Towards a grammar of spoken South Saami

Abstract: This thesis is a grammatical description of South Saami, a Uralic language traditionally spoken in central Sweden and Norway. South Saami has today around 500 speakers, many of whom live far from each other. The language has the status of an official language in Norway and is an officially recognized minority language in Sweden. The speakers have been subject to various assimilation policies especially in the previous century. However, in recent times, the language has received substantive support and currently there are a number of revitalization initiatives. The language variety described here is the spoken language of older heritage speakers. Their language may differ from the emerging (written) standard language and contains many features that have not been described previously. This study is the first comprehensive description of South Saami since the 1940s. It is based on fieldwork conducted between 2017 and 2020, resulting in a corpus of 35 hours of recordings. The speakers interviewed for this thesis are functional bilinguals with South Saami and either Norwegian or Swedish. Consequently, the language described here is the product of a long-standing contact with these languages.The description is grounded in Basic Linguistic Theory and covers phonology, morphology and syntax. The phonological analysis presented here is the first modern comprehensive description of the sound system of South Saami together with various phonotactic relations as well as basic analyses of prosody. The part devoted to morphology covers the main word classes and their inflectional patterns. Form-function relationships are also discussed extensively in pertinent chapters. Topics typically related to syntax such as grammatical relations, simple and complex clauses are reviewed in detail. Word formation and two cross-linguistically universal domains such as questions and negation are treated in chapters of their own. The thesis concludes with two texts from the corpus, provided with morphological glossing and translation into English.The analyses presented in the thesis are illustrated by examples from the corpus, and whenever possible by examples that represent naturalistic language. The grammar is descriptive in nature and typologically informed. Comparison to other Saamic languages is provided when necessary, either to show similarities or highlight differences between the languages. Features that characterize South Saami are preaspiration and sonorant devoicing, umlaut and a large vowel inventory in the domain of phonology. The language has generally agglutinative morphology. South Saami has a logophoric pronoun and an optional dual category in verb inflection. The pragmatically neutral word order is SOV. The language uses differential object marking. Furthermore, we observe different clause-initial question particles, an optional copula in non-verbal predications and an optional auxiliary in periphrastic tenses. Similarly to other Uralic languages, South Saami has a negative auxiliary that inflects for person and number. Unlike most other Saamic languages, the negative auxiliary also inflects for tense. Another substantive difference between South Saami and other Saamic languages is the encoding of predicative possession by a non-verbal construction where the possessor is indicated by genitive marking. However, predicative possession in South Saami can be also encoded by the transitive verb utnedh ‘have’, which is similar to the encoding of predicative possession in other Saamic languages.

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