Searching for Structure

The problem of complementation in colloquial Indonesian conversation

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This book argues against the existence of complementation in colloquial Indonesian, and discusses the ramifications of these findings for a discourse-functional understanding of grammatical categories and linguistic structure. Based on a close analysis of a corpus of spontaneous conversational Indonesian data, the author examines four construction types which express what is often encoded by complements in other languages: juxtaposed clauses, material introduced by the discourse marker <i>bahwa</i>, serial verbs, and epistemic expressions with the suffix <i>-nya</i>. These four construction types offer no evidence to support complementation as a viable grammatical category in colloquial spoken Indonesian. Rather, they are best understood as emergent, discourse-level phenomena, arising from the interactive and communicative goals of language users. The lack of evidence for complementation in colloquial Indonesian reaffirms the need to understand linguistic structure as language-particular and diverse, and emphasizes the centrality of studying linguistic categories based on their actual occurrence in natural discourse.

Subjects: Austronesian languages; Discourse studies; Syntax

  • Affiliations: 1: Rice University

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