Referent management in Olo: a cognitive perspective

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Statement of Responsibility:
Staley, William E
Series Issue:
SIL International
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Part Of Series:
SIL e-Books 05
xiii, 154 pages

This book investigates the phenomena that influence the choice of referential form in Olo narratives. Olo is a language of Papua New Guinea. The investigation is a text-based, quantitative examination which compares the adequacy of different models of referential management. This work uses insights from cognitive studies involving the mental activation of referents in discourse to develop a model of referential management called Goal Oriented Activation. It departs from previous work by claiming the choice of referential form is not based solely on the current activation level of a referent, but also on the activation level that the speaker wants to achieve in the hearer at the end of the sentence. Further, the choice of form is also dependent on the overall goals of the speaker, who will choose forms not only based on the activation level of the particular referent, but also based on the desired activation levels of the other participants. In this way the speaker will attempt to keep the important referents more activated than the other participants in the story.

The main competing models are current state models. They hold that referential form is based only on what has happened previously in the narrative. The current state models that were considered in this book are: recency, episodes, and memorial activation. All of the competing models were found inadequate to account for the data found in the Olo texts. All of the tests conducted supported the Goal Oriented Activation model. A crucial piece of data in comparing these models is the introduction of new third-person referents by minimal forms. The participants in question are fully referential, even though they are introduced by a pronominal affix on the verb. This evidence falsifies the recency, episodes, and memorial activation models but is in complete harmony with Goal Oriented Activation.

Also included in this book is information on the Olo language. This language is non-Austronesian and unrelated to highland clause-chaining languages. The information presented here, while not a complete reference grammar, provides material for those interested in both Papua New Guinea and comparative typology.

Publication Status:
Papua New Guinea
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Work Type:
Cognitive studies
memborial activation
Goal Oriented Activation
comparative typology
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