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Dissertation Information

Title: Topics in the Grammar and Documentation of South Efate, an Oceanic Language of Central Vanuatu Add Dissertation
Author: Nicholas Thieberger Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Melbourne, Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Completed in: 2004
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation;
Subject Language(s): Efate, South
Director(s): Nicholas Evans
Anna Margetts

Abstract: This thesis presents topics in the grammar of South Efate, an Oceanic language of Central Vanuatu as spoken in Erakor village on the outskirts of Port Vila. There has been no previous grammatical description of the language, which has been classified as the southernmost member of the North-Central Vanuatu subgroup of languages. In this description I show that South Efate shares features with southern Vanuatu languages, including a lack of serial verb constructions of the kind known for its northern neighbours and the use of an echo-subject marker. The phonology of South Efate reflects an ongoing change in progress, with productive medial vowel deletion and consequent complex heterorganic consonant clusters.

A key feature of South Efate grammar is the grammaticalisation of a benefactive phrase in pre-verbal position. There is thus a discontinuous verbal complex including a closed class of auxiliary verbs that occur in a fixed order preceding the benefactive phrase and then the verb. Mood-marking is central to any utterance in South Efate and there is no grammatical expression of tense. The interplay between mood and aspect marking is an interesting feature of the language.

The present research is set in the context of increasing attention being paid to the state of the world's smaller languages and their prospects for being spoken into the future. In addition to providing an outline of the grammar of the language, I describe the process of developing an archivable textual corpus that is used to make example sentences citable and playable, using software developed in the course of the research. An attached DVD provides playable versions of most example sentences and of the example texts.

Appendices to this thesis provide a dictionary and finderlist, and a set of interlinearised example texts and elicited sentences. The thesis is available from the eprints repository here:

A revised version of this thesis has been published as:
Nicholas Thieberger. 2006. A Grammar of South Efate: An Oceanic Language of Vanuatu Oceanic Linguistics Special Publication, No. 33. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.