Dawuda (2009)

Discourse functions of demonstratives and place adverbs with exophoric reference in Logea, an Oceanic language of Papua New Guinea

Carmen Dawuda


An increasing number of studies challenge the traditional understanding of demonstratives at the very heart of their definition. Recent studies of conversational language data revealed that, besides the spatial specifications by which demonstratives are usually described, they encode more discourse-related information. Demonstratives are found to establish the joint attention focus on the indicated object rather than merely locating it (Burenhult, 2003; Diessel, 2006; Enfield, 2003). They are brought even closer to the discourse activities by studies of non-conversational data that aim to identify universal discourse functions of demonstratives (Diessel, 1999; Himmelmann, 1996; Himmelmann, 1997). Demonstrative reference to physically present objects falls within situational use, which serves the speaker to introduce the referent into discourse. The present study of the demonstrative use in Logea (an Austronesian language of the Papuan TIP cluster) provides a deep insight into this function. It shows that the speaker, in choosing a specific demonstrative form and constructions to establish an exophoric referent, directly responds to discourse circumstances, such as the imminent discourse status of the referent and its accessibility from the preceding discourse. The data, video-recorded narratives and expository texts, convincingly show that besides spatial specifications the concepts of demonstratives include an attention-focussing component, and that the former is disregarded when discourse needs require to do so, e.g. to distinguish the topical status of exophoric referents. What the data also show is that the use of exophorically referring demonstratives is not limited to the referent’s introduction, but also serves to keep track of and dismiss referents under specific discourse conditions, a fact that is not discussed in the literature to date. Moreover, exophoric demonstrative reference in Logea serves further discourse functions (e.g. the illustration or exemplification of invisible or unfamiliar referents). The findings, therefore, inevitably lead to a reassessment of existing functional taxonomies of demonstratives to reflect their use in Logea and probably in other languages as well.