Over recent months a recurring topic of discussion
amongst some CRLC members around the ANU has been the notion of cognacy,
and more specifically how to search for and establish cognate sets,
how to organise and display cognates sets, and how to then use cognate
sets to answer other questions of historical linguistics. This has
led to the planned CRLC workshop in mid December: Finding, organising
and displaying cognates. The reason for the interest in this
notion is the number of research projects at ANU which rely explicitly
on the search for and establishment of cognate sets, including Harold
Koch, Patrick McConvell and Luisa Miceli’s work on Pama-Nyungan,
Paul Sidwell and Pascale Jacq’s work on Mon-Khmer, and Andrew
Pawley and Malcolm Ross’ Oceanic Lexicon Project.
A typical definition of a cognate is that given in Trask (2000:62):
“one of two or more words or morphemes which are directly
descended from a single ancestral form in the single common ancestor
of the languages in which the words or morphemes are found, with no
More broadly, as Trask (2000:62) notes, a cognate is also “one
of two or more words which have a single common origin but one or
more of which have been borrowed”. Thus Spanish jaula
‘cage’, Old French jaiole ‘jail’
and Occitan cayola ‘cage’ are all cognate as
they are descended, without borrowing, from the unrecorded Latin form
*caveola ‘small enclosed space’. More broadly
English jail and Basque txabola ‘hut’
are also cognate with these forms, being descended from the same Latin
form, but borrowed from Old French and Old Spanish, respectively (Trask
Many textbooks of historical linguistics provide the first, more
narrow, definition of cognates and then move on to describing reconstruction
using the comparative method. Yet surely cognates deserve more than
a passing mention being central to so many tasks of historical linguistics.
Without the notion of cognacy we would be unable to establish genetic
relatedness amongst languages, reconstruct aspects of ancestral languages
and culture history, or in many instances describe processes of language
If we look back to Meillet’s 1924 discussion of establishing
“the existence of an ancient common language”, he states
that “it is necessary to find in the languages compared the
specific features of that language as far as they have been maintained”
(Meillet 1967:36). That is, we need to find descendent features of
the protolanguage in the attested languages, or in other words we
need to find cognates, forms that are descended, without borrowing,
from a common source. Meillet (1967:ch 3) describes the proofs of
genetic relatedness that can be used within morphology, phonology
and vocabulary and all rely on one notion; that aspects of the attested
languages are cognate.
In morphology Meillet describes how it is not similarity in language
type (inflectional or analytical) or in morphological processes (suffixing
or prefixing), both of which are unreliable for establishing language
relationships, but it is “particular processes of expression
of the morphology” which can be used to establish genetic relationships,
and “a language with an involved and complex morphology, containing
a large number of specific facts, lends itself well to the proof of
relationships” (Meillet 1967:39-40). The “more singular”
or “anomalous” these facts the more conclusive the argument
for language relationship.
In more contemporary writings Meillet’s singular facts of morphology
have been interpreted as the crucial element of establishing language
relationships. For example, Nichols (1996:41) writes that “an
initial assumption of relatedness is made on the basis of solid evidence
that firmly identifies a unique individual protolanguage” and
this evidence needs to include “systems or subsystems with a
good deal of internal paradigmaticity, ideally multiple paradigmaticity,
and involving not only categories but particular shared markers for
them” (Nichols 1996:48). Nichols (1996:50-52) presents the example
of the Indo-European gender system; a system of noun classification
involving three genders marked by agreement which intersect with a
set of declensional classes. Taking into consideration the categories
and the forms, the probability of multiple independent occurrence
of such a system in less than one in a million. If such shared features
are found amongst languages then an initial assumption of relatedness
can be made on the basis that they are highly unlikely to be chance
resemblance and more likely to be specific features maintained from
a common ancestor language. That is, they are likely to be cognate.
In recent years such arguments have been presented as evidence for
the Pama-Nyungan group of Australian languages. While many Australianists
support the hypothesis that the languages of seven-eights of the continent
form a genetic group (see for example, O’Grady, Voegelin and
Voegelin, Blake 1988, Evans and McConvell 1998), others question whether
enough evidence has been put forward for such a group to be considered
well-established at this stage (Dixon 2001). Miceli (1999, forthcoming)
suggests that the linguistic features shared by Pama-Nyungan languages
do indeed appear to meet Nichols’ (1996) individual-identifying
threshold, noting the similarities of the pronominal paradigms (cf.
