The grammar of nouns and verbs in Whitesands, an
oceanic language of Southern Vanuatu
The grammar of nouns and verbs in Whitesands, an oceanic language of Southern Vanuatu. Master Thesis, University of Sydney, Sydney.
Whitesands is an under-described language of southern Vanuatu, and this thesis presents Whitesands-specific data based on primary in-situ field research. The thesis addresses the distinction of noun and verb word classes in the language. It claims that current linguistic syntax theory cannot account for the argument structure of canonical object-denoting roots. It is shown that there are distinct lexical noun and verb classes in Whitesands but this is only a weak dichotomy. Stronger is the NP and VP distinction, and this is achieved by employing a new theoretical approach that proposes functional categories and their selection of complements as crucial tests of distinction. This approach contrasts with previous analyses of parts of speech in Oceanic languages and cross-linguistically. It ultimately explains many of the syntactic phenomena seen in the language family, including the above argument assignment dilemma, the alienable possession of nouns with classifiers and also the nominalisation processes.