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Reviewed by:
  • A Grammar of the Hoava Language, Western Solomons
  • Ulrike Mosel
Karen Davis . 2003. A Grammar of the Hoava Language, Western Solomons. No. 535. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, xii + 332 pp. ISBN 0-85883-502-9. Aus$69.00. Paper.

Hoava is an Oceanic language spoken by about 2,360 people (1986) on the island of New Georgia in the Solomons. Genetically Hoava belongs to the New Georgia/ Ysabel subgroup of the New Ireland/North-West Solomonic chain.

Davis's reference grammar is an important book for both Oceanic linguistics and linguistic typology, not only because it describes an endangered language of a poorly researched area, but also because this language bears some remarkable morphosyntactic features that may contribute to our understanding of the typology and evolution of Oceanic morphosyntax as well as the typological research of valency, grammatical relations, and nominalization.

Before I review the structure and content of D's grammar, I want to briefly summarize her description of the applicative construction, because this is in my view the most interesting part of the grammar. Her analysis also demonstrates how important it is that grammars that have been written as PhD theses be published, even if, as in this case, the thesis was written about ten years before publication and could not have been revised to consider more recent literature.

D distinguishes between stative and active verbs, and divides each of these into three subclasses. Stative verbs are subclassified on the basis of whether their valence can be increased by causativization only (type I) or, in addition to causativization, by the transitive suffix (type II) or the applicative suffix (type III). When type III verbs, which denote emotional and physical states of animate beings, are transitivized by the applicative suffix, the applicative object expresses the reason (e.g., 'I'm blind APPLICATIVE (from) the dust.' 'I'm happy APPLICATIVE (about) the new canoe', 113-15, 204 f).

In a similar fashion, the three classes of active verbs are distinguished by their valency and derivational potential. Verbs of type IV, which include verbs of movement, perception, and speech, are used intransitively or are transitivized by the transitive suffix or the applicative suffix. The difference between these two transitive constructions is that those with the transitive suffix relate to a more directly involved participant than those with the applicative suffix as in, for instance, 'hear TR s.o. or s.t.' vs. 'hear APPLICATIVE (about) s.o. or s.t.' and 'speak TR (to) s.o.' VS. 'speak APPLICATIVE (about) s.o. or s.t.' (117). In both constructions the object is not a patient, but has the role of a less affected participant, for example, a goal, stimulus, comitative, and so forth.

Type v verbs denote actions that affect patients. They can be used intransitively in their bare form, transitively when bearing the transitive suffix, and ditransitively when marked by the applicative suffix. The ditransitive constructions have two objects; thus, the applicative suffix increases the valency of the transitive verb by one. This additional object, the applicative object, denotes the instrument.

The single object of monotransitive verbs and one of the two objects of ditransitive applicative verbs is indexed by the object marker. This indexed object is called the primary object (O1), and the other one the secondary object (O2, my abbreviations). The constituent order of ditransitive clauses is V O2 S O1. In contrast to the [End Page 531] subject and the primary object, the secondary object does not have an article, but it is not incorporated into the verb complex either. It occurs outside and is referential, whereas incorporated objects are generic (121 f, 195 ff).

(1)V              O2    S    O1
Teqe-ni-a     leboto Deni sa       qato.
cut.down-AP-3SG  machete Deni  ART:SG  tree
'Deni cut the tree down with a machete.'


In the applicative construction of (1), the applicative object functions as the secondary object, as one would have expected. But this is not the only possibility. Surprisingly, there is no unequivocal relationship between the categories of primary and secondary object on the one hand and the two categories of patient and applicative instrument object...


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