Theory-informed fieldwork on Äiwoo

Building on descriptive work by Åshild Næss, I’m currently actively conducting fieldwork on Äiwoo, an Oceanic ( < Austronesian) language spoken by about 8,000 people in the Reef Islands, part of the Santa Cruz archipelago in the Temotu province of the Solomon Islands. Due to its rather remote location, Äiwoo is severely underresearched, and mine is the first work looking at this language from a formal generative perspective. My main focus currently is on a few aspects of the syntax of this language that can only be elucidated through targeted elicitation.

Äiwoo has a so-called “symmetrical” Philippine-type voice system, with multiple transitive constructions differing in what argument is the “pivot” of a clause. In (1), the agent (“Anna”) is the pivot; in (2), it’s the theme (“fish”); in (3), it’s the locative argument (“this bowl”). In addition to the word order differences, this is cross-indexed by various verbal morphology.

(1) Anna ki-epave =kaa sii ngä täpilo enge
Anna ipfv-cook.av =fut fish in bowl this
"Anna will cook fish in this bowl"
(2) sii ki-epavi Anna =kaa ngä täpilo enge
fish ipfv-cook.uv Anna =fut in bowl this
"Anna will cook a/the fish in this bowl"
(3) täpilo enge ki-epav{e/i} Anna =kaa=kä sii
bowl this ipfv-cook.{av/uv} Anna =fut=cv fish
"Anna will cook a/the fish in this bowl"

Some of the topics I have been researching are:

  • The syntax of Ā-extraction and its non-trivial interactions with the voice system;
  • The way the classic binding conditions apply (or don’t apply, or apply differently) depending on a clause’s voice and the position of the relevant nominals being evaluated for coreference;
  • The syntax of reflexive constructions;
  • The interactions of word order and agreement.