2 May 2012
Venue: Room 408 (DALSL meeting room), Arts 1 (Building 206)
Host: Fay Wouk (DALSL, The University of Auckland)
This talk covers two aspects of transitivity in Bimanese discourse, the voice system, and the 'applicative' particle kai.
Bima, like other CEMP languages, has lost PAN voice morphology. Yet voice alternation remains possible; actors can be expressed as oblique arguments, and there is evidence from relativization that patients take on subject properties in those constructions. Word order variation is also possible; patient NPs are sometimes initial in their clauses even when the actor is not oblique.
For those working from a discourse perspective, this raises questions about the relationship of these constructions to each other, and their comparability with constructions in languages with morphologically marked voice systems. Analysis of currently available data suggests that transitive clause alternations in Bima do not have the same function of expressing high discourse transitivity that is found in the focus systems typical of many Western Austronesian languages. However, patterns of actor and patient topicality, as measured by lookback (number of clauses to prior mention) and persistence (number of mentions in following 10 clauses) show interesting parallels between some Bima clause types and some more familiar voice constructions. Basic clauses are similar to active transitive clauses, while clauses with oblique actors are similar to an inverse voice, being used when actors are somewhat lower in topicality.
Patient initial clauses are most similar to an anti-passive, with very low topicality patients, while clauses with both initial patients and oblique actors could be seen as an anti- inverse, with both arguments low in topicality.
The Bimanese particle kai, occurs both as a preposition preceding a noun phrase, and at the right margin of the verb group, in which position it has been identified as an applicative marker, licensing instrumental, locative and recipient objects (Owens 2000). An examination of the discourse distribution of kai shows that the prepositional use much less common than usage within the verb group, and that verb group usages are not predominantly applicative. In addition to functioning as an applicative particle, or a more general valency increasing particle, kai also participates in two different nominalization strategies, and with certain specific verbs has idiosyncratic syntactic functions. However, a sizable number of verb group usages of kai do not appear to have any identifiable syntactic function. We argue that these instances of kai function at the discourse level, emphasizing transitivity.