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Title: Describing Makasae: A Trans-New Guinea Language of East Timor
Authors: Correia, A. J. G.
Keywords: Makasae - Grammar
Timor Languages
Timor-Alor-Pantar Languages
Trans-New Guinea Languages
Indo-pacific Languages
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: This thesis constitutes a grammatical analysis of the north-eastern variety of Makasae, a largely undocumented language spoken in the district of Laga in East Timor. With some 110,000 speakers, Makasae is one of four languages in East Timor which belong to the Trans-New Guinea phylum. Although the dialect of Laga is taken as normative in this thesis, variant forms in other dialects are considered whenever possible. It is hoped that the creation of a scientific descriptive grammar of this vernacular and practical application of the data it presents will make a contribution to the education of its speakers, raising their awareness of its social and literary potential. In conducting and documenting the research, the principles of Basic Linguistic Theory have been applied. The order followed in this descriptive grammar is essentially from the smallest to the largest units within the grammatical hierarchy. Makasae has been in contact with more recently implanted Austronesian languages, especially its linguistic neighbours, its wider context being a Sprachbund or linguistic area covering the whole of Timor. As a result, its morphosyntax is much eroded and its phonology partly attuned to that of contiguous languages. Sprachbund features examined in particular detail in this work include basilectal, mesolectal and acrolectal levels of speech; polarity markers; honorific functions; avoidance of personal pronouns; verb markers; adjectival verbs; and parataxis.Enduring Trans-New Guinea grammatical phenomena analysed in the thesis are: SOV word order; marked plurals; two different polarity markers; multiple degrees of deixis in demonstratives, adverbials and even verbs; possessive-like attributive gi; conditional; postpositions and circumpositions. It was found that Makasae speakers have a strong positive attitude towards their language which augurs well for its long-term survival despite competition from East Timor’s two official languages, Tetum and Portuguese. The study also considers possible modalities for the active involvement of state and non-government institutions essential for the maintenance and development of this vernacular
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