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Linguistic issues in reviving Siraya

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Title: Linguistic issues in reviving Siraya
Authors: Adelaar, Alexander
Issue Date: 03 Mar 2013
Description: Siraya is a dormant Austronesian language once spoken in the Tainan region in Southwest Taiwan. It also became a lingua franca when missionaries used it for religious, administrative and educational purposes outside its native area in the first half of the 17th century. It ceased to be spoken at the beginning of the 20th century.

However, for the last two decades there has been a growing identity awareness among descendants of the erstwhile Siraya community, who are trying to obtain official tribe status and are involved in reviving the Siraya language. Meanwhile, I worked on the analysis and description of a 17th century Siraya translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which recently culminated in a book (Author, 2011, Siraya. Retrieving the phonology, grammar and lexicon of a dormant Formosan language. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton).

I would like to discuss ways to integrate my analysis with the revival activities of the Siraya community. Some of the issues that need special attention are:

1. the endings ‐en (patient voice) and ‐an (locative voice): are there important grounds for maintaining the implied voice opposition?
2. two lexical sources which represent different Siraya dialects: should they be combined (thereby creating an unrepresentative dialect mix)? Or should lexicon from the phonologically innovative dialect be adjusted to the phonology of the conservative dialect via the application of the comparative method?
3. "anticipating sequences" (AS). Siraya complex verb phrases often consist of an adverb followed by a lexical verb; this adverb is the head of the verb phrase and usually carries TAM ‐, voice ‐ and pronominal marking. An anticipating sequence is generally a formal part (an initial consonant, syllable, or two syllables) of the lexical verb, which is prefixed to the adverbial head. Examples:

Raraman=hu ka kmi‐dung kita
Father‐your who AS‐ see
'your Father who sees in secret'

Mu‐imid=kamu kawa m‐u‐mha ki ata?
AS‐do.all=you QU actor‐motion‐understand case marker this
'Do you understand all this?'

Anticipating sequences abound in one Siraya dialect but are absent in the other. Were they an integrated part of the basic grammar of this one dialect, or were they only a stylistic device? Should they be taught in a Siraya language revival programme, or can they be ignored? These and other problems need to be addressed in the revival of Siraya.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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