On the origins of serial verb constructions in Kalam

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In Kalam, a Trans New Guinea language spoken in Papua New Guinea, there are two main types of serial verb construction (SVC), showing different degrees of morphosyntactic complexity. <i>Compact SVCs</i> contain from two to four verb roots that form a single, semantically and syntactically very tight-knit verb phrase. <i>Narrative SVCs</i> depict a sequence of events that make up a familiar episode. They contain from two to five small verb phrases, compressed into a single clause&#8211;lik e construction. The paper will discuss the functions and origins of these two constructions and reflect on the paradox that while condensing multi-clause constructions into a single clause may simplify the task of speech planning it has creates a clause type of exceptional complexity.


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