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.


Two reviews in Anthropological Linguistics

(These reviews are dated 2007 but Anthropological Linguistics has released them online in the not too distant past, so I include them here.)

RMW Dixon savagely reviews Bill McGregor’s edition of Nekes and Worms’ Australian Languages. [JStor, subscription required]

I (not quite as savagely but still fairly critically) review Dixon and Aikhenvald’s Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance. [JStor, subscription required]

Australian Aboriginal Studies

Latest issue on songs and song language.


Musical and linguistic perspectives on Aboriginal song
Allan Marett and Linda Barwick

abstract 1

Iwaidja Jurtbirrk songs: Bringing language and music together
Linda Barwick, Bruce Birch, Nicholas Evans

abstract 6

Morrdjdjanjno ngan-marnbom story nakka, ‘songs that turn me into a story teller’: The morrdjdjanjno of western Arnhem Land
Murray Garde

abstract 35

Sung and spoken: An analysis of two different versions of a Kun-barlang love song
Isabel O’Keeffe (nee Bickerdike)

abstract 46

Simplifying musical practice in order to enhance local identity: Rhythmic modes in the Walakandha wangga (Wadeye, Northern Territory)
Allan Marett

abstract 63

‘Too long, that wangga’: Analysing wangga texts over time
Lysbeth Ford

abstract 76

Flesh with country: Juxtaposition and minimal contrast in the construction and melodic treatment of jadmi song texts
Sally Treloyn

abstract 90

The poetics of central Australian Aboriginal song
Myfany Turpin

abstract 100

Budutthun ratja wiyinymirri: Formal flexibility in the Yolŋu manikay tradition and the challenge of recording a complete repertoire
Aaron Corn with Neparrŋ a Gumbula

abstract 116

Australian Aboriginal song language: So many questions, so little to work with
Michael Walsh

abstract 128

Representation of Third Person

Andrew Nevins. NLLT. Includes data from Australian languages

 Abstract  In modeling the effects of the Person-Case Constraint (PCC), a common claim is that 3rd person “is not a person”. However, while this claim does work in the syntax, it creates problems in the morphology. For example, characterizing the well-known “spurious se effect” in Spanish simply cannot be done without reference to 3rd person. Inspired by alternatives to underspecification that have emerged in phonology (e.g., Calabrese, 1995), a revised featural system is proposed, whereby syntactic agreement may be relativized to certain values of a feature, in particular, the contrastive and marked values. The range of variation in PCC effects is shown to emerge as a consequence of the parametric options allowed on a Probing head, whereas the representation of person remains constant across modules of the grammar and across languages.