LINGUIST List 14.2883

Wed Oct 22 2003

Diss: Typology/Syntax: Henadeerage: 'Topics...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. kumara.henadeerage, Topics in Sinhala Syntax

Message 1: Topics in Sinhala Syntax

Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2003 01:41:26 +0000
From: kumara.henadeerage <>
Subject: Topics in Sinhala Syntax

Institution: Australian National University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Kumara Henadeerage 

Dissertation Title: Topics in Sinhala Syntax

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Typology, Syntax, Semantics, Linguistic Theories,
General Linguistics 

Subject Language: Sinhala (code: SNH)

Subject Language Family: Indo-European (code: )

Dissertation Director 1: Avery Andrews
Dissertation Director 2: Cindy Allen

Dissertation Abstract: 

This study is a detailed investigation of a number of issues in
colloquial Sinhala morphosyntax. These issues primarily concern
grammatical relations, argument structure, phrase structure and focus
constructions. The theoretical framework of this study is Lexical
Functional Grammar.

Chapter 1 introduces the issues to be discussed, followed by a brief
introduction of some essential aspects of colloquial Sinhala as
background for the discussion in the following chapters. In Chapter 2
we present basic concepts of the theoretical framework of Lexical
Functional Grammar.

The next three chapters mainly concern grammatical relations, argument
structure and clause structure in colloquial Sinhala. Chapter 3
examines grammatical relations. The main focus lies in establishing
the subject grammatical relation in terms of various subjecthood
diagnostics. We show that only a very small number of diagnostics are
reliable, and that the evidence for subject is weaker than assumed
previously. All the subjecthood diagnostics that were examined select
the most prominent argument in the argument structure as the subject,
i.e. 'logical subject'. However, there appear to be no processes in
the language that are sensitive to the subject in the grammatical
relations structure, i.e. 'grsubject'. Further, there is no evidence
for other grammatical relations like objects. In Chapter 4 we discuss
the agentless construction and related valency alternation
phenomena. It was previously assumed that the agentless construction,
valency alternation phenomena and the involitive construction are all
related. We argue that the agentless construction should be treated as
a different construction from the involitive construction. We also
show that the agentless construction and the involitive construction
have contrasting characteristics, and that treatment of them as
separate constructions can account for some phenomena which did not
receive an explanation previously. The valency alternation phenomena
are related to the agentless construction, therefore there is no
valency alternation in involitive constructions. It will be shown that
verbs undergoing the valency alternation can be distinguished from the
other verbs in terms of the lexical semantic properties of individual
verbs. Chapter 5 examines the structure of nonverbal sentences in
terms of a number of morphosyntactic phenomena. It was previously
argued that verbal sentences and nonverbal sentences in colloquial
Sinhala differ in terms of clause structure. However, the present
study shows evidence to the contrary.

The next two chapters deal with modelling contrastive focus and the
phrase structure of the language. Chapter 6 is a detailed analysis of
the contrastive focus (cleft) construction in various clause types in
the language, and proposes a unified syntactic treatment of
contrastive focus. Contrastive focus is in some constructions
morphologically encoded, while in others it involves both
morphological and configurational assignment of focus. The complex
interaction between focus markers and verb morphology in various focus
constructions is accounted for by general wellformedness conditions
applying to the fstructure, and the principles of Functional
Uncertainty and Morphological Blocking. In Chapter 7, we discuss the
phrase structure of the language, in particular such issues as its
nonconfigurational nature and the lack of evidence for VP. We propose
nonconfigurational S and some functional projections to account for
word order freedom under S and to explain certain morphosyntactic
phenomena, such as configurational focus assignment. Finally, Chapter
8 summarises the conclusions made in previous chapters.
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