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A typological study of noun phrase structures in Australian languages

Boek - Dissertatie

This dissertation presents a general analysis of noun phrase (NP) structures in Australian languages. I use a sample of 100 Australian languages, which represents about 40% of all Australian languages at first contact, and about 65% of all Australian languages for which relatively detailed descriptions are available. The analysis is developed in two main parts, each with a different aim and focus. The first part of the dissertation presents a general survey of NP features. In this survey, I try to develop a synthesis of the available Australianist literature, testing some of the ideas from the literature on the languages of my sample, and showing where Australian languages stand in relation to other languages in the world. The survey consists of three chapters, with domains grouped together on the basis of how well they have been described in the literature. Chapter 1 deals with nominal classification, which is the best-described aspect of NP structure for Australian languages. Chapter 2 discusses the domains of qualification and quantification, which have received some attention in the literature, but not to the same extent as classification. Chapter 3 introduces the domains of determination and NP constituency, which are most poorly understood, due to a general lack of attention in the case of determination, and a failure to test wide-ranging claims in the case of constituency. The second part of the dissertation then takes up the last two aspects, determination and NP constituency, for more detailed analysis. Chapter 4 deals with the question of NP constituency, which is a rather problematic issue in the available literature. On the basis of my sample, I show that the idea that Australian languages tend to lack clear phrasal structure is over-stated. I suggest an alternative approach to the question of NP constituency, and argue that it is more interesting to typologise languages on the basis of where and how they allow phrasal structure rather than on the basis of a simple yes-no answer to the question of NP constituency. This alternative approach is followed up in an analysis of discontinuous structures. Chapter 5, finally, investigates the domain of NP determination, which is overall the least well-studied aspect of NP structure for Australian languages. Within this domain, I focus on the syntactic status of determining elements. Australian languages generally lack ‘classic’ determiner features, like obligatory use in particular (e.g. definite) contexts or a restriction to one determiner for each NP. I show that there is good evidence to identify a determiner slot in approximately half of the languages of the sample, and I discuss which types of elements tend to occur in these slots, including some less well-studied ones like personal pronouns and quantifiers.
Jaar van publicatie:2017
Toegankelijkheid:Open