Bruce, Leslie Peter
This dissertation is primarily a presentation of a grammar of Alamblak, a language of the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea. The grammar includes phonological and morpho-syntactic components supplemented with a section relating Alamblak to other Middle Sepik languages. There are several significant aspects of Alamblak phonology and morpho-syntax which are given prominence in the grammar. These include discussions of 1) abstractness in phonology, reinterpretation and language change; 2)...[Show more] verb root serialization and its association with processes of incorporating non-verbal roots into the verb stem; 3) the non-discreteness of grammatical levels; 4) the interplay of role and referential structures in the clause; 5) semantico-syntactic features of transitivity; 6) an analysis of the notion of ‘subject’ in Alamblak; and 7) the notion of subordination between clauses and the general correlation of the differentiation of Communicative Dynamism between clauses with the syntactic dependency of one clause upon another. Most of these aspects exhibit a common thesis, that morpho-syntactic form and semantics or pragmatic function are interdependent.
Chapter I provides a general introduction to the study in which the general theoretical framework and important theoretical notions are briefly discussed. Included there is a resume of the general features of Alamblak, most of which are implied by its basic SOV word order.
The phonology of Alamblak is analysed and described in Chapter II, using a combination of a traditional phonemic approach and a modified Natural Generative approach. The abstractness question is considered there and some completely abstract underlying forms are allowed for alternating morphemes.
Discussions concerning historical aspects in the phonology are included where they relate to questions of abstractness, reinterpretation, language change, and the interpretation of a high central vocoid which is epenthetic in some of its manifestations and phonemic in others.
Non-verbal word classes are described in Chapter III, and nominal and verbal constructions are discussed in Chapters IV and V, respectively. The notion of grammatical levels is discussed in most detail in Chapter IV, from a Tagmemic viewpoint. There, in the context of the description of the Noun Phrase, the traditional features of stem, word, and phrase levels are applied to the Alamblak levels of stem, phrase-base and phrase. In terms of these traditional definitions, levels in Alamblak are described as structurally7 non-discrete, a feather which is explained in terms of the common functions of constructions at the low levels.
The non-discreteness of levels is mentioned again with regard to verbal constructions in Chapter V. Reduplication, compounds, and derivational-like structures (e.g., causatives, benefactives, and reciprocals) are discussed in conjunction with serialized verb stems which are likened to merged clauses. Serialized constructions, which include incorporated non-verbal roots in the verb stem, constitution the major part of the discussion in Chapter V.
The basic syntactic structures of independent clauses are described in Chapter VI, followed by a discussion of the semantics of the clause and the interrelationship of syntax and semantics in Chapter VII. Included in the discussion of semantics is a semantic characterization of surface case markers, i.e., role encoding markers, and a description of semantic case roles. Semantic case roles are ultimately associated with verb classes as art of their semantic specification.
The discussion of transitivity in the same chapter is the focal point of the interrelationship of syntax and semantics in the clause. In that section twelve verb classes are contrasted along a scale of transitivity; it is there, as a part of the case frame of verb classes, that semantic roles are motivated for Alamblak by correlating semantic features of transitivity with their syntactic reflexes which contrast the different verb classes.
Finally, in Chapter VII, the notion of ‘subject’ is analysed in in terms of an interplay of role, referentiality, and perspective.
The combinations of clauses in sentence types are described in Chapter VIII. Syntactically clauses are related in terms of co-ordination and subordination. The logical relations between clauses are described there and a tendency for old or
backgrounded new information to be associated with subordinate clauses is noted.
Dependent clauses which are subordinate to an independent clause on the sentence level are distinguished from those which
are embedded as a constituent at the same or lower level.
These 'embedded' clause types are discussed in Chapter IX, where their syntactic form (including genitive NP's and frequent noun
incorporation) and semantic role structure are described.
Rules concerning the coreferencing of participants between certain dependent clauses and an independent clause are included in that chapter.
In the final chapter, X, we seek to relate Alamblak, as the easternmost language of the Sepik Hill Stock to other Middle Sepik languages. In that chapter a preliminary reconstruction of the Proto-Sepik Hill phonological system is attempted. A
number of subgrouping hypotheses are also suggested which historically relate the Sepik Hill languages to each other and
to other Middle Sepik languages.
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