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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 Tukang Besi Language Add Dissertation
Author: Mark Donohue Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Australian National University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1995
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation;
Subject Language(s): Tukang Besi South
Director(s): Malcolm Ross
Avery Andrews
Ulrike La'i Mosel
Andrew Pawley

Abstract: Tukang Besi is a language with incorporated pronominal elements in the verb, and so a thorough account of this phenomenon in the language was called for, drawing on the recent work of other formal (e.g., Bresnan and Mchombo 1987, Jelinek 1984) and functional (e.g., Foley 1991) linguists, and applying the insights gained from those works to Tukang Besi.

The verbal system of Tukang Besi shows considerable elaboration, with both pronominal incorporation and a Philippine-style focus system operating; in addition to properties of the Philippine 'topic' that have been widely discussed (such as their ability to launch floating quantifiers and being the coreferent argument in conjunction reduction), Tukang Besi non-'topics' also have peculiar grammatical features, namely the ability to launch floating adverbs within the verb phrase; no previous descriptions of Philippine languages have described a grammatical process that refers uniquely to then non-'topic'. A thorough investigation of which grammatical processes can be attributed to the 'topic' (after the fashion in Kroeger 1993) shows that many syntactic processes are not dependent on the 'topic' or 'non-topic' status of the argument, but on more familiar grammatical concepts such as subject, object or absolutive.

Extensive applicative and causative morphology on the verbs also merited an in-depth treatment: the behaviour of both objects in causative and applicative constructions based on transitive verbs has mapped the distribution of object properties (pronominal incorporation, passivisation, heading object relative clauses, amongst others) for both the base object and the derived object, and been the subject of several additional papers (Donohue 1994a, 1994c, 1995b).

One of the more important questions addressed in the thesis, however, concerns the need to directly refer to the thematic roles of arguments when parsing the grammaticality or ungrammaticality of certain syntactic constructions. In addition to the thematic role of arguments affecting their ability to enter into constructions, a long recognised feature of many languages, several constructions in Tukang Besi refer to the relative position of arguments in the thematic hierarchy (as proposed by Bresnan and Kanerva 1989), showing not only that the organisation of that hierarchy is valid (at least in this language), but also that it is accessed to by syntactic processes, giving evidence that it is a key feature of the language. Arguments are made that the notions of 'subject' and 'object' are in fact derived notions, and that reference to the ranked thematic hierarchy is all that is needed to determine these grammatical functions, and so to relegate them to secondary positions in the theory.