Warndarrang and Marra: A diffusional or genetic relationship?
Australian Journal of Linguistics
Warndarrang and Marra have a high level of shared vocabulary, 54%, and also share some grammatical morphemes and structures. The question is whether these commonalities result from borrowing, inheritance from a lower level proto-language, inheritance from a higher level proto-language, or a mixture of all three. If the shared lexicon results principally from borrowing, then this would establish a significant new peak for lexical borrowing in Australia, as the highest reliable level otherwise attested is 40%. There are proposals for a low level proto-language including Warndarrang and Marra, most commonly known as Proto-Marran. This paper shows that there is not sufficient evidence to include Warndarrang within the putative Marran family. Consequently, the 54% shared lexicon between Warndarrang and Marra does establish a new peak in lexical borrowing. However, despite this peak, the paper shows that there has only been minimal grammatical borrowing between Warndarrang and Marra, and that most shared grammatical morphemes reflect inheritance from a higher level proto-language, possibly Proto-Australian.
Note also two other recent papers by Mark, also in AJL: