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Clause Order and Information Structure in Cheke Holo

From: Oceanic Linguistics
Volume 48, Number 1, June 2009
pp. 213-249 | 10.1353/ol.0.0038



Cheke Holo (Northwest Solomonic, Solomon Islands) displays considerable clause order variation, with SVO, OVS, VSO, and VOS all attested. In addition, arguments are frequently not overtly expressed, while some arguments may be marked with the preposed particle si. This paper investigates these issues in terms of information structure by examining each in its discourse context. It concludes that the pragmatically neutral order in Cheke Holo is VSO; that a single preverbal topic position exists, accounting for SVO and OVS; and that focused arguments are located in clause-final position, accounting for VOS. It finds that continued topics are always expressed by topic-drop (that is, elision), and that preverbal position is reserved for contrastive topics and switch topics, although in certain specific contexts, switch topics may instead be dropped. The paper concludes that preposed si is confined to main clauses and is a focus marker for arguments and adjuncts in clause-final position, but that another particle si, with a variant sini, occurs following, not preceding, a sentence-initial focused constituent that can range in size from an argument to an entire clause. On the basis of the analysis presented, Cheke Holo demonstrates that focused arguments need not be new information, as often assumed, but merely need to be unpredictable in the discourse context, allowing for discourse-given or context-given arguments in contrastive focus.

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