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Review of  Focus in Manado Malay

Reviewer: Catherine Rose Fortin
Book Title: Focus in Manado Malay
Book Author: Ruben Stoel
Publisher: CNWS Publications
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Malay, Manado
Issue Number: 17.203

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Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 10:14:41 -0500
From: Catherine R. Fortin
Subject: Focus in Manado Malay: Grammar, particles, and intonation

Author: Ruben Bastiaan Stoel
Title: Focus in Manado Malay
Subtitle: Grammar, particles, and intonation
Publisher: CNWS Publications
Year: 2005

Catherine R. Fortin, Department of Linguistics, University of Michigan


Focus in Manado Malay, Ruben Stoel's (Leiden University) Ph.D. dissertation,
represents the very first publication on the intonation of Manado Malay
(MM) and is one of only a few publications available on MM generally. The
phenomenon of focus-marking in MM is approached from two directions:
the first half of the book contains a description of focus-marking in MM,
based largely on a corpus of conversational MM that the author collected.
In the second half of the book, the author discusses several experimental
studies that he conducted to complement and confirm his corpus-based
generalizations about MM focus-marking. The author's primary goals are
to characterize the ways in which focus is marked in MM; to give a general
description of MM, with special attention to discourse particles and
intonation; as a secondary goal, he compares two approaches to the study
of language: a descriptive (corpus-based) approach and an experimental

MM (also known as Minahasa Malay) is a variety of Malay spoken in and
around the city of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. MM
has about 1 million native speakers, and differs phonologically,
morphologically and syntactically from standard Indonesian.


The book is divided into eight chapters. The first four chapters are
primarily descriptive, while the second four are experimental in nature.
Extensive appendices have also been included. The first appendix contains
a sampling of passages from the corpus of data the author draws upon,
while the remaining appendices detail the test conditions used in each of
the ten experiments described in the second half of the book.

The first brief chapter outlines the goals of the book and provides
information about the corpus of data used by the author. The corpus
consists of 23 dialogues, with a total duration of 144 minutes and a total
size of nearly 24,000 words. There are 33 total participants in these
dialogues, all university students. Recordings were digitized and
transcribed by the author, and transcriptions were checked against the
recordings with the assistance of native speaker informants.

Chapter Two, 'The structure of MM', contains a descriptive overview
(descriptive in the sense that the overview is not couched within any
particular brand of phonological, morphological or syntactic theory) of the
phonology, morphology and syntax of MM, with frequent reference to the
ways in which it differs from Standard Indonesian. Aspects of MM structure
that the author reviews in relatively greater detail include:
The distribution of MM's five productive prefixes (ba-, ta-, baku-, which
form verbs; pang-, which forms nominals; and ka-, which forms ordinals
from numerals) and the combinations in which these prefixes may co-occur.
The two reduplication patterns observed in MM, reduplication of the base
and reduplication of the prefix.
The structure of each of the closed word classes in MM.
The structure of MM's two types of nominalized clauses.
The structure of clauses in combination, including relative clauses,
complement clauses, adverbial clauses and coordinate clauses.
Certain clause-level syntactic processes, including sentence adverbs, cleft
sentences, topicalization, negation, questions and imperatives, and

Chapter Three, 'Discourse particles', provides a more lengthy description of
the set of discourse particles (DPs) observed in MM. Following Goddard
1998, Stoel defines DPs as 'words that are morphologically invariable, and
express a speaker's immediate 'here-and-now' attitudes, thoughts and
desires'. DPs are an important discourse-related syntactic phenomenon in
MM; according to Stoel's corpus, DPs constitute on average 11.3% of all
words in spontaneous conversation. DPs are fully integrated into the
syntax of utterances, yet are unable to constitute utterances on their own;
furthermore, any given utterance containing a DP would be equally
grammatical without the DP. MM DPs have two further defining properties:
they only occur at the end of a syntactic phrase (which for the author is a
somewhat disjunctive construct, namely a maximal projection or a verb
phrase excluding all objects and adjuncts) and they never bear a focus-
marking accent. Stoel discusses in turn each of the 20 DPs observed in MM.
Some DPs are quite frequent, while others are quite rare, with frequencies
ranging from 218 instances in the corpus (for dang, roughly translatable
as 'that is') to just a single instance.

