LINGUIST List 24.5109

Thu Dec 12 2013

Diss: Ekegusii, Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis, Semantics, Syntax: Mecha: 'Information Structure in Ekegusii'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <>

Date: 12-Dec-2013
From: Evans Mecha <>
Subject: Information Structure in Ekegusii
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Institution: University of Nairobi Program: Doctor of Philosopy in Linguistics Dissertation Status: Completed Degree Date: 2013

Author: Evans Gesura Mecha

Dissertation Title: Information Structure in Ekegusii

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis                             Pragmatics                             Semantics                             Syntax
Subject Language(s): Gusii (guz)
Dissertation Director:
Lillian Katunge Kaviti Isaiah Ndung'u Mwaniki
Dissertation Abstract:

The main aim of this thesis is to explore how the pragmatic functions topic
and focus, influence the formal organization and content of two discoursal
components: word order, and referential coherence, based on Ekegusii, a
Bantu language spoken in Kenya.

The data for the study consists of corpora elicited using question-answer
coherence guided by pictures, and elicited monologic narratives. It uses an
eclectic approach in describing the role of information structure in
Ekegusii. It utilizes Lambrecht's model of information structure, and
Bidirectional Optimality Theory to capture both production (by speaker) and
comprehension (by hearer) aspects in discourse. Centering Optimality Theory
is used to account for the discourse-pragmatics of referential coherence.

The study found out that information structural constraints at the
sentential level mainly influence the information state of both canonical
and non-canonical constructions word orders. It influences the
interpretation, through the pragmatic structuring of propositions, helping
the hearer differentiate what is information (focus) in relation to a given
topic, and this may induce movement, insertion or deletion of some
sentential constituents. However, information structure optionally affects
sentential form in Ekegusii.

In relation to how information structure interacts with referential
coherence, the results of a corpus based analysis show that alternative
ways of coherently referring to participants using nominal expressions in
the roles of grammatical subject object and oblique depend on pragmatic
functions. Coherence was found out to be driven by a hard constraint
'COHERE' which cannot be violated even by the information structural
constraints that licences focus. The focus relations, sentence focus and
presentational focus, are therefore associated with low coherence,
transitions, not dire incoherence, because the focus relation is typically
used for shifting reference in discourse. The topic relations are
associated with higher coherence transitions when attention is focused on a
given topical entity.

The results of the study demonstrate the need for incorporation information
structure, an independent component of grammar, in handling the problem of
pragmatic motivation in the grammar of human languages at the micro- and
macro-syntactic levels of discourse. Though the study is theory oriented
and on Ekegusii, it is relevant to understanding how packaging information
affects discourse, by considering the syntax, semantics and pragmatics (the
'semiotic circle') of information in general. Is of use to persons who are
interested in understanding how messages are to be optimaly coded and
decoded in human communication by interlocutors in Ekegusii, and beyond any
given language.

Page Updated: 12-Dec-2013