Abstract: This paper presents the actor emphatic construction (AE) in Tahitian and offers an initial investigation of its basic syntactic structure. The AE is a construction found across the Eastern Polynesian languages; it is typically used to focus the agent (subject) of a transitive verb. In Tahitian, the AE appears in three different variants. In all of them, the focused agent occurs clause-initially in a prepositional phrase headed by nā . The three variants differ in their realization of the theme. In the first two, the theme, with or without the accusative case marker, appears after the transitive verb, which follows the agent phrase. In a third variant, the theme is preverbal, immediately following the focused agent. Our investigation shows the following: (1) the Tahitian AE is a biclausal structure; (2) the initial nā -phrase serves as the matrix predicate and the focused agent is part of that predicate; (3) the verb following it is part of a dependent clause; and (4) the theme is a direct object when it is postverbal, but it is the matrix subject when it is preverbal. We offer some preliminary considerations concerning the interpretation of the AE in Tahitian and its fine syntactic structure and compare our analysis to analyses of the better-studied Māori AE.
Oceanic Linguistics – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jun 30, 2012
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