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LINGUIST List 17.1383

Fri May 05 2006

Diss: Lang Description/Syntax: Lovick: 'Agentivity a...'

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        1.    Olga Lovick, Dissertation AbstractAgentivity and Participant Marking in Dena'ina Athabascan: A text-based study


Message 1: Dissertation AbstractAgentivity and Participant Marking in Dena'ina Athabascan: A text-based study
Date: 05-May-2006
From: Olga Lovick <Olgalithophile.com>
Subject: Dissertation AbstractAgentivity and Participant Marking in Dena'ina Athabascan: A text-based study


Institution: University of Cologne
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Olga Charlotte Lovick

Dissertation Title: Agentivity and Participant Marking in Dena'ina Athabascan: A text-based study

Dissertation URL: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/volltexte/2006/1727/

Linguistic Field(s): Language Description
                            Syntax

Subject Language(s): Tanaina (tfn)

Dissertation Director:
Hans-Juergen Sasse
Fritz Serzisko

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is concerned with strategies of participant marking in
narrative texts in Dena'ina Athabascan, a language spoken in south-central
Alaska.

Dena'ina is a highly head-marking, polysynthetic language, and all
referents (subjects, direct objects and postpositional objects) are encoded
by pronominal affixes to the verb stem, as opposed to free pronouns or noun
phrases.

After a short introduction into the grammar of the language (chapter 1),
the pronominal inventory as well as basic pronominal functions are explored
(chapter 2).

It is then shown (chapters 3 & 4) that there is a significant asymmetry
between the pronominal marking of first and second person referents (so
called discourse referents) and of third person referents. These
differences are: Discourse referents are always overtly encoded by a
prefix, while third person referents can be encoded by null-marking; also,
first and second person are marked in a different position within the verb
word than third person prefixes. First and second person prefixes display
case-marking, third person prefixes do not. An interesting semantic
difference between prefixes encoding discourse referents on the one hand,
and third person prefixes on the other, is that the latter group agree with
their referent with respect to features such as animacy or humanness.
Several examples are presented where the narrator makes use of this
mechanism either to keep track of several referents without explicitely
naming them, or to express his or her attitude towards particular
referents, by either down- or upgrading them.

It is concluded that first and second person on the one hand constitute a
different category than third person on the other hand. Third person
prefixes act more like semantic class markers than like pronominals
(chapter 5).

Last of all, the question of the interpretation of noun phrases ('who did
what to whom') is addressed, seeing that there is no case marking to
disambiguate. It is shown that Dena'ina employs marking patterns based on
assumptions on the 'natural order of things': such a pattern indicates
whether a high-ranking referent acts on a low ranking one or vice versa.
The listener then has to use world knowledge to decide which of the
referents is higher ranking than the other.



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