Clamor Schürmann’s Barngarla grammar

The work of the German missionaries on South Australian languages in the first half of the nineteenth century has few contemporary parallels for thoroughness and clarity. This commentary on the grammatical introduction to Pastor Clamor Schürmann’s Vocabulary of the Parnkalla language of 1844 reconstructs a significant amount of Barngarla morphology, phonology and syntax.

It should be seen as one of a number of starting points for language-reclamation endeavours in Barngarla, designed primarily for educators and other people who may wish to re-present its interpretations in ways more accessible to non-linguists, and more suited to pedagogical practice.

Read or purchase Mark Clendon’s latest opus here.

Causation in the Australian dialects Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara

Causation in the Australian dialects Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara

By Conor Pyle

This paper will look at the phenomenon of causation in two dialects of the Western Desert in Australia, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (P/Y). The grammar will be discussed under the paradigm of Role and Reference Grammar (RRG), which is intended to be able to be used globally for the description of any language. There is a continuum of causation from direct to indirect involvement, and from compact constructions to purposive or goal oriented actions. We look at lexical, morphological, and syntactic marking of causation in P/Y which has a mixed ergative/accusative and limited polysynthesis. We find that causation is shown lexically, morphologically by the use of suffixes, and syntactically by dependent subclauses. Direct causation through suffixing is linked to intransitive verbs and change of state rather than to transitive verbs. Characteristic of P/Y is the serial verb participle, which in some cases involves light verbs that imply causation.

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).

Split Ergativity Based on Nominal Type

Split ergativity based on nominal type

By Julie Anne Legate

This paper argues that split ergativity based on nominal type is a morphological phenomenon, not a syntactic one. We use three tests to identify the source of this type of split ergativity as morphological syncretism: (i) case agreement, (ii) syntactic ergativity, (iii) coordination. We illustrate the complex patterns of attested splits, demonstrating that analyses positing a single dichotomy (e.g. between first and second person pronouns versus all other nominals) are insufficient. A morphological syncretism analysis is provided whereby ergative case is deleted in featurally-marked contexts.

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.