LW 12: A Conceptual Analysis of Tongan Spatial Nouns

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LW 12: A Conceptual Analysis of Tongan Spatial Nouns

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A Conceptual Analysis of Tongan Spatial Nouns

From Grammar to Mind Giovanni Bennardo
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In Churchward (1953) a set of Tongan nouns are labeled 'local', that is "construed as if it were the proper name of a place" (p. 88). Some of these nouns reappear under another label, that is, 'preposed' nouns (p. 214-16) and they are defined as nouns that can be "placed immediately before another noun instead of being connected with it by means of a preposition" (p.214). This peculiarity was exploited by Broschart (1993) to argue for a subset of these nouns to be considered as classifiers. In this work the author tries to clarify the border of this fuzzy subset of Tongan nouns differently addressed by Churchward and Broschard.

The analysis of this newly defined subset of Tongan nouns, 'spatial' nouns, is conceptual, that is, based on a set of primitive (and possibly universal) spatial concepts suggested by Lehman & Bennardo (1992) and Bennardo (1993, 1996). The conceptual apparatus is the result of extensive analyses conducted on both English and Tongan spatial prepositions. Further analyses regarded representations of spatial relationships in other languages like Burmese, Thai and Italian.

Following Lucy's suggestion, grammatical features of the Tongan language represent the path along which the conceptual analysis moves. In fact, five structural contexts in which the 'spatial' nouns appear represent the starting point of the analysis. The analysis will weave through the grammatical and conceptual levels and will end up in sorting the nouns into three separate groups according to a combination of their conceptual content and grammatical possibilities. Finally, the results of this analysis call for an interesting modification of the conceptual apparatus.

ISBN 9783895869174. Languages of the World 12. 56pp. 2000.

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