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.

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).


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.

Grammaticalisation of verbs

Bill McGregor has a new book chapter on the grammaticalisation of verbs as temporal and modal markers in Australian languages.

Diachronic and Typological Perspectives on Verbs

Edited by Folke Josephson and Ingmar Söhrman
This volume applies a diachronic perspective to the verb and mainly deals with typological change affecting tense, aspect, mood and modality in a variety of Indo-European languages (Latin, Romance, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Indo-Iranian, Hittite, and Semitic) and the non-Indo-European Turkic, Amerindian and some Australian languages. The analyses of the structural changes and the interchange between the different grammatical categories that cause them which are presented in the chapters of this volume yield astonishing results. The diachronic perspective combined with a comparative approach provides profound knowledge of the typology of the verb and other typological issues and will serve researchers, as well as advanced and beginning of linguistics students in a way that has rarely been encountered before.