A study of space in Caac, an Oceanic language spoken in the north of New Caledonia

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Aurelie Cauchard


In the present study, I describe the linguistic expression of space in Caac, an Oceanic language spoken in New Caledonia, from both a descriptive and theoretical perspective. Caac is a minority language whose transmission process is not ensured anymore; it is also an under-documented language. Part I provides a concise description of Caac grammar, presenting thereby a first formal portrait of this language to the reader. Part II describes the formal and semantic features of the linguistic resources available in Caac to encode spatial relationships. Part III presents the theoretical framework based on and exploring further the vector analysis developed by Bohnemeyer (2012) and Bohnemeyer & O'Meara (2012). In particular, I propose an additional sub-category of vectors (Head-unspecified Vectors) which account for the uses of centrifugal forms in Caac. The resulting theoretical framework enables me to provide a systematic account of expressions of orientation as well as location and motion, and to combine the Frames of Reference typology (Pederson et al. 1998; Levinson, 1996, 2003; Bohnemeyer & Levinson, not dated) with an analysis of deictic expressions within a single framework. It also allows us to give a detailed analysis of the uses and combinations of Caac absolute and deictic directionals, which are spatial terms of primary importance for spatial reference in Caac. Special attention, moreover, is given to the use of directionals in spatial constructions involving Fictive Motion. The analysis of Caac data leads us to introduce an additional category of Fictive Motion beyond those previously recognised in the literature, labelled here 'Anticipated Paths'. In the conclusion, I propose a functional and cultural-specific explanation for the emergence of this construction. Anticipated Path expressions in turn shed new light on the nature of vectors and the relationship between location, motion and orientation.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2016