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Title: The Syntax and Semantics of Tongan Noun Phrases
Authors: Devane, Melissa
Keywords: Austronesian Languages
Malayo-Polynesian Languages
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to describe the grammatical patterns of noun phrases in Tongan.1 This includes a variety of areas, ranging from very simple single-noun constructions up to complex phrases involving three nouns. My interest in this topic was motivated by the aura of mystery surrounding the language: Tongan’s lack of overt morphology makes an in-depth analysis of the grammar and lexicon difficult, and the relatively small body of previous literature on the language gave me a minimal foundation on which to build. In the fall of 2006, I spent a semester working on Tongan as part of a class project. My classmates and I collaborated to elicit data from a native speaker and to sketch tentative patterns of grammar. The descriptive grammar that resulted from the class was preliminary and shallow, but served as a model and basis for this paper. All of the data used in this paper were elicited by me or by my classmates from our native Tongan speaker, Saane Saafi. This paper contains four sections: background information on general Tongan grammar, followed by descriptions of simple noun phrases, complex noun phrases, and extra complex noun phrases. My goal is to describe these patterns, account for the choices a native speaker must make, and propose possible structural accounts of each.
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