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  • Fijian Reference Grammar by Albert J. Schütz
  • Raúl Aranovich
Albert J. Schütz. 2014. Fijian Reference Grammar. Honolulu: Pacific Voices. xxxvii + 453 pp. ISBN 978-149-92-5788-5. $25.00, paper.

The Fijian Reference Grammar (FRG) is a second edition (revised and corrected) of a volume that first appeared in 1985 as The Fijian Language (TFL). Like the first edition, A. J. Schütz (AJS) intends FRG to be a comprehensive description of the language, to be used by the general public interested in Standard Fijian (SF). It is not a pedagogical grammar (there are no drills or exercises), and it develops insightful analyses to complement and elucidate complex aspects of the descriptive work. FRG makes use of the major grammars that existed before 1985 and other published works, but for the most part its content reflects the many years AJS and his collaborators (including native Fijian speakers) spent in the field documenting the language. FRG’s methodology avoids translation analysis, taking the use of language in its communicative context as the starting point for the investigation. It provides rich and detailed semantic analyses of the constructions under consideration, which complement the more usual formal and structural treatments.

The book is divided into five sections, preceded by an introductory chapter. Section I is a sketch of spelling and pronunciation, necessary to understand the examples that will follow. Section II presents the fundamental aspects of the grammar of SF, centering around the verb phrase. This section is twice as long as the others on average, and will be the main focus of this review. Section III examines the structure of the noun phrase, including numerals and determiners, semantic classification, and the morphology of the noun. The syntax of the SF sentence is presented in section IV under the title of “Operations”, covering modification, subordination and coordination, possession, and word order of the major constituents. Section V gives a very detailed analysis of SF phonology, starting at the segmental level, and then moving on to the hierarchical organization of sounds into syllables, “measures,” phonological phrases, and then the sentence. TFL included preliminary chapters with background information about the history of Fijian language scholarship, as well as attitudes towards Fijian language and culture in the past. These chapters, alongside an appendix containing an early word list, are missing from FRG. Except for section II, the organization of the other sections in FRG remains essentially the same as in TFL.

For expository purposes, the SF sentence can be divided into a “core” and a “periphery.” In the following example, square brackets enclose the core, which is followed by the peripheral constituent e na ikalima.

  1. (1). [Eratou na biu-ti   Ositirelia mai]   e   na   ikalima.

    3pl       ft   leave-tr Australia     dir     at   det   fifth

    ‘They are leaving from Australia on the fifth.’

                    (FRG:184, citing Milner 1972 [1956]:60)

The structure of the core is the topic of section II of TFL. In FRG, this section is reorganized to follow the linear arrangement of the principal components of the core, illustrated in (1). The first position in the sentence is a subject marker, followed by markers for [End Page 323] tense, aspect, and other grammatical features, like na ‘future’ in (1). Next comes the verb. The fourth position is occupied by the object of the clause. In (1) it is a proper noun. Finally, other markers, like the directional mai in (1), mark the right edge of the core.

Before delving into the nature of the subject (chapter 4), AJS introduces and defines some grammatical terminology. Following Milner’s (1972 [1956]) treatment (but not his terms), words are classified as root or marker. The distinction (with its idiosyncratic terminology) matters to understand the grammatical analyses developed in FRG. The first word in (1), for instance, is classified as a marker. But this is a morphological definition. In grammatical terms, it is identified as the subject of the clause. This approach was undeniably the main contribution of TFL to Fijian scholarship, traced back to Schütz and Nawadra (1972). It sharply contrasts with earlier accounts of the SF sentence, which identified the subject with an optional noun phrase in the...


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