A grammar of Eibela: a language of the Western Province, Papua New Guinea

Aiton, Grant William (2016) A grammar of Eibela: a language of the Western Province, Papua New Guinea. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

This thesis is a reference grammar of the Eibela language, also referred to as Aimele (Ethnologue code: AIL). Eibela has approximately 300 speakers living primarily in Lake Campbell, Western Province, Papua New Guinea. The majority of the data for this thesis was gathered in Lake Campbell, with some addition research taking place in Wawoi Falls, Western Province. In Lake Campbell, Eibela is the dominant language of the community, and is the language of dayto-day life. English and Tok Pisin are becoming more prominent as languages of commerce, and are preferred for written communication. Most members of the Lake Campbell community are also adept at speaking the languages of the surrounding communities.

The primary goal of this linguistic work is to describe the salient aspects of Eibela grammar, and to contribute to ongoing research in the Mount Bosavi region. This reference grammar describes the phonology, morphology, syntax, and discourse structure of Eibela, as well as providing example texts in the appendix. This grammar is also meant to facilitate the production of additional materials both for the linguistics community and for the Eibela community. In the course of describing the language, many stories and narrations have been recorded, transcribed, and annotated. From these texts, a digital corpus of Eibela has been compiled, which consists of a digitized collection of recordings as well as the accompanying transcriptions and metadata. This corpus is available in Aiton (2016).

The primary method of data collection was the collection and transcription of spoken narratives. This language data was then analyzed with the help of on-site consultants who are native Eibela speakers. Once my own understanding of the language was sufficiently advanced, I was able to observe speakers in order to analyze how the language in used in day-to-day activities, and therefore benefit from participant observation to develop an accurate representation of how the language is used. The narratives recorded were collected from a wide variety of genres such as traditional stories, explanations of common activities, and personal histories. This was to ensure that different styles of speech are represented in the description of the language.

The canonical constituent order in Eibela is SV in intransitive clauses and AOV in transitive clauses, where S is the subject of an intransitive clause, A is the subject of a transitive clause, and O is the direct object of a clause. Other constituent orders are possible, and are largely conditioned by information structure. Constituents that are prominent or topical are often omitted from clauses completely. Morphology is exclusively suffixing, with complex verbal morphology for tense, aspect, mood, and evidentiality, and optional ergative-absolutive case-marking on noun phrases in core argument positions. Word classes include open classes of nouns, verbs, and adverbs, and several closed classes including adjectives, demonstratives, postpositions, verbal particles, quantifiers, and others.

Intransitive predicates in Eibela can be formed by lexical roots of nearly any word class, although only verbs may be inflected by the full range of tense, aspect, mood, and evidentiality suffixes. Complex inflectional classes of verbs result in various patterns of stem alternations and suppletive tense forms, as well as complex predicates consisting of multiple verbal roots forming a single predicate. These complex predicates may take the form of serial verb constructions, auxiliary constructions, or converbal constructions. In these constructions, only the final verbal root is inflected for predicate categories such as tense, aspect, mood, and evidentiality.

Eibela clauses may be linked together into clause chains, which include several medial clauses culminating in a fully inflected final clause. In medial clauses, the different-subjectmarking suffix {-biː} may be used to show that the subject of the medial clause differs from the subject of the main clause, or that the subject of a main clause differs from the topic of the discourse episode. Clauses and noun phrases may additionally be morphologically topicalized, in which case, different-subject-marking functions in much the same way, with the verb in the topic clause being suffixed by {-biː} if its subject differs from that of the main clause predicate.

Other interesting features of Eibela include topicalization, evidentials, complex verbal suppletion, and semi-suppletive case forms for nouns and demonstratives. Topics may be formed morphosyntactically from arguments or clauses. Evidentials are a semantically defined class of constructions which includes three different morphosyntactic categories, and covers four different evidential categories corresponding to a C3 type system as described by Aikhenvald (2006a). Verb stems may have several variant forms, which in some cases is completely suppletive, and verbal tense, aspect, and modality has many instances of structural overlap. Nouns may also inflect irregularly based on noun class distinctions and case is also irregularly expressed on demonstratives.

Item ID: 49404
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aimele, Eibela, grammar, Lake Campbell, lexicography, Papua New Guinea, Papuan grammar, Papuan languages, Western Province
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Aiton, Grant (2015) Repetition and anaphora as a cohesive device in Eibela discourse. Language & Linguistics in Melanesia, 33 (2). pp. 35-44.

Aiton, Grant (2014) Grammatical relations and information structure in Eibela: a typological perspective. Language and Linguistics in Melanesia, 32 (2). pp. 1-25.

Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2017 02:01
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2003 Language Studies > 200320 Pacific Languages @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200407 Lexicography @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 50%
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