Capell and Layard (1980)
The only previous work on Atchin language was published in 1980 but it is based on material collected over a period of six months in 1914. The data was collected by the ethnologist Layard and later analysed by the linguist Capell in the 1930s, in consultation with Layard. Capell wanted to check the material collected prior to publishing the grammar of the language and the collection of the texts initially gathered by Layard, but he never got around to visiting the Atchin community (Capell & Layard 1980: iv-v) and finally released ‘Materials in Atchin, Malekula: Grammar, Vocabulary and Texts’ for publication in 1980, without further work on the material.
There are many shortcomings to the grammar based on the 29 texts and to the transcription of the texts. In his review of the material, Ross Clark (1985: 233) concludes ‘there is little in the grammar that the reader could not discover almost as quickly by studying the texts themselves’. As for the texts, there is no interlinear transcription and not all words are referenced in the list of vocabulary. The grammar leaves everything to be done but, despite their deficiencies, the texts present an important collection of data. I did not end up using the stories collected by Layard. However I went over the short tale ‘Shooting the banana’ (Capell & Layard: 258) with a participant and, aside from a couple of lexical terms that were not recognised, the text was found to be in the language as it would be spoken nowadays by the Atchin community.
Material in the language of Atchin
‘Nubo toptap, nale tojan’ (Reverend Steward 1932) is a hymnal in Atchin language for the Seven Days Adventists. According to Lynch & Crowley (2001: 81) the hymns were written by Reverend Steward. The copy I consulted belonged to one of the participants on Atchin, Gustave Romone, and it did not mention the name of the author. The orthography does not reflect the phonology of the language truthfully at times: for instance, if ‘h’ appears, as expected, in loan words such as Jehova, it also appears in Atchin words (jihim, ‘to you’), whereas the glottal fricative is not a phoneme of the language.
Why Vanuatu and why Atchin
At the onset I decided to do research that involved the description of a lesser-known language and I wanted my research to be based on data I would collect myself. I realised this last point would be an added challenge for a thesis that had to be completed in nine months, but this was an opportunity to learn linguistic fieldwork methodology – hands on. I wanted to work on a language of New Caledonia or Vanuatu: both countries are close to New Zealand and present languages for which there is little or no description. An added consideration was that, being a French native speaker, I can work in English and French. My intention was to start working in Auckland with a native speaker then complete my data in the field. In May 2009, I contacted the centre for foreign students at the University of Auckland and was soon in contact with a student in medicine (Dr Trelly, as he is known in Malakula) whose homeland is Atchin and who was willing to help me with his native language while in Auckland. I started researching Atchin and its neighbouring languages and found that, as explained above (§1.4.2), if there was some material on the language spoken in Atchin (Capell & Layard 1980) it was incomplete, based on old data and in need of reviewing.
I obtained the university ethics authorisation for the research in October 2009. Meanwhile, Dr Trelly had been given the responsibility of Norsup hospital, in Malakula, and had left Auckland. This meant my research would have to be based entirely on fieldwork. Bowern’s (2008) and Crowley’s (2007) guides on field linguistics proved very useful. In November 2009, I made a first trip to Vanuatu. I stayed in Port-Vila, in order to get the authorisation from the Vanuatu Cultural Council to carry out fieldwork in the country. Then I flew on to Malakula where I made first contact with a chief of Atchin to let the community know of my project. The chief, Gaston Atuary, welcomed my project and immediately assured me of his support.
I obtained the authorisation from the Vanuatu Cultural Council mid-February 2010 and in late March 2010 I started my field work on Atchin. I returned there late August for my second field trip. For further detail on the field trips refer to the document in the appendix.
1.1 LANGUAGES OF VANUATU
1.2 THE ISLAND
1.3 LANGUAGES OF ATCHIN
1.3.1 Languages of home and education
1.3.2 Census data
1.4 PREVIOUS WORK ON ATCHIN LANGUAGE
1.4.1 Tryon (1976)
1.4.2 Capell and Layard (1980)
1.5 MATERIAL IN THE LANGUAGE OF ATCHIN
1.6 WHY VANUATU AND WHY ATCHIN
1.7 THE PRESENT STUDY
1.7.2 Structure of this thesis
2.1 PHONEMIC CONSONANTS
2.1.3 Fricatives and affricates
2.2 PHONEMIC VOWELS
2.5 VOWEL HARMONY
2.5.1 Vowel harmonising in the realis 3SG preverb.
2.5.2 Vowel harmonising in the noun prefix article nV-.
2.5.3 Vowel harmonising of the numeral prefix e-
2.6 SPELLING SYSTEM
3.1 WORD CLASSES
3.2 NOUN MORPHOLOGY
3.2.2 Noun derivation
3.3 PRONOUN MORPHOLOGY
3.3.1 Personal pronouns
3.3.2 Possessive pronouns
3.4 VERB MORPHOLOGY
3.4.2 Verb derivation.
4. NOUN PHRASE
4.1 ORDER OF NP CONSTITUENTS
4.2 NP CONSTITUENTS
4.2.3 Numerals and quantifiers
4.2.4 Semantic adjectives and relative clauses
4.3 POSSESSIVE CONSTRUCTIONS
4.3.1 Direct possession – possessive suffix on possessum
4.3.2 Indirect possession – possessive suffix on classifier
5.1 LE WORTAMAT
5.2 LE WENPER
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THE NOUN PHRASE OF ATCHIN, A LANGUAGE OF MALAKULA, VANUATU