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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: Clause Structure and Argument Realization in Tongan Add Dissertation
Author: Douglas Ball Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Stanford University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Tonga
Director(s): Peter Sells
Beth Levin
Ivan Sag
Sandy Chung

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the structure of clauses and how key
subparts of them - the arguments of their predicates - are realized in the
Polynesian language, Tongan. The leading proposal of this work, running
through the analyses of all phenomena, is that Tongan can be analyzed with
less syntactic structure than has previously been proposed by others
working on Polynesian languages. The framework I make use of - Sign-Based
Construction Grammar (SBCG) - is multi-factorial; it spreads the analytical
load among parallel (but related) constituency, syntactic valency, and
semantic data structures. This dissertation, drawing on extensive fieldwork
data, shows that Tongan is better analyzed in terms of minimal hierarchical
structure and that a multifactorial approach offers a more comprehensive
and accurate understanding of Tongan morphosyntax than previous accounts.

Issues of clause structure are the focus of the first half of the
dissertation. The region of verbal clauses that includes the verb and its
dependents is analyzed in terms of a 'flat' structure, while the predicate
and arguments in non-verbal clauses are assigned more hierarchical
structure. This difference derives from different argument realization
constraints on the predicates in these clauses: verbs and prepositions,
respectively. The combination of an initial Tense-Aspect-Mood word and one
of these verbal or non-verbal constituents usually completes the
construction of the basic Tongan clause.

A discussion of argument realization phenomena constitutes the remainder of
the dissertation: the subject clitics, the cross-predicate distribution of
case, the structure and distribution of noun incorporation, and the
preposition-like and applicative constructions with the instrumental
particle 'aki. These investigations provide evidence against a syntactic
treatment of argument realization in Tongan, and for a treatment centered
around lists of potential dependents of predicates. These lists allow
hierarchical structure to be minimized, because they provide another locus
for grammatical interactions. This locus avoids the complications that
arise on other approaches where the interactions are derived entirely
within the phrase structure. Yet, these lists allow direct generation of
the phrasal structures, licensing the structure that is necessary for an
account of the syntax of Tongan.