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Marshallese Reference Grammar

Marshallese Reference Grammar by Byron W. Bender
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This reference grammar covers the phonology, morphology, and syntax of the language of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It is the result of a long and sustained effort, inexorably entwined with that of the Marshallese-English Dictionary, published in 1976. Following a general introduction that situates the islands and their people in the cultural and historical context of Micronesia, chapters examine the sound system of Marshallese and survey the more important characteristics of the two major parts of speech, nouns and verbs; a section on the nine major verb classes is included. Special attention is given to a complex set of directional adverbs used in predicates of all sorts and from which back-and-forth verbs are formed. The final chapter analyzes Marshallese sentences, focusing on the sentences themselves and on considerations that apply at the sentence level. The identification of five case relations and of verbs that are impersonal provides explanations for seeming problems of grammatical agreement.


The grammar avoids technical terminology, especially in the early chapters, and is aimed at educated laypersons—teachers and college students—who either speak the language or are motivated to learn it. It is rich with examples for each topic, including words exemplifying the contrasts in the sound system and sentences that highlight special points and intricacies in constructions such as cleft sentences and the phenomenon known as switch reference.

University of Hawaii Press; July 2016
ISBN 9780824859947
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Title: Marshallese Reference Grammar
Author: Byron W. Bender; Alfred Capelle; Louise Pagotto; Robert A. Blust