: 1978
Record ID: 1566304
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10920


This thesis gives an account of the syntax of Nakanai, an Oceanic Austronesian language of West New Britain. The study takes the form of a reference guide to the contrastive structures and major syntactic features of Nakanai. Concomitantly, selected issues in the grammar of Oceanic languages and in syntactic theory are discussed in terms of their manifestation in Nakanai, as they are encountered in the discussion of the Nakanai data. Chapter one critically reviews past and present research on the Nakanai language. There is a lack in the field of Oceanic languages of a searching synchronic account of the grammar of a New Britain language. The task of attempting to provide such a description would appear best undertaken set against an understanding of previous comparative research and at least an awareness of the variable aspects of language, in terms of social and regional factors, as they bear upon Nakanai. These matters are discussed in the first chapter, along with the goals of the study. Chapters two and three deal with the semantics and syntax respectively of the Nakanai clause, attempting to demonstrate that case frames have to be defined language-specifically, with attendant separation of role and contextual factors in clause constituent analysis. Consequent upon this approach is the rejection of putatively universal relational notions such as Subject and Object. Modality elements and modality contours in the clause are discussed in chapter three, along with the syntactic configurations of the intransitive and transitive clauses. Chapter two contains the definitions of nuclear and peripheral cases, the analysis of case frames, and discussions of complex relationships such as reflexive, reciprocal and comparative. In chapter four the influence of thematic organisation of discourse on the speaker's selection of topicalisation options in sentence encoding is considered. Two distinct kinds of topicalisation are discerned, highlighting, utilising fronting of constituents, and foregrounding, in which determiners mark thematic nouns. The former strategy introduces new themes, while the latter focusses already introduced participants in the discourse, thus providing coherence. Relativisation is seen to be a foregrounding (i.e. a focussing) strategy. The role of demonstratives, deictics, and pronouns in foregrounding is considered in some detail. Partitioned and juxtaposed clauses are also discussed. Chapters five and six deal with the basic structures, the VP and the NP, respectively and their constituents. The influence of context does not significantly affect the analysis of the VP, but comes very much into play in the NP in chapter six. In the VP discussion, matters such as the modification of the head verb by adverbs of manner and intensity, aspectual inflections, derivations and verbal compounds are considered in some detail. Inflectional and derivational aspects-of reduplication are separately discussed, especially the formation of continuative/habituative aspect…