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Linguistic Typology

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Volume 21, Issue 1


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

Timothy C. Brickell / Stefan Schnell
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  • School of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
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Published Online: 2017-07-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2017-0005


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.

Keywords: alignment; animacy; Austronesian; discourse; grammatical relations; information structure; pragmatics; syntax; Tondano; transitivity; voice; word order


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About the article

Received: 2016-04-03

Revised: 2016-11-08

Published Online: 2017-07-06

Published in Print: 2017-07-26

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology, Volume 21, Issue 1, Pages 177–208, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingty-2017-0005.

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