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Ridge, Eleanor Claire (2019) Variation in Vatlongos Verbal Morphosyntax : speaker communities in Southeast Ambrym and Mele Maat. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines morphosyntactic variation in an unusual sociolinguistic context in Vanuatu. Vatlongos (Oceanic, Austronesian) is spoken by communities in the southeast of Ambrym island, and by a peri-urban community near the capital city, who relocated after a volcanic explosion in the early 1950s. Within Southeast Ambrym, the thesis further distinguishes Endu from other Vatlongos-speaking villages on the basis of observed dialectal, sociolinguistic and language-contact differences, especially contact with communities and languages of Northern Ambrym. The sociolinguistic setting of Vatlongos is explored via a survey of speakers from all three communities, looking at implications for language contact, language attitudes and the vitality of Vatlongos. The verbal morphosyntax of Vatlongos is described through qualitative and quantitative analysis of a >65,000-word corpus of spontaneous and elicited texts recorded during fieldwork, paying careful attention to variation within and between speaker communities. It first outlines the syntax of simple clauses, the tense, aspect and mood categories of the language and the verbal morphology, before moving onto a description of complex verbal constructions: serial verb constructions, complex predicates, subordination and auxiliary verb constructions. Finally, the thesis examines the frequency of occurrence of these verbal constructions in spontaneous texts across the speaker communities, using chi-square tests and negative-binomial regression modelling to investigate the effects of community and other speaker-level and text-level factors: age, gender, years of education and genre. There are community level differences in the token frequency of auxiliary and serial verb constructions: lower frequency of use of these two constructions is associated with higher level of education in the Anglophone education system. Both the formal variation and the community level frequency differences are consistent with effects of language shift in Mele Maat, under heavy exposure to Bislama and English.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Peter Austin
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2020 08:46

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