Talk by Sebastian Fedden

Pronominal indexing and alignment in the Alor-Pantar languages

Referential hierarchies (associated with ‘animacy’, ‘person’, ‘indexicality’, as well as other scales) can play an important role in determining whether, or how, particular inflectional distinctions are realized (Bickel 2008). An important, and particularly challenging, question is where the role of referential hierarchies ends and that of lexical stipulation begins. The Papuan languages of the Alor and Pantar islands in eastern Indonesia, which constitute a recognizable family (Holton, Klamer, Kratochvíl, Robinson and Schapper, to appear), are a fertile ground for investigating this question. I show that while referential properties may figure largely in pronominal indexing in some of the languages, in others, especially Teiwa (Klamer 2010), lexical stipulation has a much greater role.

The Alor-Pantar languages have verb prefixes which typically index person and number of object arguments, but they exhibit a wide range of variation, with semantic conditions differing in prominence across the languages, and some degree of lexical stipulation of the verbs involved. These constraints appear to be similar to those noted for Differential Object Marking in more familiar languages (as discussed, for instance, in Bossong 1985; Aissen 2003; von Heusinger and Kaiser 2005; Bossong 2003).

An interesting related issue is that the Alor-Pantar languages are particularly rich in different alignment systems, i.e. the coding patterns of grammatical relations in the clause. There is syntactic alignment of the accusative type in Teiwa and Adang, a semantic alignment system in Abui (Donohue and Wichmann 2008), and an inverse system in Kula and Sawila. There is evidence that Proto-Alor-Pantar had a semantic alignment system similar to present-day Abui. I concentrate on the diachronic development of Teiwa, namely the innovation of syntactic alignment in Teiwa from semantic alignment found in the common ancestor language.