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).

Optionality in grammar

William McGregor: Optionality in grammar and language use
Linguistics. Volume 51, Issue 6, Pages 1147–1204, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: 10.1515/ling-2013-0047, November 2013

This paper investigates optionality in grammar and language use, and argues that there is optionality and optionality, and thus that it is essential that we be much more careful than hitherto in categorizing linguistic entities as optional. Equipped with a suitably constrained construal of the term, it is possible to formulate testable generalizations about optionality. Specifically, it is always meaningful in the sense that the contrast between use and non-use of a given linguistic element conveys meaning; use and non-use are never in absolutely free variation. Furthermore, there are restrictions on the type of meaning associated with the two contrasting paradigmatic “forms”. It is always a type of interpersonal meaning, concerning the domain of joint attention. It is further suggested that the connection between form and meaning is motivated, and thus this represents another domain in which the linguistic sign emerges as non-arbitrary. Evidence for the proposed meaning is presented from case studies of five diverse domains of grammar: complementizers, case markers, definiteness markers, person and number markers, and NP ellipsis. While these case studies only scratch the surface of the range of optional phenomena in the world’s languages, they provide sufficient circumstantial evidence to make an initial case for the proposals; they also raise numerous questions for future investigation.

Kaytetye Flora and Fauna

Myf Turpin: Semantic extension in Kaytetye flora and fauna terms. AJL 33/4

Flora and fauna play a vital role in Indigenous cultures and their nomenclature reveals much about the society from which they belong. This article identifies the lexical structures and types of metaphor and metonymy that are used for naming plants and animals in Kaytetye, a language of central Australia. By linking semantic analysis to detailed ethnography this paper elucidates the cultural connections that underlie polysemous biota terms. Various types of semantic extension are found, including ‘sign metonymy’, where two or more species share a name because one signals the availability of the other. A subtype of this is what I call ‘meaningful call’ metonymy. This is where an onomatopoeic bird name has lexical content, and thus the bird ‘says’ the signalled phenomena. The paper also finds that alternate register terms turn up in everyday words for biota. The aim of this paper is thus twofold: to demonstrate the importance of investigating socio-cultural practices, multiple speech registers and ecological phenomena for understanding patterns of polysemy and diachronic semantics; and to identify the range of semantic extensions that give rise to biota nomenclature in Kaytetye, where we find the previously undescribed ‘meaningful call’ metonymy.

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.

Is pain a human universal?

Anna Wierzbicka, ANU

doi: 10.1177/1754073912439761

Emotion Review 

July 2012 vol. 4 no. 3307-317

(Includes data from Australian languages)

Pain is a global problem whose social, economic, and psychological costs are immeasurable. It is now seen as the most common reason why people seek medical (including psychiatric) care. But what is pain? This article shows that the discourse of pain tends to suffer from the same problems of ethnocentrism and obscurity as the discourse of emotions in general. Noting that in the case of pain, the costs of miscommunication are particularly high, this article offers a new paradigm for communicating about pain. It shows how the use of natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) techniques developed in linguistic semantics can help in this area, as in other areas concerned with human subjectivity, and can lead to a greater understanding between psychologists, psychiatrists, medical practitioners, social workers, and ordinary suffering mortals.