Blake 1988) and the specific allomorphy of the ergative and locative
case markers, ngku or -lu and ngka or la,
respectively. And Koch (2003, in press) presents further data showing
similarities of pronominal paradigms and of particular verb stems
plus inflectional affixes across a range of Pama-Nyungan languages.
But does the recognition of these shared features, unlikely to be
chance resemblance, really establish their cognacy and therefore the
genetic relatedness of the languages?
Looking further at Meillet’s work we see that he suggests the
need of another type of proof, namely sound correspondences. Thus
Meillet (1967:44-48) describes regular and recurrent correspondences
of phonology amongst the attested languages as providing proof that
the languages in question are genetically related. Vocabulary, on
the other hand, Meillet (1967:48) claims is the most “unstable
element of all language”, and that “valid etymological
comparisons” are made “only according to rules of correspondences”
(Meillet 1967:49). But how can phonological correspondences be established
without some, at least tentative, assumptions of cognacy amongst lexical
items across languages? So again without some notion of cognacy we
cannot even begin to establish language relationships.
Harrison’s (2003) discussion of the comparative method and
its limitations provides one of the clearest explanations of the way
in which we need to prove the cognate with relation to establish
genetic relatedness amongst languages. As Harrison (2003:217) points
out two languages can, in principle, be genetically related and yet
not share a single cognate, but our ability to demonstrate genetic
relationship depends on our ability to prove that instances of the
cognate with relation hold between the languages in question.
So while genetic relationships amongst languages exist as a fact,
our task is to demonstrate these relationships by identifying cognacy
across languages. And rather than needing a method for proving genetic
relationship we need a method for proving instances of the cognate
with relation, and as Harrison (2003) argues so well, we have
that in the comparative method.
Harrison (2003:218) provides the following rule for proving the cognacy
of a potentially cognate pair:
A pair (f, g) of potential cognates is a cognate pair if:
- they meet the similarity condition: that f and
g are similar in both facets of the sign relation,
in form and in interpretation, and
- they meet the disjunctive elimination condition that the
similarity is not (likely to be) a consequence of chance or borrowing/diffusion.
Using the comparative method and following this rule we have clear
guidelines on the proof of cognacy. First we need to find linguistic
features that are similar in both form and meaning and are thus potentially
cognate. But where in the linguistic system do we search for potential
cognates? Harrison (2003:216) shows how comparison across languages,
using the comparative method, is restricted to the lexicophonological
domain, where the form-meaning relationship is arbitrary and conventional,
and therefore cross-linguistic similarity is unexpected and in need
of some explanation. Thus we need to search for cognates amongst the
form-meaning pairings of morphemes or strings of morphemes, either
lexical or grammatical, where the form-meaning relation is not iconic.
But how similar must our potential cognates be for cognacy to be
demonstrated? In the words of Meillet (1967:49) it is not similarities
in phonological form which count, but similarities according to “rules
of correspondences”. So rather than needing a measure of phonetic
similarity and searching for forms which fit within such a measure,
we need to look for recurrent correspondences of phonological segments
across languages. And so the need for a theory of phonetic similarity
is replaced by the assumption within the comparative method of the
regularity of sound change (Harrison 2003:219-220). While there is
now clearly enough evidence to show that sound change is not (or at
least not always) regular (cf. Labov 1994), there is also evidence
indicating that sound change tends, over time, towards regularity,
resulting in recurrent, and mostly regular, sound correspondences
amongst non-borrowed cognates.
Such regular correspondences help with the disjunctive elimination
condition, ruling out chance similarity which is highly unlikely
to be regular at all, and to some extent ruling out borrowing which
is also unlikely to result in recurrent regular sound correspondences.
In some instances borrowing can result in regular correspondence between
languages, and then we need other means of determining which forms
are narrowly cognate and which forms are borrowings.
Similarity in meaning is much harder to quantify. Phonology provides
a closed system with a limited number of distinctive elements to compare.
