Serial verbs constructions in Tariana

Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2006) Serial verbs constructions in Tariana. In: Aikhenvald, A.Y., and Dixon, R.M.W., (eds.) Serial Verb Constructions: a cross-linguistic typology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 178-201.

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Tariana has highly productive contiguous multi-word serial verbs, and limited single-word serial verbs. The two types of serial verbs in Tariana are independent grammatical processes each with a grammaticalization path of their own and are used to convey different types of meanings. Both are easily distinguished from multi-clausal structures and non-serializing verb sequences.

Multi-word serial verbs divide into asymetrical and symmetrical subtypes. Asymmetrical serial verbs cover direction and orientation, aspect, aktionsart and change of state, modality, valency increase, and superlative; there are also event-argument serial verbs. These conform to the order of likelihood in which different semantic types of serial verb constructions occur in the world's languages (§6 of Chapter 1). Of all the established types, Tariana does not have valency-decreasing serial verbs, which are indeed the rarest cross-linguistically. Symmetrical serial verbs are of simultaneous- sequential and cause- effect types.

Concordant marking within multi-word serial verbs is restricted to just person (this agrees with predictions in §4.5 of Chapter 1). Restrictions on serializability of verbs operate in terms of verb classes: a serial verb cannot consist of two prefixless verbs of So type. Prefixless verbs are less likely to occur in the major verb slot of asymmetrical serial verbs than prefixed.

The two co-existing types of serial verbs in Tariana conform to the two tendencies formulated in §7 of Chapter 1. In agreement with the first tendency, all serial verbs are contiguous. Verbs in encliticized single-word serial verbs developed into grammatical morphemes- in agreement with the second tendency. And, following the third tendency, single-word serialization in Tariana is limited, while multi-word serialization is productive.

Since Tariana is an endangered language, the question of how verb serialization is affected by language obsolescence naturally arises. Signs of language attrition among younger speakers include the usual suspects- phonological variability, morphological levelling, and also difficulties in remembering infrequently used words and expressions (see Aikhenvald 2002a). Younger people have difficulties in remembering highly idiomatic symmetrical serial verbs. They may occasionally break the rule of contiguity, and insert a constituent in between the components: one may hear nu-a nana nhulitu (1sg-intend 1sg+fish) instead of nana nu-a nhulitu ( 1sg-intend 1sg+fish) 'I am going to fish for madi fish'. Such constructions are rejected by traditional speakers (and in fact, are considered a shameful slip-of-the tongue by those who produce them). Being able to put together lengthy serial verb constructions- as in (12)- is a mark of highly valued oratorial skill. The less proficient the speaker, the shorter the serial verb constructions they produce.

Item ID: 9313
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-19-927915-9
Date Deposited: 06 May 2010 04:01
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200407 Lexicography @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture @ 100%
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