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Grammaire du Futunien.

By Claire Moyse-Faurie.

Noumea: Coedition Centre de Documentation Pedagogique Nouvelle-Caledonie & Association Socio-culturelle de Futuna, Service des Affaires Culturelles de Futuna, 1997.

Pp. 240pp.

The Polynesian language East Futunan, the subject of this grammatical description, is spoken on the islands of Futuna and Alofi in the French territory of Wallis and Futuna. It is spoken by the approximately 5,000 inhabitants of Futuna and Alofi and by almost the same number of expatriate Futunans living in New Caledonia. (West Futunan is a Polynesian Outlier language spoken on the islands of Futuna and Aniwa in Vanuatu).

In 1993 Claire Moyse-Faurie compiled the first comprehensive and phonologically accurate dictionary of East Futunan ever produced, titled Dictionnaire Futunien-Francais. Prior to her work, the only dictionary available was that of Father Isidore Grezel (1878), Dictionnaire Futunien-Francais avec Notes Grammaticales, largely reedited by Rensch (1986) as Tikisionalio Fakafutuna-Fakafalani, Dictionnaire Futunien-Francais. The Grezel dictionary failed, unfortunately, to systematically indicate the glottal stop or vowel length, essential in most Polynesian languages. Moyse-Faurie, then, has done both Futunans and Polynesianists a great service since her first Visit to these islands in 1989.

The Grammaire Futunien is amazingly the first comprehensive grammatical description of this language to be written. Prior to this, there were only the grammatical notes which preceded Grezel's dictionary, and a few short articles on aspects of Futunan grammar. Moyse-Faurie's description, destined for pedagogical use, is the fruit of a long and intensive collaboration between the author and leading Futunan teachers and cultural leaders. It begins with a clear statement of the phonology and word classes of Futunan, builds up into a discussion of the noun and verb phrase, and moves on to a comprehensive description of clause and sentence types. From there, Moyse-Faurie moves on to complex sentences, interrogative structures, exclamative sentences, and highlighting or topicalisation. The final section of the grammatical description is a substantial chapter on word derivation and compounding, one of the fullest accounts of derivational morphology to be found in modern Polynesian grammars.

What impresses about this grammatical description is both its comprehensiveness and its clarity, together with the judicious choice of interesting and appropriate examples, rather than the often stilted examples that grace other Oceanic grammars. Another feature of Moyse-Faurie's description is her ability to explain complex concepts simply, for example, the notion of 'ergative' and 'absolutive', key concepts for understanding the mechanics of western Polynesian languages. Her use and explanation of the term 'essential complement' (complement essentiel) to explain the 'absolutive' provides a clear backdrop against which grammatical terms such as 'ergative' and 'agent complement' can be introduced.

The grammatical description is followed by a modern-day text in East Futunan, complete with interlinear glosses and free translation. The whole is rounded off with a glossary of the linguistic terms used in this grammar which are not found in standard French grammars. This carefully worded glossary is crafted in such a way that it renders the grammatical description comprehensible to and approachable by anyone interested in Polynesian languages, be they language specialists or not.

Moyse-Faurie's Grammaire du Futunien is a significant contribution to Polynesian linguistics, both in terms of its quality and in that it fills a large gap in our knowledge of Polynesian languages. Her grammar and dictionary provide the material which will facilitate the unravelling of the complex linguistic interaction between East Futuna, Fiji, Tongs and Samoa and hopefully lead to a more fine-grained interpretation of the genesis and development of the languages of western Polynesia. At the same time Moyse-Faurie has made a major contribution to the teaching of Futunan in schools by providing the basic pedagogical tools, a reliable dictionary and grammar in an attractive and accessible form.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Tryon, Darrell
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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