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Reviewed by:
  • A grammar of Klon: A non-Austronesian language of Alor, Indonesia by Louise Baird
  • Laura C. Robinson
Louise Baird. 2008. A grammar of Klon: A non-Austronesian language of Alor, Indonesia. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics 596. xv + 242 pp. ISBN 978-0-858-83597-9. $Aust 66.00 (Australia), $Aust. 60.00 (elsewhere), paper.

This book is an overview of the grammar of Klon, a member of the Alor-Pantar family of non-Austronesian languages spoken in the Alor archipelago of eastern Indonesia. The grammar includes two texts and a wordlist.

The first chapter provides an introduction to the language and its speakers. Baird (henceforth B) discusses the history of the region, the research that led to the grammar, the linguistic context, and the culture of the speakers, with special discussions of cultural change, language attitudes, and the community’s attitude toward outsiders, such as herself. Very little was known about Klon before B’s research, and this chapter provides a nice introduction, but B’s admission that the grammar was based on only four months of fieldwork leaves the reader hoping for a follow-up.

The second chapter is an overview of the phonetics and phonology of Klon. As in many comparable grammars (including one written by the author of this review), there is a complete absence of acoustic phonetics. Klon has a rather unremarkable consonant inventory, though scholars of Papuan languages should note that there is a distinction between /l/ and /r/, and B illustrates this and other contrasts with minimal pairs. It is useful that B notes the frequency of phonemes that rarely occur in certain positions, such as initial /r/ and /s/, neither of which would be expected to occur in Klon based on the historical phonology (Holton et al. 2012). Unusually among Alor-Pantar languages, Klon has 13 vowel phonemes (8 places of articulation, 5 of which contrast in length), though B notes that two of the mid vowels (those without long counterparts) “only marginally occur” [End Page 328] despite showing minimal pairs with other vowels (19). B lays out syllable structure and stress, noting that stress depends on both position and heaviness of the syllable. Finally, she discusses the orthography. It seems clear from this discussion that B worked extensively with the community to find an orthography acceptable to community members. However, since the audience of this grammar is clearly linguists and not the community (it is written in English with linguistic terminology), B could have made the grammar much more accessible to linguists if she had used IPA or something closer to IPA. With 8 places of articulation for the vowels, B resorts to accent marks to distinguish between the mid vowels and does not write schwa at all. She notes that the sequence <ng> represents a velar nasal in final position (unsurprisingly), but in initial position, it represents [nǝg]. There is also a palatal stop represented with <j> and a glide represented by <y>. The casual reader of the grammar is bound to be confused.

Chapter 3 is a detailed discussion of grammatical relations. B shows that Klon has a split-S system (A and Sa group alike as opposed to O and So), and she calls the system “agentive” based on semantic criteria discussed in chapter 4. She offers numerous examples, showing how anaphoric coreference and deletion support grouping A and Sa pronouns versus O and So pronouns. The majority of her examples come from natural texts, and she is careful to distinguish between constructions that occur frequently in texts, those that occur only rarely in texts, and those that had to be elicited. She also shows in this chapter how AOV is the unmarked constituent order in Klon, though OAV and AVO orders occur in some pragmatically marked contexts.

Chapter 4 is an overview of the word classes of Klon. Klon has just two open classes: nouns and verbs, each of which has several subclasses. Nouns come in alienable and inalienable as well as count and mass varieties, while verbs can be classified based on which pronouns they take. For the intransitive verbs, B identifies three groups: verbs that always take independent Actor pronouns...


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