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Title: The particle ai in New Zealand Māori
Authors: Hunter, Ian Murray
Keywords: Austronesian Languages
Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian Languages
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: University of Auckland
Abstract: This study looked at the functions and uses of the problematic particle ai in New Zealand Māori. Ai is described primarily as a verbal particle. It appears in a number of seemingly disparate constructions, has no parallel in English, and there has never been a satisfactory explanation of all its uses. The data consists of a large corpus of sentences containing ai that were extracted from selected texts written by native speakers from as early as the 19th Century up until 2005. Sentences were also solicited from fluent speakers. Analysis of the data and discussions with native speakers led to the conclusion that ai exists as two distinct particles, which were labelled habitual ai, and anaphoric ai. Habitual ai is a verbal marker that confers habitual aspect on its verb. It was found that it is mainly used by speakers from the Eastern regions of the North Island. Anaphoric ai refers back to some element earlier in the discourse. It has two forms, labelled resumptive ai and resultative ai. Resumptive ai is an anaphoric pro-form that resumes a specific noun phrase in its clause. It was found to have a grammatical function. When resumptive ai was deleted from its clause consultants judged the results ill-formed. An example of a construction with resumptive ai is a sentence with an adverbial of reason located before the verb. Resultative ai locates its clause in prior discourse, making a causal link between its clause and the prior element. It was found to have a mainly lexical function. When resultative ai was deleted from its clause consultants judged that the meaning had altered and that the causal link was weakened or lost. An example of a construction with resultative ai is a purpose clause which follows an action that has been carried out for that specific purpose. This thesis provides a unified explanation for all uses of ai. It also accounts for previously unexplained appearances, by showing that one form of ai may occur in environments restricted to another. Its appearance in non-verbal phrases are accounted for, and observations have been made about changes in its use over time.
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