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Do grammatical relations reflect information status? Reassessing Preferred Argument Structure theory against discourse data from Tondano

Timothy C. Brickell and Stefan Schnell
From the journal Linguistic Typology

Abstract

We test Preferred Argument Structure theory against corpus data from Tondano, an Austronesian language with symmetrical voice. Investigating the use of full noun phrases in individual argument positions, we find no significant clustering of both S and P as opposed to A, hence no discourse ergativity. Moreover, neither pivotal nor non-pivotal grammatical relations appear to specialise in the accommodation of full noun phrases. Thus, grammatical relations do not serve as architecture for regulating information flow in discourse. Only constituent order reflects information flow, so that full noun phrases tend to occur in clause-final position. More generally, correlations of humanness and topicality predict most straightforwardly attested patterns of argument realisation.

Acknowledgements

The research reported here has been supported by a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council awarded to Stefan Schnell (DE120102017) for the project “Typology of language use” hosted by the Centre for Research on Language Diversity at La Trobe University, Melbourne. An earlier version of this article was presented in the Linguistics Seminar Series at the University of Newcastle in February 2016, and we thank the audience for useful comments. We are also grateful to Sonja Riesberg for most valuable feedback, in particular on matters concerning symmetrical voice. We thank the three anonymous reviewers for their comments on the draft manuscript. All remaining errors are of course our responsibility. Finally, Tim Brickell would like to thank the Tondano community in Rinegetan and Kiniar for their tireless support during his PhD candidature.

Abbreviations

1/2/3

1st/2nd/3rd person

an

animate

av

actor voice

cmp

completive

cv

conveyance voice

dam

Differential A Marking

dem

demonstrative

dir

directional

dist

distal

dom

Differential O(bject) Marking

dsm

Differential Subject Marking

dyn

dynamic

ex

exclusive

gen

genitive

GR

grammatical relation

hes

hesitation

in

inclusive

inan

inanimate

irr

irrealis

lex

lexical

lim

limitative

lv

locative voice

NP

noun phrase

PAS

Preferred Argument Structure

pl

plural

pn

proper noun

prep

preposition

prox

proximative

pv

patient voice

rdp

reduplication

sg

singular

uv

undergoer voice

VC

verb complex.

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Received: 2016-4-3
Revised: 2016-11-8
Published Online: 2017-7-6
Published in Print: 2017-7-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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