Meaning, on the other hand, involves an almost limitless number of
senses. Recent work on semantic change indicates that there is regularity
of change (cf. Wilkins 1996, Traugott and Dasher 2002), and studies
of synchronic polysemy provide a way of constraining the range of
meanings considered acceptable as potential cognates (cf. Evans and
Wilkins 2001). But, semantic similarity among potential cognates still
remains largely at the discretion of the linguist.
So instances of the cognate with relation can be demonstrated
by the application of the comparative method within the lexicophonological
domain. And this then must be the direction needed in studies of Pama-Nyungan
as a genetic entity, as proposed by Harold Koch, Luisa Miceli and
Patrick McConvell (personal communication). Papers in Bowern and Koch
(forthcoming) present data showing systematic similarities amongst
smaller groups of Australian languages. Alpher (forthcoming) examines
Pama-Nyungan as a whole in this way, presenting for the first time
phonological correspondences across Pama-Nyungan languages, and from
this lexical reconstructions. The problem that Alpher is trying to
correct is that vocabulary has not been used to a large extent as
evidence for cognacy and therefore genetic relatedness amongst Australian
languages. The rationale for this omission has apparently been the
fact that lexical items tend to be either shared and almost identical
in form or totally dissimilar, meaning that it is difficult to find
recurrent and regular sound correspondences which can be used to distinguish
non-borrowed cognates from borrowed ones. But without looking for
sound correspondences do we have any way of proving cognacy and therefore
establishing genetic relatedness?
Paul Sidwell and Pascale Jacq’s work on Mon-Khmer languages
also involves the search for cognates within the lexicophonological
domain with the aim of establishing sound correspondences across languages
and carrying out phonological and lexical reconstruction. Further
to the proof of genetic relatedness their work is using cognates and
reconstruction to examine the closer relations within the family,
that is, the subgrouping, and also to distinguish non-borrowed cognates
from borrowed ones, therefore examining patterns of contact (cf. Sidwell
2000, Sidwell & Jacq (in press)).
The Oceanic Lexicon project is also primarily concerned with establishing
cognate sets, but here the concern is not the genetic relatedness
of the languages or the subgrouping within the family, but the reconstruction
of culture history. The Oceanic language family of the Pacific is
well-established; sound correspondences across languages have been
described in a number of sources (see Ross, Pawley and Osmond 1998).
Within this project the search for cognate sets is part of the task
of lexical reconstruction. By proving that certain terms are instances
of the cognate with relation we can establish that such terms
were present in the protolanguage. From this the types of cultural
items and concepts that were lexically-represented in the language
of Proto Oceanic peoples can be determined. For example, the importance
of the sea and seafaring amongst Proto Oceanic speaking communities
can be seen in the lexical reconstructions for the seascape (Osmond
2003), types of meteorological phenomena (Ross 2003) and terms for
canoes and canoe parts (Pawley and Pawley 1998).
The cognate with relation is central to endeavours of historical
linguistics, it is the notion on which most other notions within the
discipline are based. And yet, while it is a notion that is an implicit
part of most studies of historical linguistics, it is rarely discussed
and examined in detail. As we search for ways of describing linguistic
history in more and more detail, we need to keep in the forefront
of our minds the notions that form the basis of our discipline. In
1924 Meillet stated of historical linguists that:
“We must reflect on the methods employed, examine their
legitimacy, and see how we might extend their use and make them flexible
— without diminishing their rigor — in order to make them
conform to the requirements of research in new domains.”
These words are as relevant and true today as they were 79 years
ago, and our methods of demonstrating cognacy are certainly ones whose
rigour cannot be diminished.
Alpher, Barry (forthcoming) ‘Pama-Nyungan:
phonological reconstruction and status as a phylogenetic group’,
in Claire Bowern and Harold Koch (eds), Australian languages:
classification and the comparative method. Amsterdam: John Benjamins,
Blake, Barry J. (1988) ‘Redefining Pama-Nyungan:
towards the prehistory of Australian languages’ . Aboriginal
Bowern, Claire and Harold Koch (eds) (forthcoming)
Australian languages: classification and the comparative method.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Dixon, R.M.W. 2001. ‘The Australian linguistic
area’, in Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald and R. M. W. Dixon (eds) Areal
diffusion and genetic inheritance: problems in comparative linguistics.
