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Title: Topics in the grammar of Bierebo, Central Vanuatu, with a focus on the Realis/lrrealis categories
Authors: Budd, Peter Stewart
Keywords: Bierebo - Grammar
Lamenu-Baki Languages
Northeast Vanuatu-Banks Islands Languages
Eastern Malayo-Polynesian Languages
Malayo-Polynesian Languages
Austronesian Languages
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: SOAS
Abstract: Bierebo is a previously undescribed Oceanic language spoken on Epi island in central Vanuatu. This fieldwork-based study of the language is divided into two parts. The first comprises a description of areas of its grammar, and the second is concerned with the two main inflectional categories of the language's verbs, which I label 'Realis' and 'Irrealis'. This first description of Bierebo enhances current understanding of the linguistic situation of Vanuatu and, particularly, Epi languages, while a comparative survey of the realis-irrealis distinction in Part 2 reveals details of both diversity and common ground in the verb systems of several languages that belong to the North and Central Vanuatu linkages. The first chapter gives background information about Bierebo and its speakers, and thereafter the grammatical description of Part 1 broadly follows a semasiological approach: linguistic forms and structures are identified and their semantics and distribution described. The organisation is ascending, treating increasingly complex units of language from individual sounds to sentences. As in related languages, the topics of possession, verb serialisation, and spatial reference display some complexity and are thus accorded lengthier description. Part 2 examines the semantics of the Realis and Irrealis categories of Bierebo with a significant comparative perspective. A key question that is posed concerns the semantic consistency of the realis-irrealis division across a number of related languages. This question is investigated by examining the contexts of use of realis and irrealis categories in Bierebo and other languages. In Chapter 11 I discuss existing theoretical analyses of the realis-irrealis semantic division and question the validity of the widely held interpretation of the categories as modal operators. Conclusions and summaries of findings are presented in Chapter 12. A selection of interlinearised texts, from which many of the illustrative examples are taken, is included in an Appendix to the thesis.
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