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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Textual Structure and Discourse Prominence in Yapese Narrative Add Dissertation
Author: Keira Ballantyne Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2005
Linguistic Subfield(s): Text/Corpus Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Yapese
Director(s): Benjamin Bergen

Abstract: This work shows that morphosyntactic variation in the form of tense-mood-aspect (TMA) and referring expressions in Yapese narrative actin concert to give rise to an enhancement in the imagined storyworld at high points of narrative action.

Drawing on accessibility theory, typological work in the textlinguistic tradition, and a perceptually grounded version of the situation model framework, the dissertation argues that representations of the most highly salient entities and clauses in narrative tend to exploit semantic resources which work to create a rich simulacra of perceptual experience.

The work takes the form of a case study, examining a corpus of narrative and non-narrative text in Yapese, a language of Micronesia. It is found that a foregrounding distinction conditions the split between independent pronoun TMA markers and clitic pronoun TMA markers. Highly foregrounded clauses in Yapese narrative may be zero-marked, they may take the inceptive nga, or they may be in the perfect non-present ka qu. Nga invokes a semantics of goal-satisfaction or effect, event types which have been shown to enhance the processing of connected clauses in laboratory studies. Ka qu is an instance of frame-breaking pragmatic reversal.

The Yapese system of reference is analyzed with respect to cognitive status. Particular attention is paid to the pronoun, determiner, anddeictic systems. Yapese has a definite and two indefinite articles, and contrasts speaker proximal, hearer proximal, and distal demonstratives. It is argued that the higher the minimal cognitive status required for a referring expression, the more elaborate and constrained the representation of the referent. Highly elaborate and constrained representations have properties in common with highly salient objects in perception. The high accessibility of hearer proximal demonstratives is analyzed as a combination of spatial and social distance effects.

Highly elaborated subjects tend to correlate with highly foregrounded clauses. Variation in both the TMA and reference systems is manipulated by narrators to more deeply immerse the audience in the narrative at key points.