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  • Ergativity and Balinese syntax
  • Fay Wouk
I Ketut Artawa. 1998. Ergativity and Balinese syntax (Parts 1, 2, and 3). NUSA Linguistic Studies of Indonesian and Other Languages in Indonesia, volumes 42, 43, 44. Jakarta: Badan Penyelenggara Seri NUSA. xv + 169 pp.

The extent to which an ergative analysis is appropriate for western Austronesian focus system languages (such as Tagalog, Indonesian/Malay, and Balinese, among others) is for me problematic. To many its appropriateness is virtually axiomatic; to others, including myself, its use in fact often seems counterproductive. This work, published as three volumes of the Indonesian linguistics journal NUSA, is, although not explicitly identified as such, the author's 1994 Ph.D. thesis, written at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. It might have been more appropriately titled "aspects of Balinese syntax, with some reference to ergativity," as the ten chapters describe a range of syntactic structures, and ergativity is only discussed extensively in four of them. The work is basically, in the author's words, "descriptive-typological" and avoids undue formalism, although at some points a Relational Grammar approach is utilized, and there is a brief comparison with Government and Binding theory as well. The author both presents descriptions of areas of Balinese syntax, and argues for the ergative analysis of the language.

Chapter 1 is a brief introduction. Chapter 2 describes the two major ways of expressing a semantically transitive situation in Balinese, the nasal construction (containing a verb with a nasal prefix) and the zero construction (containing an unprefixed verb). Here Artawa (A) argues, based mainly on an analysis of word order and subject properties, that the zero construction is ergative rather than passive, and that Balinese should be considered an ergative language. Chapter 3 describes valency changing mechanisms in Balinese, including causatives, applicatives, resultatives, and intransitive verb formation. Chapter 4 discusses pragmatic functions, and argues that, in terms of Li and Thompson's (1976) typology, Balinese is a subject-prominent language. He further argues against Beratha's (1992) claim that topic and focus in Balinese are grammaticalized, and shows that they are rather determined by discourse context. Chapter 5 describes the formation of complex sentences containing relative clauses, purpose clauses, complement clauses, and raising, and claims that since the syntactic operations involved in producing these constructions apply only to S and P of unmarked (intransitive and zero construction) verbs and A of marked (nasal construction) verbs, they show ergative patterning. Chapter 6 catalogues adverbs of time, place, manner and frequency, aspectual markers, and negative markers. Chapter 7 describes noun phrase structure, possession, and lexical and clausal nominalization.

Chapter 8 returns to the question of ergativity. The first half of the chapter presents a fairly detailed discussion of its nature; the second examines a number of syntactic constructions in Balinese (jussive complements, coordination, subordination, question formation, and emphatic marking) and argues that because Balinese has an S/P pivot for all these, it should be considered syntactically ergative. [End Page 212] Chapter 9, based on the assumption that Balinese is an ergative language, considers the question of which of two formal theories, Relational Grammar or Government and Binding, both developed for accusative languages, can best describe Balinese clause structure. A concludes that in order to handle Balinese, RG needs to be revised to state that the normal alignment of role and nuclear relations in syntactically ergative languages is that the patient is the initial 1 and the agent the initial 2. G&B does not appear to require revision to accommodate Balinese, although there are some problems with Case assignment that would need to be worked out. However, A feels that this analysis is less desirable, as it, unlike the RG analysis, suppresses the ergative character of Balinese. Chapter 10 takes off from Verhaar's (1988) suggestion that ergativity is widespread in western Austronesian languages, reviews some of the discussion of Indonesian, and closes with the hope that this ergative analysis of Balinese will contribute to the understanding of other An languages (implying that an ergative analysis should be applied).

The descriptive sections of this work form a useful introduction to Balinese syntax. Although brief, they are clearly written and informative, and there are not that...


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