Austronesian Circle: Dr. Jim Ellis (11/14)

Speaker: Dr. Jim Ellis
Title: Community Level Top-down Grammar
Date & Time: 11/14 (Tues.), 3:00-4:00PM
Location: TBA

Abstract: Most grammars, including pedagogical grammars are well out of reach for most community-level Pacific Islanders. Part of the reason is that grammars typically start right out with subject matter that is the most abstract and furthest removed from daily island life (phonemes, parts of speech, etc.). And often the level of grammar that is nearest and most meaningful to islanders is left out all together: the level of discourse.

The Saipan Carolinian grammar (an Oceanic/Chuukic language) is therefore a “top-down” grammar. It begins with a culturally-relevant narrative and moves directly to the level of speech that speakers are most conscious of, the discourse level. It moves from there to the level of the sentence, then the clause, then the phrase, and ultimately leads to what will now become culturally-relevant morpheme and phoneme levels, always moving from the already integrated to the new that needs to be integrated, and always making correlations between known relationships in everyday life and the particular linguistic feature to be learned. Additionally, the Saipan Carolinian grammar takes all examples from the narrative and also introduces island-based terms to replace abstract linguistic terms.