Word Order Variation in Karitiâna

Date Created:
Associação Internacional de Lingüística SIL Brasil
Publisher Place:
Anápolis - GO
15 pages
ABSTRACT In Karitiâna, departures from the basic SVO word order are explained in pragmatic terms. Discourse theme and sentence focus and topicalisation are posited as pragmatic factors influencing the choice of word order in text. The passive-like nature of one object-fronting mechanism is also discussed
INTRODUCTION: David Landin in his M.A. Thesis (D. Landin 1980) argued that the basic word order for Karitiâna clauses is S.V.O. On examining a corpus of text material, however, we find that this word order occurs very infrequently, and that sentences of the order OVS, VSO, etc., are also found. Is his thesis, therefore, invalid or are there other explanations to account for departures from the S.V.O. word order? The purpose of this paper is to examine the word order variations in Karitiâna texts to see if they can be explained in pragmatic, discourse-related terms, that is by recourse to mechanisms of staging (Grimes 1975), where choices are semantic rather than grammatical. The study willbe limited to clauses in text material which have noun phrases. Clauses with pronoun subjects and/or objects are far more limited in their word order possibilities and so have been excluded, as have dependent clauses with their typical OSV word order. Conclusion. Variations in the word order in Karitiâna discourse can be explained in terms of prominence at two levels that of the discourse theme and sentence focus. I need to posit these two kinds of prominence because different criteria are working at different places in the discourse to govern the word order, and these must be distinguished. Departures from the basic SVO word order can thus be explained as syntactic mechanisms used for the pragmatic purpose of highlighting certain items of information considered important by the speaker for various discourse-related reasons, and, in contrast, removing from the highlight other items considered less important. Two kinds of object-fronting mechanisms are present in the data, and they are used in the text for differing pragmatic effects.
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Word order
sentence focus
discourse theme
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