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This dissertation is intended to investigate intensively and extensively “topic” and “focus” constructions in a Bunun dialect, an Austronesian language spoken in the tribal areas of Nant'ou, Taiwan, Republic of China. These constructions are studied in relation to the syntactic and semantic phenomena such as the distinction between topic and subject, the overlapping relationships between underlying case relations and surface case-marking affixes and particles, anaphora, relativization, question-word sentences, complementation, verbal classification, cooccurrence of cases, and. word order so as to shed light on the interactions between syntax and semantics in Bunun in particular and, possibly, in human languages in general.
The Bunun dialect under study is called “Takbanuad”, one of the five·dialects spoken in Hsinyi Hsiang Nant'ou prefecture. The data on which this dissertation is based were collected by me during my field trips to Hsinyi Hsiang between 1968 and 1971, and again between 1974 and 1975. Of all the data, the texts of stories and interviews consist of approximately 30000 words, and the individual sentences elicited from the informants for the purpose of grammatical analysis amount to about 35000 words.
Chapter 1 gives a brief account of all the available linguistic works on Bunun to date and presents eight questions concerning topic and focus constructions in the Austronesian languages of the Philippines and Taiwan as the guidelines for reviewing the seven major approaches to the problem of topic and focus.
Chapter 2 describes the theoretical framework adopted in this dissertation. The theoretical framework is primarily based upon Fillmore’s case grammar into which the theory of generative semantics proposed by G. Lakoff McCawley and Bach, the theory of new-old information set forth by Chafe, the theory of operators and nucleus expounded by Seuren, and my modifications of some of them are interwoven. A set of phrase structure rules incorporating some of the ideas from the theories mentioned above is formulated. And following these PS rules there is a detailed discussion of them.
Chapter 3 justifies the fifteen Bunun case relations postulated in this dissertation on the grounds of case-marking particles, the focus constructions within question-word sentences, and other semantic and syntactic clues. Moreover, four figures are given to show the overlapping relationships between the case relations and the case-marking articles and affixes. Finally a set of CFEARR’s (case feature redundancy rules) is formulated to assign the possible case features to the lexical entries of nouns and case-marking particles in the lexicon.
Chapter 4 discusses the semantic, syntactic, and phonological differences of Bunun topic and subject. Focus in Bunun is considered the process of subjectivalization, which is triggered by the oldness of a certain case in a microsentence rather than subject choice hierarchy. The active-passive dichotomy is shown to be language-particular rather than language-universal: it is applicable to a language such as English which has both the unmarked and marked subjects for transitive verbs, but inapplicable to a language such as Bunun which does not have such unmarked and marked subjects for any kind of verbs. The semantic functions of topic and subject are found to be different from one language to another based upon the contrastive analysis of Bunun, English, and Chinese.
Chapter 5 proposes that Bunun “topic” and “S” (microsentence) be considered basic information units which are relevant to the organization of new and old information in a discourse and the process of focusing in topic-comment constructions, relativization, question-word sentences with focus constructions, and complementation among others.
Chapter 6 classifies some five hundred Bunun verbs into three major classes according to their transformational properties of inchoativization, causativization, and nominalization. These three classes of verbs are further broken down into subclasses according to the underlying case frames assigned to the lexical entries of verbs in the lexicon. The underlying case frame of a verb which does not belong to class I may be expanded to include the optional cases by a set of CEFR’s (case frame redundancy rules).
Chapter 7 suggests that the word order of a Bunun surface macrosentence or microsentence is generally identical with that of its underlying representation: topic comes before comment in a macrosentence; predicate precedes one or more unordered cases in a microsentence. The subject of microsentence, being a surface phenomen, may be in different positions after the predicate.
Chapter 8 enumerates the contributions of this dissertations: fifteen to the study of Bunun and ten to linguistic theory.
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