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Book Chapter

Topic management and clause combination in the Papuan language Usan


Reesink,  Ger
Evolutionary Processes in Language and Culture, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Radboud University;

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Reesink, G. (2014). Topic management and clause combination in the Papuan language Usan. In R. Van Gijn, J. Hammond, D. Matic, S. van Putten, & A.-V. Galucio (Eds.), Information Structure and Reference Tracking in Complex Sentences. (pp. 231-262). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0015-8D05-2
This chapter describes topic management in the Papuan language Usan. The notion of ‘topic’ is defined by its pre-theoretical meaning ‘what someone’s speech is about’. This notion cannot be restricted to simple clausal or sentential constructions, but requires the wider context of long stretches of natural text. The tracking of a topic is examined in its relationship to clause combining mechanisms. Coordinating clause chaining with its switch reference mechanism is contrasted with subordinating strategies called ‘domain-creating’ constructions. These different strategies are identified by language-specific signals, such as intonation and morphosyntactic cues like nominalizations and scope of negation and other modalities.