Towards a typology of tail-head linkage in Papuan languages

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In this article a typological overview of tail-head linkage (THL) in Papuan languages is presented. There are two types of THL, chained THL and thematized THL. The chained type is the default type and its morphosyntactic form follows from the basic clause linkage type in a given Papuan language, for example when switch reference constructions are the basic type of clause linkage, then the default type of THL takes the form of switch reference constructions. Chained THL carries referential coherence mechanisms (e.g. gender agreements, switch reference) and event sequencing mechanisms (e.g. sequence-simultaneity morphology) across chain boundaries. The second, marked, type of THL is with nominalized clauses that discontinue the event and participant lines. The head clause in this type of THL is a thematic NP that is syntactically separate from the chain and this reflects thematic discontinuity: the thematic head clause is off-sequence. In languages like Wambon and Usan the two types of THL select different verb types: medial verbs that express switch reference (same versus different subject) and/or sequence-simultaneity distinctions occur in the chained type and independent verbs that cannot express these distinctions occur in the second, thematic type. THL has four functions, referential coherence, processing ease, thematic continuity (chained type) and thematic discontinuity (thematized type). The phonological form of THL (slowly pronounced, rising intonation, pause phenomena) reflects its processing function to give speakers and addressees a break between two chains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-394
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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