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  • Nukna grammar sketch by Matthew A. Taylor
  • Samantha Rarrick
Matthew A. Taylor. 2015. Nukna grammar sketch. Data Papers on Papua New Guinea Languages, vol. 61. Ukarumpa: SIL-PNG Academic Publications. viii + 299 pp. ISBN 9980-0-3990-6. Open Access:

Nukna (ISO code klt) is a Papuan language spoken by approximately 1,000 individuals in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. This language is reported to be used extensively in the community, although Tok Pisin and English are used in schools. Existing documentation and description of this language includes Taylor's (2006) sociolinguistic study, with few other widely available publications on the language. Taylor's Nukna grammar sketch (NGS), published by SIL-PNG Academic Publications, adds significantly to this existing description and is based on data collected over approximately eight years with the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Although it is labeled a "grammar sketch," this book is certainly more robust that many sketch grammars, covering a wide range of topics from phonology to discourse. This work also addresses verbal morphology and syntax in greater depth than a typical sketch grammar might.

NGS is organized into ten chapters of text and six appendices, which span 294 pages. Chapters cover a range of linguistic topics, including: (1) an introduction; (2) phonology; (3) nouns and noun phrases; (4) postpositions and postpositional phrases; (5) verbs and verb phrases; (6) tense, aspect, modality, mood; (7) the clause; (8) complex sentence structure; (9) discourse considerations; and (10) lexical considerations. The front matter contains an extensive table of contents and a list of abbreviations used in the glosses, although this table omits other abbreviations used in the text. Appendices also address linguistic phenomena and provide glossed texts: (1) traditional number system; (2) nouns ending in /N/ and possessive suffixes; (3) Nukna kinship terms; (4) kinship terms pluralization and collectives; (5) glossed written text; and (6) glossed oral text. While the organization of this book is clear, it is less typical than what is found in other sketch grammars, which tend to have marked transitions between phonology, morphology, syntax, and other major topics. Taylor's organization also combines certain topics in ways that may not be useful for all readers. For example, clitics are listed in the chapter on phonology with indexes to other chapters, while adjectives and numerals are addressed in the chapter entitled "nouns and noun phrases."

The first chapter (1-9) of this work addresses the linguistic environment in which Nukna is spoken, including neighboring languages, and cultural notes. The phonology of this language is addressed in ch. 2 (2-27), covering such topics as phonemes and allophones, orthographic conventions, permissible syllable structures, and morphophonemics. There are 22 phonemes in Nukna: 16 consonants and six vowels. The vowel inventory provided by Taylor includes a back mid-low vowel, but no front mid-low [End Page 505] vowel. This imbalance is not addressed. A general scarcity of /f/ is noted in Nukna and other Finisterre-Huon languages, with no other unusual features of consonants. Possible syllable structures in Nukna include: V, CV, VC, CVC, CVV, CVVC. While CVV and CVVC structures are reported within single syllables, diphthongs are not reported in this language. Clarification on the nature of these VV sequences within a syllable would strengthen this work.

"Nouns and noun phrases" (28-68) addresses the structure of noun phrases, pronouns, possession, demonstratives, adjectives and adjectival phrases, quantifiers, and numerals. Noun phrases are head-initial with optional adjectival phrases, numerals or quantifiers, and demonstratives, in that order. Personal pronouns distinguish between singular, dual, and plural numbers and first, second, and third person. There are additional distinctions for agentive, genitive, dative, and comitative cases, with some irregularities and underspecifications. Nouns in this language are not marked for number. Instead, number can be determined by verb inflection, numerals, quantifiers, or cooccurrence with a reduplicated form of the adjective isikimo 'small' or táwi 'large'. Prepositions and prepositional phrases are addressed in a separate chapter (69-84) that describes no notable traits.

Verbs and verb phrases (85-107) and tense, aspect, modality, and mood (108-57) are addressed across two chapters. In the first, the following are discussed...


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