Revisiting a translation effect in an oral language

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This paper examines previous claims that subject-initial word order in the oral Salish languages is induced via translation from English. The analysis concentrates on new fieldwork data from Nłeʔkepmxcin. By taking prosody as its starting point, this study offers a new look at this issue, and uniquely combines detailed phonetic with syntactic, pragmatic and historical-comparative analysis. Subject-initial forms are, at first glance, at odds with the basic verb-initial structure underlying all 23 Salish languages. However, examination of the deeper prosodic and syntactic properties of subject-initial forms in Salish suggests that they are in fact native forms induced by pragmatic context and not translation effects. The study therefore cautions against reliance on (written) surface word order in translation studies.


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