Causation in the Australian dialects Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara

Causation in the Australian dialects Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara

By Conor Pyle

This paper will look at the phenomenon of causation in two dialects of the Western Desert in Australia, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (P/Y). The grammar will be discussed under the paradigm of Role and Reference Grammar (RRG), which is intended to be able to be used globally for the description of any language. There is a continuum of causation from direct to indirect involvement, and from compact constructions to purposive or goal oriented actions. We look at lexical, morphological, and syntactic marking of causation in P/Y which has a mixed ergative/accusative and limited polysynthesis. We find that causation is shown lexically, morphologically by the use of suffixes, and syntactically by dependent subclauses. Direct causation through suffixing is linked to intransitive verbs and change of state rather than to transitive verbs. Characteristic of P/Y is the serial verb participle, which in some cases involves light verbs that imply causation.

Loanwords between the Arandic languages and their western neighbours: principles of identification and phonological adaptation

Loanwords between the Arandic languages and their western neighbours: principles of identification and phonological adaptation

By Harold Koch

This paper summarises the characteristics of loanwords, especially the ways in which they are adapted to the structure of the borrowing language, and surveys the various tests that have been provided in both the general historical linguistics literature and Australianist literature for identifying the fact and direction of borrowing. It then provides a case study of loanwords out of and into the Arandic languages; the other languages involved are especially Warlpiri but to some extent dialects of the Western Desert language. The primary focus is on the phonological adaptation of loanwords between languages whose phonological structure differs especially in the presence vs. absence of initial consonants, in consequence of earlier changes whereby Arandic languages lost all initial consonants. While loanwords out of Arandic add a consonant, it is claimed that loanwords into Arandic include two chronological strata: in one the source consonant was preserved but the other (older) pattern involved truncation of the source consonant. Reasons for this twofold behaviour are presented (in terms of diachronic and contrastive phonology), and the examples of the more radical (older) pattern are individually justified as loanwords, using the criteria discussed earlier in the article.

Nominal Subclasses in Dalabon (South-western Arnhem Land)

Nominal Subclasses in Dalabon (South-western Arnhem Land)

By Maïa Ponsonnet

This paper describes a distinctive system of nominal subclasses observed in Dalabon, a non-Pama-Nyungan, Gunwinyguan language of south-western Arnhem Land, Australia. These subclasses differ from what is usually called ‘noun classes’ in Australian languages, and no such system has been described for an Australian language so far. While most Gunwinyguan languages use noun class prefixes offering an overt categorization of noun classes, Dalabon has no such prefixes. On the other hand, six semantically coherent nominal subclasses can be delineated based on four inter-related criteria—noun incorporation, boundness, obligatory possession and possessor raising. These subclasses are animate-part nouns (incorporable, strictly bound, obligatorily possessed, raising their possessors freely), kin-terms (incorporable, strictly bound, obligatorily possessed, raising their possessor when incorporated), inanimate-part nouns (incorporable, strictly bound, not obligatorily possessed), features of the landscape (incorporable, semi-bound, not obligatorily possessed), natural-kind nouns (non-incorporable) and generic nouns (incorporable free nouns). Some of the subclasses qualify as more or less inalienable. Along the way, the article discusses various aspects of Dalabon grammar such as word classes, noun incorporation and possessive constructions. The nominal subclass divisions also shed light upon some the distribution and semantics of the ubiquitous -no suffix, which remained obscure hitherto.

‘Up dere la’: Final Particle la in a Queensland Aboriginal Vernacular

Up dere la’: Final Particle la in a Queensland Aboriginal Vernacular

By Claire Gourlay and Ilana Mushin

This paper presents an analysis of the discourse particle la as it is used in an English-based Aboriginal vernacular language spoken in an ex-government reserve in Queensland. Using unelicited conversational data recorded in primary school classrooms, we present an analysis of the formal and functional properties of la. In terms of formal properties, we classify la as a final particle and observe that it frequently collocates with the deictic demonstratives ere (here) and dere (dere) and the visual perception verbs look and see. In our functional analysis we show that la is employed when the speaker is directing an interlocutor to jointly attend with the speaker to a specific object or action within the here-and-now environment—a function that is rare among discourse particles. We also discuss the possible origins of this particle in terms of substrate influences from traditional Australian languages or borrowing from other contact varieties. Our analysis of the particle la thus contributes both to our understanding of Queensland Aboriginal vernaculars and of discourse particles as linguistic objects that illustrate the inherently intersubjective nature of language.

