Word Order in Toposa: An Aspect of Multiple Feature-Checking

Schröder, Helga

This book demonstrates a feature-checking approach to sentence structure and language typology within the framework of Chomsky’s Minimalist Program. The study is both data oriented and theoretical. The analysis is based on data from Toposa, an under-documented Eastern Nilotic language spoken in Southern Sudan. Toposa is highly inflectional and derivational with a basic VSO word order.

This work suggests that sentence structure is determined by multiple feature-checking processes, driven by the interaction of morphology, syntax, and discourse features such as antecedent relationships and focus. In Toposa, these interrelationships explain the occurrence or absence of the grammatical subject, direct object, and applied objects and result in an ergative VS/VO word order in discourse, where the preferred structure is to have only one argument after the verb. The complex relationships between morphology, syntax, and discourse are demonstrated through the passive, the reflexive, the subject prefixes in the verb, the causative, and the applicative.

This book will be a valuable resource for intermediate and advanced level students of syntactic theory. It should also be helpful in the further study of VSO languages and research on discourse within the framework of the Minimalist Program.

About the Author

Helga Schröder received her Ph.D in Linguistics in 2002 from the University of Nairobi where she is currently a lecturer. She and her husband, Martin Schröder, did extensive field research on Toposa from 1982 until 2001.

Table of Contents:


1. Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Basic Language Features
1.3 Statement of the Problem
1.4 Objectives
1.5 Hypotheses
1.6 Rationale
1.7 Scope and Limitation
1.8 Literature Review
1.9 Research
1.10 Significance of the Study

2. Theoretical Framework
2.1 The Minimalist Program
2.2 The Nominative-Accusative and Ergative-Absolutive Parameter
2.3 The Pro-Drop Parameter
2.4 Discourse Configurationality: Topic and Focus
2.5 Basic Constituent Order
2.6 The Notion of Subject
2.7 Summary and Outlook

3. Morphosyntactic Representations
3.1 The Basic Sentence Structure
3.2 The Nominative-Accusative Case-Marking System
3.3 Morphological Ergativity
3.4 Argument-Changing Processes
3.5 Applied and Direct Object
3.6 Summary

4. Complex Verb Morphology and Word Order
4.1 Co-occurrence of Argument-Increasing Devices
4.2 Co-occurrence of Argument-Increasing and Argument-Decreasing Devices
4.3 Alternatives to the Double Object Construction
4.4 Summary

5. Complex Verb Morphology in Discourse
5.1 Principle of Reference
5.2 The Principle of Focus
5.3 Contrastive Focus
5.4 Defocalised Information
5.5 Inherent Focus
5.6 Summary

6. The VS/VO Ergative Word Order
6.1 The Principle of Reference in Complex Sentences
6.2 Ergative Tendencies in Complex Sentences
6.3 Argument-Reducing Processes
6.4 Syntactic Ergatives
6.5 Summary
6.6 Conclusion

Appendix A: From Lexicon to Interface

Appendix B: Nyepido


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xiv, 197 pages
Word order
ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
6 × 9 × 0.45 in
0.8 lb
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