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PhD Defence Stuart P. Robinson on April 5
On April 5, 2011, Stuart P. Robinson of MPI's Language and Cognition department will defend his thesis 'Split Intransitivity in Rotokas, a Papuan Language of Bougainville' in the aula of the Radboud University Nijmegen at 15:30. His research provides an in-depth study of the grammar of a relatively undescribed Papuan language.
April 4, 2011
Stuart Robinson's thesis provides a grammar sketch of Rotokas, a Papuan (Non-Austronesian) language spoken on the island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, as well as a detailed examination of split intransitivity.
The dissertation focuses on a particular area of Rotokas grammar that poses challenges for grammatical theory: the nature of verbal inflection - more specifically, the existence of two mutually exclusive inflectional classes for subject agreement and tense/mood marking. Robinson investigates various aspects of the verbal morphosyntax of Rotokas and concludes that the language possesses a typologically interesting form of split intransitivity. The nature of split intransitivity in Rotokas has implications for theories of split intransitivity and how it pertains to issues in transitivity, valency, and the semantics-syntax interface more generally.
Semantic or syntactic?
Robinson's research contributes to the debate concerning the proper analysis of split intransitivity, and whether it is primarily a semantic or syntactic phenomenon. Robinson ultimately rejects both accounts. 'According to my analysis of Rotokas, this is a false dichotomy, in the sense that is not really either, since split intransitivity occurs at the intersection of syntax and semantics', writes Robinson, 'and while both are necessary elements of a complete account, neither is sufficient.'
There does not appear to be a single parameter governing verbal inflection in Rotokas, and the account provided by Robinson involves a high degree of arbitrary stipulation in the verbal lexicon. 'Although the analysis is ultimately inconclusive', he states, 'it does shed significant light on the morphosyntactic complexities of Rotokas and lays out fundamental aspects of the grammar of a relatively undescribed Papuan email@example.com