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Seminar: Parallel variation in two speech communities: a comparison of final /n/ elision in Idi and Ende, 23 July

Australian National University

Date: 19 July 2018

Seminar: Parallel variation in two speech communities: a comparison of final /n/ elision in Idi and Ende

Speakers: Dineke Schokkin & Kate Lindsey

When: 23 July 2018, 3.30pm-5pm

Where: Talanoa Room, Level 2 HC Coombs Building, ANU


This talk will compare two languages of the Pahoturi River family of Southern New Guinea, spoken in more or less adjacent territories, with regard to variable realisation of word-final /n/. Dineke Schokkin will present data from Idi, focusing on verbs. The corpus consists of over 3000 inflected verbs from 39 speakers of both sexes and all ages, which were gathered by means of semi-structured interviews by local assistants. Syntactic and phonological factors are highly significant, with n-elision much more likely in the present tense as opposed to the past or future tenses, and more likely before a consonant in the next word, or at the end of the intonation unit. Age comes out as a significant social factor, but in an interesting way: it is speakers in the oldest age group of over 60 who are eliding /n/ more frequently.

Kate Lindsey will be presenting a matched corpus of related Ende. Lindsey’s corpus consists of 73 biographical interviews of a balanced sample of sex and age. Lindsey will give a tour of the various sociolinguistic, syntactic, and phonological factors that correlate with the realization of word-final /n/ in the copula da(n), the most frequent token in the corpus. Coding of the first 1000 tokens suggests a syntactic correlation (n-dropping is more frequent in possessive constructions than with nominal arguments), a phonological correlation (n-dropping is more frequent before consonant-initial words and intonation-finally), and a social correlation (n-dropping is more frequent among the youngest and oldest age groups).

The syntactic and phonological patterns support an analysis in which an underlying /n/ is dropped. However, for some categories the frequency of n-realisation is much lower than for verbs across the board: in the Idi present tense and Ende copula this is only 40% and 31%, respectively, compared to 88% for the entire corpus of Idi verbs. These figures, in addition to the presence of a third Ende copula variant danän among young women, make an analysis in which word-final /n/ is instead added impossible to ignore, at least for some categories.

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