A Syntactic Analysis of the Acehnese Phrase Structure: the Application of Chomsky's Government and Binding Theory

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A syntactic analysis of the Acehnese phrase structure: The application of Chomsky's Government and Binding Theory

Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf, Syiah Kuala University, Indonesia The aim of this study is to analyze the phrase structure rules of the Acehnese language using the Government and Binding Theory. It attempts to describe Acehnese sentence transformations and to examine whether this model is applicable to Acehnese phrase structures, and if not what its constraints and modifications are. The analysis focuses on the phrase markers or tree diagrams of grammatical and well-formed Acehnese noun phrases (NPs) and verb phrases (VPs). The method of analysis is based on the one proposed by Haegeman in Introduction to Government & Binding Theory (1994). Most sample test sentences were taken from A Contextual Grammar of Acehnese (Asyik, 1987). The findings show that the syntactic structure of English and Acehnese can adopt the projection schema, the X’-format that has been developed for all phrasal categories. However, the analysis shows that the linear order of constituents with respect to the head projection is not universally fixed. In general, the structures of Acehnese phrases are similar to that of English except that they contain more elements in a phrase structure. Acehnese differs significantly from English and other languages in that it does not have number and tense agreement, adjectives are post-position and there is pro-drop or null-subject.

Keywords: Government and binding theory; Acehnese language; Phrase structure rules; Tree diagrams; Projection Schema 1. Introduction

The main aim of this study is to examine whether GB theory applies to Acehnese, it is elaborated below: Iranian Journal of Language Studies (IJLS), Vol. 3(3), 2009 (pp. 367-408)

Chomsky (1981) believes that there are considerable similarities between the structures of different languages, and that these structures would reveal properties common to all languages which were concealed by their surface structures. Following this view, the present study will describe Acehnese sentence transformations, in particular, phrase structure rules using descriptions given in A Contextual Grammar of Acehnese (Asyik, 1987) and the writer’s linguistics knowledge and her native speaker’s intuition about the language.


1. To describe Acehnese phrase structures, specifically NP and VP, using the Government and Binding framework. 2. To examine whether this theory applies wholly to Acehnese phrase structures, or has many constraints and modifications. 2. Background

Yunisrina Qismullah Yusuf

From 1976 through 1980, there were a series of research projects on various aspects of the Acehnese language conducted by the Universitas Syiah Kuala and The State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) Ar-Raniry funded by “Proyek Pelita” (Five Year Development Year Project) from the Central Government. Most of language studies on the Acehnese syntax are conducted by Sulaiman 1978, 1979; Asyik, 1984; Durie, 1985 and Wildan, 2002. However, to date, there are no published Acehnese syntax studies based the Government and Binding Theory. This study will fill in the gap as the research compound is to analyze the Acehnese phrase structures by adopting the Government and Binding (GB) Theory which has been used in the analysis of many languages such as French, Italian and English (Haegeman, 1991). Furthermore, the tsunami that occurred in December 26, 2004 had destroyed the bulk of the region's documentary and ancient manuscripts. Rare books and materials kept in the Aceh Documentation and Information Centre (PDIA) and key archival and cultural institutions, the Pusat Dokumentasi Aceh (Aceh Documentation Center) and The Lembaga Kebudayan Aceh (LAKA) or Aceh Cultural Foundation, were destroyed.

Past studies of Acehnese language have been done by some Acehnese linguists, however, they are only few in numbers, and most of them have now deceased. Therefore, another...
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