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|Title:||Static spatial expression in Ske: an Oceanic language of Vanuatu|
Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian Languages
|Abstract:||The focus of the thesis is the expression of static spatial events in Ske, a previously undescribed Oceanic language spoken by a few hundred people on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. Static spatial events can be split in to two types: non-angular reference, used to express topological relations such as ‘in’, ‘on’ or ‘near’; and angular reference, which see the speakers using a viewpoint with which to locate an entity. The second type involves the use of one of a range of FoRs or Frames of Reference (Levinson 1996, 2003; Levinson & Wilkins 2006). This study investigates how Ske speakers express both types of static spatial event. Locative predicates are obligatory components of non-angular reference in Ske. In this study, we analyse the seven Ske locative predicates within the frameworks proposed by Ameka & Levinson (2007) and Newman (2002). Cross-linguistic studies show that the semantics of locative predicates are typically analysed as coding the axial properties or actual geometric orientation of the Figure whose location they are describing; in Ske, however, locative predicates code support relations between Figure and Ground. Traditionally deixis has been omitted from FoR typology and was categorised as being a type of non-angular reference (Levinson & Wilkins 2006). This study finds that deictic reference has projective functions and this warrants its inclusion into the typology as a fourth FoR, the direct FoR, in support of Danziger (2010). Furthermore, the direct and other FoRs are able to combine in Ske in what we term ‘composite FoRs’. When two FoRs combine, the function of the already well-formed expression may alter from one which locates an entity to one which orients an entity. Also, the rotation sensitivity of a composite FoR is in line with the sensitivities of its components. The study concludes that is it the composite FoRs, rather than the absolute FoR, which carries out the functions of the unavailable relative FoR in Ske. We also investigate the geocentric referencing system in Ske and analyse how Ske speakers describe directions and locations around their villages, their island and beyond. We find that the finer-grained FoR typology (Bohnemeyer & Levinson 2011) is relevant here and applied to Ske data was able to tease apart two types of reference which are typically classed as absolute FoRs. Within this revised typology Ske speakers are found to use an absolute FoR and a geomorphic FoR in locational and directional expressions, the geomorphic FoR having pragmatic functions and necessitating a shared knowledge of space. Different scales of space are also shown to impact the way Ske speakers express geocentric spatial references. Other issues raised in the study include the need for naturally observed data to be collected in order to capture the range and subtleties of how speakers talk about space and how cultural change is affecting the way Ske speakers express and conceptualise the space around them and the entities that occupy it.|
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