Impersonal constructions in some Oceanic languages

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Kanak and the Polynesian languages exhibit a wide range of impersonal constructions which may involve: (i) the lack or frequent omission of arguments; (ii) optional impersonal construction of monovalent verbs or intransitive construction of bivalent verbs, associated with different meanings; (iii) differential agent marking such as oblique adjuncts or agents/experiencers expressed as a possessor; (iv) the use of impersonal pronouns or non-referential ‘dummy’ pronouns. These constructions are considered to be impersonal from two perspectives: (a) as constraints (impersonal verbs, dummy pronouns) and options (labile verbs) offered by a language system, and (b) as discourse strategies offered to the speaker of a language to make the agent impersonal (through its omission, by making it peripheral as an oblique adjunct or a possessor). Keywords: Oceanic languages; labile verbs; argument omission; differential agent marking; impersonal pronouns


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