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18 Basic clausal syntax

From the book A Grammar of Coastal Marind

  • Bruno Olsson


This chapter describes the building blocks of clausal syntax. Criteria for argumenthood are discussed in §18.1. The obligatory kernel of the clause is the verb complex, and such minimal sentences are described in §18.2. Constituent order of the clause is free, but there is a clear statistical preference for placing the verb after its arguments (§18.3.1). Coastal Marind is a prime example of a so-called ‘discourse configurational language’, in which the syntactic organisation of the clause is not based on syntactic or semantic roles (subject, object, agent, etc.) but on discourse functions such as topic and focus. The discourse functions of arguments usually have consequences for the shape of the verb, most importantly in the choice of a so-called Orientation prefix marking the role of the focused constituent. This means that it is often impossible to tease apart syntax from morphology. The morphosyntax of focus was dealt with in Chapter 11, so in §18.3.2 of this chapter I will summarise some of that information and put it in a broader syntactic context, along with brief discussion of topics §18.3.3. In §18.4 I describe a class of adverbial expressions that have a fixed position before the verb complex. Secondary predicates are discussed in §18.5. The final section is a brief description of the Presentational construction (§18.6).

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