Melbourne & Oxford: Oxford University, pp. 64-104.
Evans, Nicholas and Patrick McConvell (1998) ‘The
enigma of Pama-Nyungan expansion in Australia’, in Roger Blench
and Matthew Spriggs (eds), Archaeology and language. Vol 2: Correlating
archaeological and linguistic hypotheses. London: Routledge,
Evans, Nicholas and David Wilkins (2001) ‘The
complete person: networking the physical and the social’, in
Jane Simpson, David Nash, Mary Laughren, Peter Austin and Barry Alpher
(eds.) Forty years on: Ken Hale and Australian languages.
Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, pp: 493-521.
Harrison, S. P. (2003) ‘On the limits of the
Comparative Method’, in Brian D. Joseph and Richard D. Janda
(eds.) The handbook of Historical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell
Publishing, pp: 213-243.
Koch, Harold (in press) ‘The case for Pama-Nyungan:
evidence from inflectional morphology’. Proceedings of 17th
International Congress of Linguists, Prague, Czech Republic,
July 24-29, 2003.
Koch, Harold (2003) ‘Towards the reconstruction
of Pama-Nyungan verb inflection’, Paper presented in CRLC Histling
seminar series, Canberra.
Labov, William (1994) Principles of linguistic
change. Vol. 1: Internal factors. Cambridge, USA: Blackwell.
Meillet, Antoine. 1967 . The Comparative
Method in historical linguistics. Paris: Librairie Honoré
Miceli, Luisa 1999 ‘A fresh look at Australian
languages and individual-identifying features’, Paper presented
at Australian Linguistic Society Conference, Perth.
Miceli, Luisa (forthcoming) ‘Pama-Nyungan as
a genetic entity’, in Claire Bowern and Harold Koch (eds) Australian
languages: classification and the comparative method. Amsterdam:
John Benjamins, pp: 67-75.
Nichols, Johanna (1996) ‘The comparative method
as heuristic’, in Mark Durie and Malcolm Ross (eds.) The
comparative method reviewed. Regularity and irregularity in language
change. New York: Oxford University Press, pp: 39-71.
O’Grady, Geoffrey N, C F Voegelin, and F M Voegelin.
(1966) ‘Languages of the world: Indo-Pacific fascicle 6’.
Anthropological Linguistics 8(2):1-199.
Osmond, Meredith (2003) ‘The seascape’,
in Malcolm Ross, Andrew Pawley and Meredith Osmond, The lexicon
of Proto Oceanic. The culture and environment of ancestral Oceanic
society. Vol. 2: The physical environment. Canberra: Pacific
Linguistics, pp: 87-113.
Pawley, Andrew and Medina Pawley (1998) ‘Canoes
and seafaring’, in Malcolm Ross, Andrew Pawley and Meredith
Osmond (eds.) The lexicon of Proto Oceanic. The culture and environment
of ancestral Oceanic society. Vol. 1: Material culture. Canberra:
Pacific Linguistics, pp. 173-209.
Ross, Malcolm (2003) ‘Meteorological phenomena’,
in Malcolm Ross, Andrew Pawley and Meredith Osmond, The lexicon
of Proto Oceanic. The culture and environment of ancestral Oceanic
society. Vol. 2: The physical environment. Canberra: Pacific
Linguistics, pp: 115-147.
Ross, Malcolm, Andrew Pawley and Meredith Osmond (eds.)
(1998) The lexicon of Proto Oceanic. The culture and environment
of ancestral Oceanic society. Vol. 1: Material culture. Canberra:
Sidwell, Paul (2000) Proto South Bahnaric: a reconstruction
of a Mon-Khmer language of Indo-China. Canberra, Pacific Linguistics.
Sidwell, Paul and Pascale Jacq (in press) A Handbook
of Comparative Bahnaric: volume 1 – West Bahnaric. Canberra,
Trask, R.L. (2000) The dictionary of historical
and comparative linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs and Richard B. Dasher (2002)
Regularity in semantic change. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Wilkins, David (1996) ‘Natural tendencies of
semantic change and the search for cognates’, in Mark Durie
and Malcolm Ross (eds.) The comparative method reviewed. Regularity
and irregularity in language change. New York: Oxford University
Press, pp: 264-304.