Chapter Four, 'Intonation', describes each of the major intonation patterns
observed in MM. Stoel proposes a model of intonation for MM which
utilizes two kinds of prosodic constituents, IPs and PhPs. IPs (intonational
phrases) are composed of at least one PhP (phonological phrase), and are
bounded by pauses. There are three types of basic patterns (declaratives,
yes-no questions, and wh-questions), which may be accounted for with the
same building blocks: accents (on the final syllable of the PhP, which mark
the focus), and edge tones (which mark the prosodic boundaries).
Following an evaluation of these basic types, Stoel concludes that MM
displays five 'intonational morphemes'. Stoel also describes a handful
of 'special' intonation patterns, which do not mark accent on the final
syllable of the PhP and so cannot be accounted for with these building
blocks: echo questions, the calling contour, exclamations, DPs, and polarity

Stoel's overview of MM intonation is based mainly on read speech, although
some examples were taken from the corpus of spontaneous dialogues.
The discussion of intonation is limited to two domains, namely pitch (i.e.
fundamental frequency) (to the exclusion of duration and loudness) and
phonological intonation (to the exclusion of segmental structure and
paralinguistic features). Focus is marked in at least three (not mutually
exclusive) ways: pitch accent, word order, and with a DP. Although there is
only limited information available on Indonesian intonation patterns, there
do appear to be some differences between MM intonation and that of
Indonesian: e.g. MM has word-level stress, while Indonesian does not.

Chapter Five, 'Focus and constituent order', begins the experimental half of
the book. In this chapter, the author describes two experiments conducted
to test the hypotheses drawn from the corpus regarding the interaction of
focus and constituent order, and shows there is a relationship in MM, which
on the surface appears to permit relatively free constituent order. Focus is
defined as the new or unpredictable information in a sentence, as in
Lambrecht 1994. Three kinds of focus are of interest: predicate focus (V
focus in intransitives/VO focus in transitives); sentence focus (SV focus in
intransitives); and argument focus (S or O focus). The author gathered
acceptability judgments on sentences with different constituent orders and
focus structures to contrast with and round out the findings of the
naturalistic corpus.

In these two experiments (Experiment 1 and 2), subjects were asked to
provide categorial acceptability judgments on the answers of question-
answer pairs, which were then used to calculate a gradient mean of
acceptability. Between the two experiments, each possible constituent
order/focus combination that was attested in the corpus was tested on
forty speakers. The author found that acceptability scores varied with
respect to constituent order and focus (from a high of 97% for OSV word
order/SV focus to a low of 38% for OSV word order/O focus), and that focus
is an important factor in the relative acceptability of constituent orders
(most importantly, initial O is only acceptable with non-O focus, and final S
is unacceptable with S focus). To account for the unacceptability of SOV,
OVS and VSO orders, Stoel hypothesizes that SV(O) is the basic constituent
order in MM, and alternate orders are derived by fronting O or VO. The
experimental results reveal some departures from the corpus: e.g. OSV
order/S or SV focus is found to be 'fully acceptable', yet is barely attested in
the corpus.

Chapter Six, 'Focus and discourse particles', builds on earlier work of the
author (Stoel 2000) and discusses five further experiments which consider
the ways in which certain DPs – 'focus particles' - contribute to the focus
structure of a sentence. Stoel 2000 illustrated that three DPs - 'no' (roughly
translatable as 'definitely'), 'sto' ('probably'), and 'to' ('I assume you agree') -
predictably follow the focus of the clause; in the first of the experiments of
this chapter (Experiment 3), he attempts to replicate the results of Stoel
2000 and show the same for two additional DPs, 'kata' ('it is said') and 'kwa?'
('but'). In this experiment, as in Experiments 4 and 5, subjects were given a
context sentence and asked to select the correct of two target sentences,
which differed only according to the placement of the DP. Experiment 3
falsifies 2/3 of Stoel's 2000 claims, in showing that 'no' alone is a true
focus-marking particle, in that it must follow the focus in all types of focus
structures; 'sto', 'to' and 'kata?', on the other hand, may either be placed
following the focus or the first prosodic phrase, while 'kwa?' must follow the
first prosodic phrase. Experiment 4 considers whether the
notion 'following the first prosodic phrase' could be recast as 'second
syntactic position', in which case these four DPs could be hypothesized to
be second position clitics; Stoel concludes that this is not the case.
Experiment 5 considers whether 'no' can occur within the predicate, or
must follow the entire predicate; Stoel concludes that in only five of the ten
focus/constituent order pairings considered was there a significant
preference for 'no' to be in its expected position at the end of the focus
domain. Experiment 6a examines the interaction of 'no' with narrow focus
(i.e. focus on a single word), which differs from other types of focus in MM
by not being marked by an accent (which instead falls on the last word of
the syntactic phrase, as defined above). Subjects were asked to judge the
acceptability of 'no' in sentence pairs where it was placed either following
the narrow focus or the accent (i.e., sentence-finally). In the corpus, there
are no instances of 'no' following narrow focus; this experiment likewise
provided no evidence that 'no' can mark narrow focus. Experiment 6b
further examines the interaction of 'no' and narrow focus, yielding results
consistent of those of 6a.

