Title: Enindhilyakwa phonology, morphosyntax and genetic position
Authors: van Egmond, Marie-Elaine
Keywords: Aboriginal languages, grammar, phonology, morphosyntax, comparative method, genetic position
Issue Date: Mar-2012
Publisher: University of Sydney
Arts. School of Letters, Arts and Media / Linguistics
Abstract: This thesis is a grammatical description of Enindhilyakwa, a non-Pama-Nyungan language spoken by over 1200 people living in the Groote Eylandt archipelago in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory, Australia. The language is classified as an isolate in O’Grady et al. (1966), and as “perhaps the most difficult of all Australian languages, with a very complex grammar” (Dixon 1980: 84; Capell 1942: 376). The aim of this thesis is to unravel this complex grammar, morphosyntax and phonology, and to place the language in the context of the neighbouring Arnhem Land languages. I propose that, although highly intricate, Enindhilyakwa morphology is also fairly regular and transparent, and, in fact, patterns much like the Gunwinyguan family of languages to its west. The areas of grammar covered in this thesis are: phonology (Chapter 2), nouns and adjectives (Chapter 3), verbal prefixes (Chapter 4), verb stem structures (Chapter 5), tense, aspect and mood marking on the verb (Chapter 6), the incorporation of body part and generic nominals into verbs and adjectives (Chapter 7), case marking (Chapter 8), and the genetic affiliation (Chapter 9). Enindhilyakwa phonology displays some radical departures from the typical Australian pattern, as well as from the typical Gunwinyguan pattern. However, the innovations can be traced back to an original proto-Gunwinyguan stock. Other grammatical features of this language are: (i) an elaborate noun classification system, involving noun classes, gender and generics incorporated into verbs and adjectives; (ii) an extensive degree of nominal derivation, including inalienable possession, alienable possession and deverbalising prefixes; (iii) four distinct pronominal prefix series on the verb to mark an equal number of moods; (iv) the possibility of most nominal case markers to be used as complementising cases on verbs; and (v) the pervasive use of body parts, which play a major role in naming and classifying inanimate objects.

From passing-gesture to ‘true’ romance

Blythe, J. (2012). From passing-gesture to ‘true’ romance: Kin-based teasing in Murriny Patha conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 44, 508-528. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2011.11.005.

Full paper.

Just as interlocutors can manipulate physical objects for performing certain types of social action, they can also perform different social actions by manipulating symbolic objects. A kinship system can be thought of as an abstract collection of lexical mappings and associated cultural conventions. It is a sort of cognitive object that can be readily manipulated for special purposes. For example, the relationship between pairs of individuals can be momentarily re-construed in constructing jokes or teases. Murriny Patha speakers associate certain parts of the body with particular classes of kin. When a group of Murriny Patha women witness a cultural outsider performing a forearm-holding gesture that is characteristically associated with brothers-in-law, they re-associate the gesture to the husband–wife relationship, thus setting up an extended teasing episode. Many of these teases call on gestural resources. Although the teasing is at times repetitive, and the episode is only thinly populated with the telltale “off-record” markers that characterize teasing proposals as non-serious, the proposal is sufficiently far-fetched as to ensure that the teases come off as more bonding than biting.

Also, see Joe’s publications page for links to a number of other articles and his dissertation.