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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 2006 10:14:41 -0500 From: Catherine R. Fortin Subject: Focus in Manado Malay: Grammar, particles, and intonation
Author: Ruben Bastiaan Stoel Title: Focus in Manado Malay Subtitle: Grammar, particles, and intonation Publisher: CNWS Publications Year: 2005
Catherine R. Fortin, Department of Linguistics, University of Michigan
Focus in Manado Malay, Ruben Stoel's (Leiden University) Ph.D. dissertation, represents the very first publication on the intonation of Manado Malay (MM) and is one of only a few publications available on MM generally. The phenomenon of focus-marking in MM is approached from two directions: the first half of the book contains a description of focus-marking in MM, based largely on a corpus of conversational MM that the author collected. In the second half of the book, the author discusses several experimental studies that he conducted to complement and confirm his corpus-based generalizations about MM focus-marking. The author's primary goals are to characterize the ways in which focus is marked in MM; to give a general description of MM, with special attention to discourse particles and intonation; as a secondary goal, he compares two approaches to the study of language: a descriptive (corpus-based) approach and an experimental approach.
MM (also known as Minahasa Malay) is a variety of Malay spoken in and around the city of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. MM has about 1 million native speakers, and differs phonologically, morphologically and syntactically from standard Indonesian.
The book is divided into eight chapters. The first four chapters are primarily descriptive, while the second four are experimental in nature. Extensive appendices have also been included. The first appendix contains a sampling of passages from the corpus of data the author draws upon, while the remaining appendices detail the test conditions used in each of the ten experiments described in the second half of the book.
The first brief chapter outlines the goals of the book and provides information about the corpus of data used by the author. The corpus consists of 23 dialogues, with a total duration of 144 minutes and a total size of nearly 24,000 words. There are 33 total participants in these dialogues, all university students. Recordings were digitized and transcribed by the author, and transcriptions were checked against the recordings with the assistance of native speaker informants.
Chapter Two, 'The structure of MM', contains a descriptive overview (descriptive in the sense that the overview is not couched within any particular brand of phonological, morphological or syntactic theory) of the phonology, morphology and syntax of MM, with frequent reference to the ways in which it differs from Standard Indonesian. Aspects of MM structure that the author reviews in relatively greater detail include: The distribution of MM's five productive prefixes (ba-, ta-, baku-, which form verbs; pang-, which forms nominals; and ka-, which forms ordinals from numerals) and the combinations in which these prefixes may co-occur. The two reduplication patterns observed in MM, reduplication of the base and reduplication of the prefix. The structure of each of the closed word classes in MM. The structure of MM's two types of nominalized clauses. The structure of clauses in combination, including relative clauses, complement clauses, adverbial clauses and coordinate clauses. Certain clause-level syntactic processes, including sentence adverbs, cleft sentences, topicalization, negation, questions and imperatives, and interjections.
Chapter Three, 'Discourse particles', provides a more lengthy description of the set of discourse particles (DPs) observed in MM. Following Goddard 1998, Stoel defines DPs as 'words that are morphologically invariable, and express a speaker's immediate 'here-and-now' attitudes, thoughts and desires'. DPs are an important discourse-related syntactic phenomenon in MM; according to Stoel's corpus, DPs constitute on average 11.3% of all words in spontaneous conversation. DPs are fully integrated into the syntax of utterances, yet are unable to constitute utterances on their own; furthermore, any given utterance containing a DP would be equally grammatical without the DP. MM DPs have two further defining properties: they only occur at the end of a syntactic phrase (which for the author is a somewhat disjunctive construct, namely a maximal projection or a verb phrase excluding all objects and adjuncts) and they never bear a focus- marking accent. Stoel discusses in turn each of the 20 DPs observed in MM. Some DPs are quite frequent, while others are quite rare, with frequencies ranging from 218 instances in the corpus (for dang, roughly translatable as 'that is') to just a single instance.
Chapter Four, 'Intonation', describes each of the major intonation patterns observed in MM. Stoel proposes a model of intonation for MM which utilizes two kinds of prosodic constituents, IPs and PhPs. IPs (intonational phrases) are composed of at least one PhP (phonological phrase), and are bounded by pauses. There are three types of basic patterns (declaratives, yes-no questions, and wh-questions), which may be accounted for with the same building blocks: accents (on the final syllable of the PhP, which mark the focus), and edge tones (which mark the prosodic boundaries). Following an evaluation of these basic types, Stoel concludes that MM displays five 'intonational morphemes'. Stoel also describes a handful of 'special' intonation patterns, which do not mark accent on the final syllable of the PhP and so cannot be accounted for with these building blocks: echo questions, the calling contour, exclamations, DPs, and polarity focus.
Stoel's overview of MM intonation is based mainly on read speech, although some examples were taken from the corpus of spontaneous dialogues. The discussion of intonation is limited to two domains, namely pitch (i.e. fundamental frequency) (to the exclusion of duration and loudness) and phonological intonation (to the exclusion of segmental structure and paralinguistic features). Focus is marked in at least three (not mutually exclusive) ways: pitch accent, word order, and with a DP. Although there is only limited information available on Indonesian intonation patterns, there do appear to be some differences between MM intonation and that of Indonesian: e.g. MM has word-level stress, while Indonesian does not.
Chapter Five, 'Focus and constituent order', begins the experimental half of the book. In this chapter, the author describes two experiments conducted to test the hypotheses drawn from the corpus regarding the interaction of focus and constituent order, and shows there is a relationship in MM, which on the surface appears to permit relatively free constituent order. Focus is defined as the new or unpredictable information in a sentence, as in Lambrecht 1994. Three kinds of focus are of interest: predicate focus (V focus in intransitives/VO focus in transitives); sentence focus (SV focus in intransitives); and argument focus (S or O focus). The author gathered acceptability judgments on sentences with different constituent orders and focus structures to contrast with and round out the findings of the naturalistic corpus.
In these two experiments (Experiment 1 and 2), subjects were asked to provide categorial acceptability judgments on the answers of question- answer pairs, which were then used to calculate a gradient mean of acceptability. Between the two experiments, each possible constituent order/focus combination that was attested in the corpus was tested on forty speakers. The author found that acceptability scores varied with respect to constituent order and focus (from a high of 97% for OSV word order/SV focus to a low of 38% for OSV word order/O focus), and that focus is an important factor in the relative acceptability of constituent orders (most importantly, initial O is only acceptable with non-O focus, and final S is unacceptable with S focus). To account for the unacceptability of SOV, OVS and VSO orders, Stoel hypothesizes that SV(O) is the basic constituent order in MM, and alternate orders are derived by fronting O or VO. The experimental results reveal some departures from the corpus: e.g. OSV order/S or SV focus is found to be 'fully acceptable', yet is barely attested in the corpus.
Chapter Six, 'Focus and discourse particles', builds on earlier work of the author (Stoel 2000) and discusses five further experiments which consider the ways in which certain DPs – 'focus particles' - contribute to the focus structure of a sentence. Stoel 2000 illustrated that three DPs - 'no' (roughly translatable as 'definitely'), 'sto' ('probably'), and 'to' ('I assume you agree') - predictably follow the focus of the clause; in the first of the experiments of this chapter (Experiment 3), he attempts to replicate the results of Stoel 2000 and show the same for two additional DPs, 'kata' ('it is said') and 'kwa?' ('but'). In this experiment, as in Experiments 4 and 5, subjects were given a context sentence and asked to select the correct of two target sentences, which differed only according to the placement of the DP. Experiment 3 falsifies 2/3 of Stoel's 2000 claims, in showing that 'no' alone is a true focus-marking particle, in that it must follow the focus in all types of focus structures; 'sto', 'to' and 'kata?', on the other hand, may either be placed following the focus or the first prosodic phrase, while 'kwa?' must follow the first prosodic phrase. Experiment 4 considers whether the notion 'following the first prosodic phrase' could be recast as 'second syntactic position', in which case these four DPs could be hypothesized to be second position clitics; Stoel concludes that this is not the case. Experiment 5 considers whether 'no' can occur within the predicate, or must follow the entire predicate; Stoel concludes that in only five of the ten focus/constituent order pairings considered was there a significant preference for 'no' to be in its expected position at the end of the focus domain. Experiment 6a examines the interaction of 'no' with narrow focus (i.e. focus on a single word), which differs from other types of focus in MM by not being marked by an accent (which instead falls on the last word of the syntactic phrase, as defined above). Subjects were asked to judge the acceptability of 'no' in sentence pairs where it was placed either following the narrow focus or the accent (i.e., sentence-finally). In the corpus, there are no instances of 'no' following narrow focus; this experiment likewise provided no evidence that 'no' can mark narrow focus. Experiment 6b further examines the interaction of 'no' and narrow focus, yielding results consistent of those of 6a.
