Mauwake reference grammar (Papuan/TNG)

Liisa Berghäll liisa.berghall at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 8 11:25:14 UTC 2010

My Ph.D. dissertation, Mauwake reference grammar (402p.), was accepted in
September 2010 and is currently available at the University of Helsinki
e-thesis service;  see link at the bottom of the message.



This dissertation provides a synchronic grammatical description of Mauwake,
a Papuan (Trans-New Guinea) language of about 2000 speakers on the North
Coast of the Madang Province in Papua New Guinea. 

The theoretical background is that of Basic Linguistic Theory (BLT), used
extensively in analysing and writing descriptive grammars. The chapters from
morphology to clause level are described from form to function; in the later
chapters the function is taken more often as the starting point. Any
theory-specific terminology is kept to the minimum and formalisms have been
avoided in accordance with BLT principles. 

Mauwake has a standard 5-vowel system and 14 consonant phonemes. With its
simple phonology it is a typical representative of the Madang North Coast
languages. For a Papuan language there are relatively few morphophonological

Nouns are either alienably or inalienably possessed. There is no obligatory
number marking in nouns or noun phrases. Pronouns have several different
forms: five for case and three for other functions. The dative pronouns are
treated as [+human] locatives, and they have also grammaticalised as
possessives.  The verbal morphology is agglutinative and mainly suffixal.
Unusual features include two distributive suffixes, and the interaction of
the derivational benefactive and the inflectional beneficiary suffixes. The
applicative suffix has either transitivising or causative but not
benefactive function.  The switch-reference system distinguishes between
simultaneous and sequential action, as well as same or different subject in
relation to the following clause. There are several verbs denoting coming
and going, and they may combine with one of three prefixes to indicate
bringing and taking.  

Mauwake is a nominative-accusative type language, and the basic constituent
order in a clause is SOV. Subject and object are the only syntactic
arguments. There is no indirect object, but a clause can have two or even
three objects.  A nominalised clause with a finite verb functions as a
relative clause or a complement clause; one with a nominalised verb has
several different functions.

Functional domains described include modality, negation, deixis,
quantification, possession and comparison. As there are four negators, there
is more variation in negative expressions than is usual in Papuan languages.

Clause chaining is the preferred strategy for joining clauses into
sentences, but coordination and subordination of finite clauses are also
common. The form of a complement clause depends on whether it is of the
fact, action or potential type. Tail-head linkage is used as a cohesive
device between sentences. 

The discourse-level features described are topic and focus. 


Link to the dissertation page at the University of Helsinki e-thesis


The page opens in Finnish. To change the text into English, 

click the “in English” tab in the top right corner.

The file opens  by clicking either “View/Open” or “mauwaker.pdf”


I also have a few printed copies available for 20 euros / 25 USD (+postage).


Comments on the grammar are most welcome.


Liisa Berghäll




Liisa Berghäll

Helmiäispolku 5 B 26

00530 Helsinki



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