This is my fourth year in Canberra and I seem to be getting used
to the place after many years in tropical Australia, mainly Darwin.
This year I was reappointed for another three years as Research Fellow
in Language and Society at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Studies. I was also able to spend July
and August as a visiting scientist at Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology in Leipzig.
MPI-EVA has a Linguistics section headed by Prof. Bernard Comrie
to which I was attached. Malcolm Ross of ANU and CRLC was also visiting
for part of the time I was there, and another ex-ANU scholar Lea Brown
had just arrived back there from a period of field work. I continued
some of the joint work on the languages of the Victoria River District
in Australia with Eva Schultze-Berndt, whose work on Jaminjung complex
verbs we have heard a lot about recently in Andy Pawley’s seminar
talks. Eva and I have worked on different languages in the VRD and
are particularly interested in language contact between them. Eva
left Leipzig in August to take up a position at SOAS , University
of London, in the teaching section associated with the Endangered
Languages Project funded by the Rausing Foundation.
I gave a invited talk at Leipzig at the symposium on Loanwords which
is part of the Institute’s Loanword Typology project. In my
talk I emphasised the cultural and linguistic embeddedness of lexical
items and advocated a wide approach to collecting lexical data as
obscure lexical items and cultural connotations can often provide
the key to wider puzzles in historical reconstruction. I also suggested
that semantic change displays different patterns in borrowing than
MPI-EVA is a multidisciplinary body but linguistics plays a part
not only in the Linguistics department but also in Psychology where
there is a section working on Language Acquisition, and I attended
their working group meetings. I am currently involved with a 4-year
ARC project on acquisition of Aboriginal languages in several Central
Australian communities, with Gillian Wigglesworth of Melbourne University,
Jane Simpson of Sydney University, and four Ph.D students. Unlike
in most language acquisition research the language spoken by the children
is often quite different from that of older age groups and one of
the aims is to analyse the kind of input the children get which leads
to this changed output.
As I argued in my opinion piece for this site in an earlier newsletter,
this kind of work both feeds into and gains ideas from linguistic
prehistory. In this case we are seeing the genesis of creoles and
mixed languages before our eyes and this can only assist us to assess
the mechanisms of language change in earlier times. Clearly multidisciplinary
prehistory would feature among the goals of MPI-EVA and there is a
working group between Genetics and Linguistics also at the Institute.
Unfortunately, there are no socio-cultural anthropologists or archaeologists
on the staff or among the students at this time, as far as I know.
While in Europe, I gave a number of talks at conferences. The International
Congress of Linguists at Prague had a session on Historical Linguistics
convened by Lyle Campbell at which I talked on reconstructing Pama-Nyungan
kinship terms (jointly authored with Barry Alpher). The International
Congress of Historical Linguistics at Copenhagen had a session on
Australia convened by Australian Bill McGregor, now of Aarhus University.
I tried to present counter-arguments to a lot of the assumptions that
grammatical resemblances between neighbouring distantly related languages
are due to structural diffusion. After leaving Leipzig I gave a paper
at the Diachronic Comparative Syntax conference at Leiden University
and one at the LAGB conference in Oxford. Although my paper at Leiden
(on shifting placement and loss of pronominal enclitics in Australia)
stuck out like a sore thumb as being the only one on languages not
attested in historical documents, I found the conference stimulating
and a number of the participants seemed interested in my 'downward
migration' hypothesis which I reinterpreted as types of raising.
My paper at Oxford (written with Nick Thieberger) was quite different
– on the use of census and other survey data to assess current
endangerment of languages in Australia. Again I felt a fish out of
water – most of the papers at LAGB were on theoretical topics,
mostly in the Minimalist or related frameworks. I am personally interested
in these theories and used them for instance in the Leiden paper,
but I can’t help thinking that LAGB has drifted too far away
from real people speaking real languages and their situations. My
talk was attended by a small band – interestingly mostly from
China who have their own endangered languages, and Prof. Peter Austin,
from the ELDP at SOAS.
