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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: The Mauritian Creole Noun Phrase: Its form and function Add Dissertation
Author: Diana Guillemin Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: The University of Queensland, PhD in Linguistics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation; Syntax;
Director(s): Mary Laughren
Robert Pensalfini

Abstract: Early in the genesis of Mauritian Creole (MC), the quantificational
determiners of its lexifier language, French, incorporated into a large
number of the nouns that they combined with, resulting in the occurrence of
bare nouns in argument positions, yielding (in)definite, singular, plural
and generic interpretations. These early changes were accompanied by the
loss all inflectional morphology, as well as the loss of the French copula,
and that of the Case assigning prepositions à ('of') and de ('of') which
are used in partitive and genitive constructions respectively.

I argue that these changes triggered a parametric shift in noun denotation,
from predicative in French to argumental in MC, and account for the fact
that MC has a very different determiner system from its lexifier. My
analysis is motivated by both Longobardi's (1994) claim that only DPs can
be arguments, NPs cannot, and Chierchia's (1998b) seemingly incompatible
claim that N can be an argument when it is Kind denoting.

I provide detailed account of the emergence of the new MC determiners, from
their first attestations in the early 18th century, to the end of the 19th
century, when the determiner system settles into a form that is still used
today. Following an analysis of the modern MC determiner system, I propose
that MC nouns are lexically stored as argumental, Kind denoting terms,
which share some of the distributional properties of English bare plurals,
such as their ability to occur in argument positions without a determiner.
The new quantificational determiners are analyzed as 'type shifting
operators' that shift Kinds and predicate nominals into argumental noun
phrases. The singular indefinite article enn and the plural marker bann
assign existential quantification over instances of Kind denoting count
nouns, and the null definite determiner is an operator that quantifies over
the totality of a set.

The differential behaviour of MC count vs. mass nouns is accounted for in
terms of the Number argument which must be realized for common count nouns.
Some seemingly 'bare' nouns comprise a phonologically null definite
determiner equivalent to French le/la and English the. Subject-object
asymmetry of count nouns in MC provides evidence for the occurrence of this
null element which requires licensing in certain syntactic environments.
The Specificity marker la, which serves to mark anaphoric definiteness, is
shown to be a 'last resort' means of licensing the null definite determiner.

My syntactic analysis is within Chomsky's (1995b) Minimalist framework and
a Formal Semantics (Partee 1986), both of which stipulate legitimate
operator variable constructions. The loss of the French quantificational
determiners, and that of the copula meant that early MC lacked overt
sources of quantification at both the nominal and clausal levels. In my
analysis of the emerging MC determiner system, I look at the new sources of
quantification that arise in order to establish the referential properties
of nouns, and I show how these various strategies are linked to the means
by which the semantic features of Definiteness, Deixis, Number and
Specificity are expressed, and also the means by which the syntactic
function of predication is realized.