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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The grammar and acquisition of Secwepemctsín independent pronouns Lai, I-Ju Sandra


Secwepemctsin, also known as Shuswap, is an endangered language spoken in the interior of British Columbia. No research dedicated to the study of Secwepemctsin pronouns is currently available. This thesis examines the independent pronouns of this language. Secwepemctsin is a radical head-marking language, and its independent pronouns function very differently from its bound pronominal clitics/affixes. This thesis provides a detailed description of the internal and external syntax of Secwepemctsin independent pronouns. They are analyzed as maximal projections that can occupy predicate positions as well as adjoin to DPs in argument positions. Binding effects follow from this analysis. Secwepemctsin independent pronouns show a strong subject orientation in third person contexts; it is the combined result of the independent pronouns' sensitivity to discourse and a subject-object asymmetry in the language: discourse familiarity is associated with syntactic positions via a mapping principle, yielding the Independent Pronoun Restriction. A semantic account of independent pronouns is provided. Secwepemctsin independent pronouns are shown to be contrastive focus when in predicate position, and contrastive topic when in argument position. Their behaviour is analyzed according to an alternative-based view of semantic theory. A case study of a child's acquisition of Secwepemctsin independent pronouns is documented, and the characteristics of her pronominal system are compared to those of an adult fluent speaker. Issues regarding language acquisition are discussed. It is found that although the child gets both Secwepemctsin and English input, her performance of Secwepemctsin is also influenced by Secwepemctsin-external and English-external factors. While this thesis investigates the technical details of Secwepemctsin syntax, it also places the study in the social context in which the language is in the process of being revived. A chapter on implications discusses the importance of providing learners of endangered languages with a positive environment in which to use the language. This chapter also points out the direction that endangered aboriginal languages may be heading, and stresses the importance of using language creatively.

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