On my return to Australia I gave a similar talk to the LAGB one,
this time with Nick Thieberger present, at the Foundation for Endangered
Languages meeting at Broome. This was a marvellous meeting with many
Indigenous people in attendance and papers from many parts of Australia
and the world. I was very pleased to meet Mary Jane Norris, an Indigenous
Canadian who has done excellent work on Indigenous languages of Canada
using census data This has inspired the work of Nick and me over the
last few years on the report State of Indigenous Languages in
Australia and related items.
Currently I am getting further involved with this kind of work, as
AIATSIS is acting on my proposal to update the Indigenous Languages
Database (ILDB) created by Nick Thieberger and me and put it on the
web as a national resource and standard. This will be developed and
piloted with the help of Melbourne University Computer Science and
Doug Marmion of ANU in 2004. As noted elsewhere in this issue, the
ILDB could be used as a standard languages list also for comparative
I am also heavily involved in Native Title research in Queensland
and the NT -anthropology rather than linguistics although I have a
couple of publications appearing on historical linguistics and Native
Title. I hope to return to my linguistic prehistory work as this applied
anthropology work eases off, including the volume from the ARCLING
II conference. I have been invited to give a talk [see
abstract] on linguistic prehistory in a symposium on language
ecology to celebrate the 100th birthday of Murray Emeneau, perhaps
the ‘father’ of linguistic areal studies, at University
of California, Berkeley in February 2004. Just last week I gave an
invited talk on the application of the language ecology concept in
a symposium of Language Shift at the University of Western Australia.
The serendipity seems to be bringing me back to that uniting of the
contemporary studies of shift and change with prehistoric spread and
change – the core of CRLC’s business, as I see it.
Forthcoming conferences, 2004
- The 17th International Conference on Historical Linguistics will
be held in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, end of July 2005, organised by
Joseph Salmons and Thomas Cravens.
- The 18th International Conference on Historical Linguistics will
be held in Christchurch, New Zealand in July of 2007, organised by
Lyle Campbell of the University of Canterbury.
- COOL6 Sixth International Conference on Oceanic Linguistics at the
Emalus Campus, University of the South Pacific, Port Vila, Vanuatu,
4 - 9 July, 2004. The web address for the first circular is: http://www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj/paclangunit/FirstCircular.htm
2003 Conference Reports
XVIth International Conference on Historical Linguistics,
Copenhagen, 11th-15th of August 2003. This conference gathered the
largest number ever of participants, of papers, and of languages studied.
There were 370 participants from 35 countries and 5 continents. Out
of a very large number of abstracts submitted and reviewed, 246 were
accepted and 236 actually read. We had 15 thematic sections and between
7 and 9 parallel session each day.
[Excerpted from a circular sent by Lene Schøsler, Conference
Director] See listing of papers presented by CRLC members below.
17th International Congress of Linguists, Prague,
Czech Republic, July 24-29, 2003.
A session on Comparative Linguistics, organised by Lyle Campbell,
attracted 37 papers on a great variety of languages and language families.
The conference proceedings will be published in a CD-ROM at the end
of 2003. See listing of papers presented by CRLC members below.
DIATYPE Symposium on diachrony, dialectology and typological
linguistics held in Helsinki, October 16-18, 2003. This symposium
was organised and hosted by the University of Helsinki’s Research
Unit for Variation and Change in English (http://www.eng.helsinki.fi/varieng/).
Cynthia Allen attended and presented a paper ‘The
Typology of Old English Possessives and Determiners’. Plenary
papers were presented by Dieter Kastovsky: "Historical morphology
from a typological point of view", Bernd Kortmann: "The
European dimension of the new partnership between dialectology and
typology", and Anna Siewierska: "On the development of non-accusative
person agreement." The unifying theme of the symposium was ‘to
explore connections between these three fields of research, looking
for ways in which historical linguists and dialectologists could learn
from insights to be gained from typological studies, and vice versa.’
Conference papers presented by CRLC
members & affiliates
17th International Congress of Linguists, Prague,
Czech Republic, July 24-29, 2003
- Diller, Anthony and Wilaiwan Khanittanan.
