Valency and argumenthood in Sundanese applicative constructions

Christina L. Truong 

Paper presented at the 9th International Symposium on Languages of Java, 20 May 2023

Slides available here

This paper concerns applicative constructions in Sundanese, the principal language spoken in West Java, Indonesia. Like many other western Indonesian languages, Sundanese makes use of applicative morphemes (AM) which affect the syntactic and semantic properties of the verbal clause when they are affixed to the verb stem. In linguistic typology, applicative constructions are widely understood to be marked by overt morphology, and to “allow the coding of a thematically peripheral argument or adjunct as a core argument” (Peterson 2007:1). In Sundanese, when the verbal stem bears apparent AM affixes, a thematically peripheral semantic role is selected to map to a clausal constituent, i.e., the applied phrase. However, syntactic coding of the applied phrase varies across and within AM-marked constructions. While it may show coding associated with core arguments, i.e., an unmarked NP, sometimes it takes the form of a PP instead. Given these facts, how should we understand the function of these affixes and the status of the applied phrase in Sundanese?

Using original primary data, published literature, and corpus resources, I examine three Sundanese constructions: the goal-selecting construction marked with -an, the theme-selecting construction marked with -keun, and the beneficiary-selecting construction marked with pang–keun. Clauses marked with these three AMs show different patterns of possible syntactic coding of the applied phrase and the companion phrase, i.e., the constituent that maps to the semantic role expressed as the P argument of the base verb. Even so, examination of the semantic and inferential properties of AM-marked clauses using tests from Riesberg (2014) demonstrates that these constructions have an identifiable and consistent semantic structure, and that the applied phrase shows properties of a clausal argument, rather than an adjunct, even when coded as a PP. This shows that certain syntactic properties of ACs (e.g., relative syntactic valency, syntactic coding of arguments) often do not correlate with their stable semantic properties. Thus, careful examination of semantic properties is key to developing an adequate typology of the AM-marked verbs in western Indonesian languages and the observed range of structures found with them in usage, especially those that differ from expected forms and accepted definitions for applicatives.

Neglected functions of western Indonesian applicative morphology

Christina L. Truong & Bradley McDonnell (2022)

In Sara Pacchiarotti and Fernando Zuñiga (eds.), Applicative morphology: Neglected syntactic and non-syntactic functions (Trends in Linguistics 373), 405-436. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Many of the Austronesian languages of western Indonesia make use of applicative morphology that licenses a core argument with a peripheral semantic role, such as a location, beneficiary, goal, or instrument. However, the same morphology that forms these prototypical applicative constructions is consistently polyfunctional across the languages of western Indonesia. A number of these functions fall outside of what is often considered prototypical of applicatives, resulting in a diversity of syntactic, semantic, and even pragmatic effects. In this chapter, we describe the diversity of functions of applicative suffixes in nine western Indonesian languages that are geographically dispersed across the region and represent different subgroups, highlighting “neglected” functions that are often not discussed in the literature on applicatives. In doing so, we show that there is considerable overlap between forms, functions, and morphosyntactic properties across these languages, but despite these similarities, variation among and within applicative constructions in these languages presents a complex synchronic and diachronic picture.

The non-Malayic languages of Sumatra and the Barrier Islands

Bradley J. McDonnell & Christina L. Truong

To appear in Adelaar, Alexander and Antoinette Schapper (eds.), The Oxford Guide to the Malayo-Polynesian Languages of Southeast Asia (Oxford Guides to the World’s Languages). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher link: Forthcoming, May 2023.

In this chapter, we present a typological overview of the non-Malayic Malayo-Polynesian languages of Sumatra and the Barrier Islands (NMLS). These languages are extremely diverse. They share few typological features other than those due to their shared Austronesian inheritance, their general geographic position, and the contact they have all had with Malayic languages. Section 1 describes the consonant and vowel inventories, stress, and phonological processes. Section 2 presents an overview of common affixes and morphological processes in the languages. Section 3 covers basic syntactic properties including grammatical relations, case, agreement, word order, and noun phrase structure. Section 4 describes some aspects of tense, aspect, modality, and mood in NMLS. Section 5 summarizes the chapter and describes directions for further research including the need for more documentation and description of NMLS. The principal languages we draw on for our typological generalizations and examples include: Acehnese, Gayo, Karo Batak, Toba Batak, Simeulue, Sikule, Nias, Mentawai, Enggano Rejang, Nasal, and Lampung.

Semantic and syntactic functions of western Indonesian applicative morphology

Christina L. Truong & Bradley J. McDonnell
Presentation at SLE 2020, 26 August – 1 September 2020

The verbal affixes which form applicative constructions in western Indonesian languages are extremely polyfunctional, but this fact is not widely discussed nor well-accounted for. In this paper, we survey the functions of applicative affixes in eight western Indonesian languages. We pay close attention to the varied syntactic properties and semantic nuances of apparent applicative constructions. We demonstrate that the non-prototypical functions are both prevalent in individual languages and broadly distributed across languages of the region.
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Functions of western Indonesian “applicative” affixes

Christina L. Truong
Paper presented at Workshop on Austronesian voice and related phenomena, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 26 November 2019.

In this paper, I investigate the extent to which western Indonesian verbal suffixes involved in applicative constructions also perform non-applicative and non-valency increasing functions. I survey forms and functions of applicative morphology in a sample of western Indonesian languages of different types of voice systems, including Karo Batak, Sundanese, Pendau, Balantak, Tukang Besi.

A number of observations emerge from the study. First, the properties of a base are not sufficient to predict which which affix it will combine with, nor what the resultant meaning will be. Thus the constructions are not purely compositional. Second, the function of these affixes cannot be equated with bringing a participant from the periphery of a clause into the core in many cases. In some applicative constructions, the applied object is not a participant in the event, e.g. purpose applied objects. In other cases, no applied object with a peripheral role is present, as in many non-valency-increasing constructions. Furthermore, for many derived verbs, there is no base clause to speak of, and thus no peripheral roles can be identified. A satisfactory analysis of the so-called “applicative affixes” must take into account their non-applicative functions.
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Sundanese benefactives

Christina L. Truong
Working paper based on original data, May 2019

The Sundanese verbal system includes a substitutive benefactive construction which indicates that the agent performs the action on behalf of, and instead of, a beneficiary. This construction is formed with the prefix pang– and the causative/applicative suffix –keun. In this paper I describe the morphosyntax of this construction, including the morphological components found on the verb, the morphophonemic processes involved, and the syntactic properties of various types of clauses with substitutive benefactive meanings. Finally, I compare Sundanese substitutive benefactives with other Western Austronesian benefactive constructions and discuss their historical origin.

Based on the study, the Sundanese pang– prefix appears be derived from the agentive nominalizer *paŋ, which when used in applicatives came to have the meaning ‘to serve as an agent of an action for s.o.’ Sundanese substitutive benefactive verbs can be transitive or ditransitive, and ditransitive argument structure appears to be fully grammatical in both active and passive voice. However, Sundanese also has ditransitive instrumental and simple benefactive applicatives, but I present some evidence that these are not fully grammatical in active voice. The association between passive voice and such three-place verbal constructions might be linked to the four-way voice system of Proto-Austronesian, with earlier undergoer, instrumental, and beneficiary voice functions being subsumed into modern passive voice.
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