Phonology and Morphology of Mori

Statement of Responsibility:
Esser, Samuel J.; David Mead, translator
Series Issue:
SIL International
Publisher Place:
Dallas, Texas
Part Of Series:
SIL e-Books 27
xx, 508 pages

The Mori language is spoken in eastern central Sulawesi, Indonesia. This book is a translation of Samuel J. Esser’s Klank- en Vormleer van het Morisch, a Dutch grammar published in two parts (1927 and 1933). Apart from changes in terminology which have overtaken the field of linguistics in the intervening years (e.g., the terms ‘ergative’ and ‘applicative’ were unknown to Esser), his description has aged well, such that even today it must be regarded as the principal description of this language, indeed in a number of areas it remains our sole source of information concerning the lesser known dialects. Having conducted his own research on Mori, the translator has found Esser to be practically faultless in both his transcriptions and his presentations, copiously illustrated, of the basic structure of the Mori language.

In keeping with grammars of his day, Esser’s emphasis was on phonology, morphology, and parts of speech, with syntax treated only incidentally. Thus, following a sizable chapter on phonology (which also touches on historical sound change), there are separate chapters devoted to reduplication, compounding (both noun and verb compounds), pronouns, basic verbal morphology, deverbal nouns (gerunds), the expression of tense and mood, nouns, adjectives, miscellaneous particles, and numerals (both basic and derived). The final and longest chapter concerns affixation, in which each affix or affix combination is treated in turn.

In the process of translating Esser's grammar of Mori, Mead has made several 'updates' with the aim of making it more accessible to a modern-day audience. The most significant of these updates was to interlinearize a significant portion of Esser’s examples. That is to say, Mead has supplied morpheme breaks and morpheme-by-morpheme glossing where Esser presented only Mori sentences with Dutch free translation.

Sadly, Esser’s sizable text collection and draft dictionary of Mori were lost during the ravages of war. Esser himself died in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, leaving this grammar to stand alone as the principal contribution to our knowledge of Mori by this exceedingly capable and keen-minded linguist.

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verbal nouns
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