Case marking variation based on discourse
donald.killian at HELSINKI.FI
Tue Aug 14 10:33:19 UTC 2012
I sent an email recently to the Nilo-Saharan mailing list, and now I
thought to expand to the typology mailing list, since different parts of
the world may have good suggestions on methodology.
In my work on Uduk, a Koman language spoken on the border of Ethiopia
and Sudan, I have noticed some interesting alternations with word order
and case marking. Uduk alternates frequently between AVO and OVA in
transitive clauses, and in the OVA word order A is marked ergatively
has some examples from a talk I gave, but please don't quote it without
One of the triggers of the word order alternations is topicalization,
but that's a vague concept which is hard to get at in more detail,
beyond a few basic examples like answering a question or non-volitional
experiencer constructions, and surprisingly difficult to tease apart
from information-focus, which in theory should be the opposite of
topicalized clauses. I've now seen this in enough Nilo-Saharan (and
Kordofanian) languages to think that this alternation is not actually
very rare, however, and have seen something similar going on in some
Austronesian and South American languages as well (e.g. Paumari). I
thought to get opinions from others on how to approach the phenomena.
Does anyone have any suggestions on questionnaires, good field methods
to get at the details of topic/focus constructions, good methodological
ways to really determine what is going on?
I look forward to any answers people have!
Researcher in African Linguistics
Department of Modern Languages
PL 24 (Unioninkatu 40)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki
+358 (0)44 5016437
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