Chapter Seven, 'Focus and accent placement', explores the position of accent with respect to focus in declarative sentences in MM through three experiments, two production experiments (Experiments 7a and 7b) and one perception experiment (Experiment 8). (Only the experiments in this chapter consider speech; the other experiments in the book consider MM only in its written form, although MM is not customarily written.) The accent of the sentences in the corpus was determined both auditorily (impressionistically) and visually (using Praat), and Stoel determined that accent is most commonly on the last word of the clause, because most clauses have predicate focus. Not all clauses in corpus have a final accent, indicating that MM has accent shift in case of, e.g., the final word (such as a DP) being unable to bear focus accent.
In Experiment 7a, 17 subjects (of which ten subjects' recordings proved usable) read aloud sentence pairs, with the context sentence determining the focus structure of the target sentence, five times apiece. For most of the 13 focus/constituent order pairings tested, there appears to be a strong preference for accent upon the last word of the focus domain; Stoel concludes that accent placement is largely predictable from focus structure, and that every syntactic phrase that is part of a focus domain can attract an accent. Experiment 7b considers four additional focus/constituent order pairings; from the results of the five subjects of 7b, Stoel concludes that accent must fall on the last word of a syntactic phrase. Experiment 8 tested the hypothesis that hearers use focus accent to recognize the focus domain with respect to eight focus/constituent order pairings; in each condition, subjects listened to two sentence pairs differing only in position of accent in the target sentence, and chose the correct pair. The materials were drawn from the 'best' examples of readings of each sentence pair by four native speakers of MM. Stoel concludes that subjects prefer final accent in case of final focus, but have no clear preference for final or non-final accent in case of non-final focus.
In the final chapter, Stoel reiterates his conclusions and proposes further research into information structure in MM that builds upon the preliminary conclusions proposed here. In sum, there are three ways of marking focus in MM: syntactically (constituent order and cleft sentences formed with the relativizer 'yang'), the DP 'no', and accent.
'Focus in Manado Malay' is a valuable addition to the body of literature describing Western Malayo-Polynesian languages, as well as to the body of literature seeking to characterize focus, intonation and DPs in general. The book is written in a very clear style, and is well-organized, and benefits from copious amounts of data illustrating each point. In the experimental half of the book, the author provides a large amount of statistics; these are generally easy to parse, and he admirably takes care to point out unnotable as well as notable results.
As the book is primarily descriptive in nature (with the exception of Chapter Four, where Stoel utilizes the autosegmental theory of intonation as outlined in Ladd (1996)), it is immediately accessible to researchers working within all theoretical frameworks. However, the descriptive orientation of the book is slightly disappointing, in that there are many interesting discourse-related syntactic, morphological and phonological phenomena which are intriguingly described yet receive no analytical treatment. For example, Stoel characterizes the phrase 'tu dia' (a type of determiner) as not having 'any syntactic function, [although] it reinforces the casual atmosphere among speakers'; however, the distribution of the phrase – particularly where it cannot occur – remains to be accounted for syntactically. A similar question can be raised with respect to MM's DPs. Of these. Stoel concludes, 'their frequent usage adds savor to the sentences of MM, and show that a language is more than a tool for expressing propositions' (p. 98). But what are the implications of this for a syntactic analysis of MM? How can the distribution of DPs be accounted for syntactically? Above all, the reader is left with the question of how, or whether, all of the focus-marking devices used in MM can be unified. Hopefully, this is a question that the author will address in future work on the information structure of MM.
Overall, 'Focus in Manado Malay' has much to offer to researchers of Western Malayo-Polynesian languages, and will be a particularly useful resource to those with interests in information structure and the relationship between syntax, phonology and discourse.
de Hoop, Helen & Ton van der Wouden, eds. (2000) Linguistics in the Netherlands 2000. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Goddard, Cliff (1998) Semantic analysis: a practical introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lambrecht, Knud (1994) Information structure and sentence form: topic, focus and the mental representations of discourse referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stoel, Ruben (2000) Discourse particles in Manado Malay. In de Hoop and van der Wouden (2000), 185-198.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Catherine Fortin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan. Her research interests include the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of ellipsis in Indonesian.