A Grammar of Western Dani
This study presents a detailed description of the Western Dani language. All the word classes are discussed beginning with the nouns. While some nouns may have plural forms, normally the same form is used for both singular and plural. Possession is indicated by prefixes and there are a small number of suffixes marking such things as place and contents. Adjectives normally follow nouns and as well there is sophisticated array of intensifiers which modify both nouns and verbs. There are a relatively small number of verbs in Western Dani. Nominals may be used preceding verbs to give new meanings and as well, complex actions may be designated not by a separate verb but by joining together the various constituent simple actions. Verbs are often morphologically complex. Subjects are marked by suffixes and objects may be marked either by prefixes or inner suffixes. Depending on the type of object, verbs may be assigned objects from a particular object class, though any particular verb may accommodate objects from more than one of these classes.
The language is structured according to the realis/irrealis distinction. A number of the more common verbs have a different root depending on the status. There is a far past which is used for events that are no longer considered relevant to the present, an intermediate past for events that have happened and a near past for events that have just happened and are regarded as complete. The present is used for events that are currently occurring. There are two intentive forms that are used depending on whether the intention is to act immediately or later on. Future forms are normally used for events that are considered very likely to occur. There is, as well, a sophisticated array of aspectual forms including habitual, continuous, durative and iterative.
Nouns may be joined together by conjunctions or simply juxtaposed. Serial verbs also may be joined to indicate simultaneity, successiveness or purpose. There are a number of subordinate clauses including relative and conditional clauses. Dependent clauses are used for narration of events. Two verbs are normally used at the end of each dependent clause to indicate person, number, tense and whether or not the subject of the next clause will be the same or different to that in the current clause. These verbs also indicate whether the actions in adjoining clauses occurs simultaneously or successively. Western Dani is a very precise language and every effort is taken to avoid any ambiguity of reference. It is also complex and has offered many challenges to those from other cultures who seek to understand it.
ISBN 9783895862977 (Hardbound). LINCOM Grammar Handbooks 01. 670 pp. 2008.