Chapter Seven, 'Focus and accent placement', explores the position of
accent with respect to focus in declarative sentences in MM through three
experiments, two production experiments (Experiments 7a and 7b) and
one perception experiment (Experiment 8). (Only the experiments in this
chapter consider speech; the other experiments in the book consider MM
only in its written form, although MM is not customarily written.) The
accent of the sentences in the corpus was determined both auditorily
(impressionistically) and visually (using Praat), and Stoel determined that
accent is most commonly on the last word of the clause, because most
clauses have predicate focus. Not all clauses in corpus have a final accent,
indicating that MM has accent shift in case of, e.g., the final word (such as a
DP) being unable to bear focus accent.

In Experiment 7a, 17 subjects (of which ten subjects' recordings proved
usable) read aloud sentence pairs, with the context sentence determining
the focus structure of the target sentence, five times apiece. For most of the
13 focus/constituent order pairings tested, there appears to be a strong
preference for accent upon the last word of the focus domain; Stoel
concludes that accent placement is largely predictable from focus structure,
and that every syntactic phrase that is part of a focus domain can attract an
accent. Experiment 7b considers four additional focus/constituent order
pairings; from the results of the five subjects of 7b, Stoel concludes that
accent must fall on the last word of a syntactic phrase. Experiment 8 tested
the hypothesis that hearers use focus accent to recognize the focus domain
with respect to eight focus/constituent order pairings; in each condition,
subjects listened to two sentence pairs differing only in position of accent
in the target sentence, and chose the correct pair. The materials were
drawn from the 'best' examples of readings of each sentence pair by four
native speakers of MM. Stoel concludes that subjects prefer final accent in
case of final focus, but have no clear preference for final or non-final
accent in case of non-final focus.

In the final chapter, Stoel reiterates his conclusions and proposes further
research into information structure in MM that builds upon the preliminary
conclusions proposed here. In sum, there are three ways of marking focus
in MM: syntactically (constituent order and cleft sentences formed with the
relativizer 'yang'), the DP 'no', and accent.


'Focus in Manado Malay' is a valuable addition to the body of literature
describing Western Malayo-Polynesian languages, as well as to the body of
literature seeking to characterize focus, intonation and DPs in general. The
book is written in a very clear style, and is well-organized, and benefits
from copious amounts of data illustrating each point. In the experimental
half of the book, the author provides a large amount of statistics; these are
generally easy to parse, and he admirably takes care to point out unnotable
as well as notable results.

As the book is primarily descriptive in nature (with the exception of Chapter
Four, where Stoel utilizes the autosegmental theory of intonation as
outlined in Ladd (1996)), it is immediately accessible to researchers
working within all theoretical frameworks. However, the descriptive
orientation of the book is slightly disappointing, in that there are many
interesting discourse-related syntactic, morphological and phonological
phenomena which are intriguingly described yet receive no analytical
treatment. For example, Stoel characterizes the phrase 'tu dia' (a type of
determiner) as not having 'any syntactic function, [although] it reinforces
the casual atmosphere among speakers'; however, the distribution of the
phrase – particularly where it cannot occur – remains to be accounted for
syntactically. A similar question can be raised with respect to MM's DPs. Of
these. Stoel concludes, 'their frequent usage adds savor to the sentences of
MM, and show that a language is more than a tool for expressing
propositions' (p. 98). But what are the implications of this for a syntactic
analysis of MM? How can the distribution of DPs be accounted for
syntactically? Above all, the reader is left with the question of how, or
whether, all of the focus-marking devices used in MM can be unified.
Hopefully, this is a question that the author will address in future work on
the information structure of MM.

Overall, 'Focus in Manado Malay' has much to offer to researchers of
Western Malayo-Polynesian languages, and will be a particularly useful
resource to those with interests in information structure and the
relationship between syntax, phonology and discourse.


de Hoop, Helen & Ton van der Wouden, eds. (2000) Linguistics in the
Netherlands 2000. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Goddard, Cliff (1998) Semantic analysis: a practical introduction. New
York: Oxford University Press.

Lambrecht, Knud (1994) Information structure and sentence form: topic,
focus and the mental representations of discourse referents. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Stoel, Ruben (2000) Discourse particles in Manado Malay. In de Hoop and
van der Wouden (2000), 185-198.

Catherine Fortin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the
University of Michigan. Her research interests include the syntax, semantics
and pragmatics of ellipsis in Indonesian.

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