Number Markedness: Evidence from Gangalidda

Number Markedness: Evidence from Gangalidda

By Jessica Mathie

I present data from Gangalidda (Australia) which shows that plural is more marked than dual in this language. This challenges the claim made in Harley and Ritter (2002) that dual is universally more marked than plural. Evidence that Harley and Ritter’s claim does not hold in Gangalidda is found in the distribution of dual clitics. In clauses with two non-singular arguments, the dual clitic is able to cross-reference both dual and plural entities. Assuming a privative feature geometry, this distribution is only possible if the features of the dual clitic are a subset of those present for the plural clitic (see Mathie In prep for an analysis assuming binary features). If the dual clitic had more features, as it does in Harley and Ritter’s geometry, it could not be inserted into a plural syntactic context, since it would be overspecified. I demonstrate that the Gangalidda distribution can be accounted for by the feature geometry proposed by Cowper (2005), in which plural is more marked, and I further demonstrate that Harley and Ritter’s geometry is not able to straightforwardly capture the Gangalidda facts. Section 1 outlines the feature geometries proposed by Harley and Ritter (2002) and Cowper (2005). Section 2 presents the Gangalidda data, illustrating the contextual neutralization of dual and plural clitics. Section 3 gives a featural account of the Gangalidda system, supporting the geometry in Cowper (2005).

Rapoport’s Rule Revisited: Geographical Distributions of Human Languages

Rapoport’s Rule Revisited: Geographical Distributions of Human Languages

By Michael C. Gavin, John Richard Stepp

One of the most well studied ecological patterns is Rapoport’s rule, which posits that the geographical extent of species ranges increases at higher latitudes. However, studies to date have been limited in their geographic scope and results have been equivocal. In turn, much debate exists over potential links between Rapoport’s rule and latitudinal patterns in species richness. Humans collectively speak nearly 7000 different languages, which are spread unevenly across the globe, with loci in the tropics. Causes of this skewed distribution have received only limited study. We analyze the extent of Rapoport’s rule in human languages at a global scale and within each region of the globe separately. We test the relationship between Rapoport’s rule and the richness of languages spoken in different regions. We also explore the frequency distribution of language-range sizes. The language-range area distribution is strongly right-skewed, with 87% of languages having range areas less than 10,000 km2, and only nine languages with range areas over 1,000,000 km2. At a global scale, language-range extents and areas are positively correlated with latitude. At a global scale and in five of the six regions examined, language-range extent and language-range area are strongly correlated with language richness. Our results point to group boundary formation as a critical mediator of the relationship between Rapoport’s rule and diversity patterns. Where strong group boundaries limit range overlap, as is the case with human languages, and range sizes increase with latitude, latitudinal richness gradients may result.

The Challenges of Maintaining Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

The Challenges of Maintaining Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

By Joe McCarter, Michael C. Gavin, Sue Baereleo, and Mark Love

Increased interest in indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) has led to concern that it is vulnerable amidst social and ecological change. In response, multiple authors have recommended the establishment of programs for the maintenance and revitalization of IEK systems. However, few studies have analyzed the methods, opportunities, and challenges of these programs. This is a critical gap, as IEK maintenance is challenging and will require layered and evidence-based solutions. We seek to build a foundation for future approaches to IEK maintenance. First, we present a systematic literature review of IEK maintenance programs (n = 39) and discuss the opportunities and challenges inherent in five broad groups of published approaches. Second, we use two case studies from the Republic of Vanuatu to illustrate these challenges in more depth. The first case study takes a community-based approach, which has inherent strengths (e.g., localized organization). It has, however, faced practical (e.g., funding) and epistemological (changing modes of knowledge transmission) challenges. The second case study seeks to facilitate IEK transmission within the formal school system. Although this model has potential, it has faced significant challenges (e.g., lack of institutional linkages). We conclude that supporting and strengthening IEK is important but that serious attention is needed to account for the social, situated, and dynamic nature of IEK.In closing, we use the review and case studies to propose four principles that may guide adaptive and flexible approaches for the future maintenance of IEK systems.