Bilingual mixing and diglossic differentiation: Thai and Khmer.
- Koch, Harold. The case for Pama-Nyungan:
evidence from inflectional morphology.
- McConvell, Patrick and Barry
Alpher. Reconstruction of the Proto-Pama-Nyungan kinship
system in Australia.
- Ross, Malcolm. Change and stasis
in Oceanic possessive constructions.
- Wichman, Søren. A summary
of advances in Mayan comparative phonology.
16th International Conference on Historical Linguistics,
Copenhagen, 11-15 August 2003
- Alpher, Barry. Proto-Pama-Nyungan
consonant clusters and the problem of how many laminals there were.
- Grant, Anthony. Linguistic engineering
and its effects on diachronic depletion in ‘everyday’
- Harris, Alice. Proto-Daghestan declension.
- Kikusawa, Ritsuko. ‘Drift’
from ergative- to accusative-pattern clitic pronouns systems: a case
in Oceanic languages.
- Koch, Harold. Neogrammarian principles
and the reconstruction of Australian verb inflection.
- McConvell, Patrick. Questioning
‘structural diffusion’: understanding borrowing and inheritance
- McLagan, Helen. Placement of adnominal
genitive phrases in Old English.
- Miceli, Luisa. On the relatedness
of Australian languages.
- Ross, Malcolm. The history of Oceanic
possessive constructions: formal change without semantic change.
- Rumsey, Alan, with William McGregor.
Classification and subclassification of the Worrorran languages.
- Terrill, Angela. Punctuated Equilibrium
in the Solomon Islands.
- Tremblay, Mireille. A syntactic
analysis of prefix entre- in Old French.
- Tremblay, Mireille, with Fracois
Rouget. Variation in 16th century French: a quantitative analysis
of Rabelais’ style and aesthetics.
- Wichman, Søren. A sociolinguistic
theory of the evolution of writing systems.
Annual conference of the Australian Linguistics
Society, Newcastle University, 26-28th September, 2003.
- Harold Koch. Particles and proto-paradigms:
Extending the catchment area for the reconstruction of pronominal
- Bethwyn Evans. The value of "applied
phonology" in morphological reconstruction.
- Helen McLagan. Placement of adnominal
genitive phrases in Old English.
DIATYPE Symposium on diachrony, dialectology
and typological linguistics, Helsinki, October 16-18th,
- Cynthia Allen. The
Typology of Old English Possessives and Determiners. [abstract]
36th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and
Linguistics, Melbourne (convened by David Bradley, LaTrobe
University), 26-30th November, 2003.
- Diller, Anthony. Text and orality in early Thai
(Workshop on Text and Orality in Kam-Tai Languages, organised by Stephen
Morey and David Holm, 27th Nov.)
- Edmondson, Jerold. A comparison of Chinese and
Vietnamese varieties of the Lachi language
- Edmondson, Jerold and Li, Jinfang. Red Gelao, the
most endangered form of the Gelao language (Workshop on Endangered
Languages of China, organised by David Bradley, 26th Nov.)
- Morey, Stephen. The Turung language of Assam
- Morey, Stephen. Song poetry of Tais in Assam (Workshop
on Text and Orality in Kam-Tai Languages, 27th Nov.)
- Rose, Phil. The relationship between citation and
running speech tones: some Cantonese data
- Sidwell, Paul. The Mon-Khmer substrate in (Proto)
Chamic as a Bahnaric language
CRLC Workshop on
'Finding, organising and
Friday 12th and Friday 19th December,
11 am - 1pm
HC Coombs Building, Seminar Room C, Australian National University
In December the CRLC will be holding a workshop on finding, organising
and displaying cognates. The workshop will comprise a number of "mini-papers"
(about 10-15 minutes each) on issues connected with ways of searching
for cognates, methods of organising and displaying cognates, and ways
of using cognate sets to examine other issues of language change.
Friday 12th December
- Patrick McConvell The web Indigenous Languages
Database and how it could work with an etymological database
- Paul Sidwell The Mon-Khmer comparative etymological
- Doug Marmion Collaborative knowledgeabase construction
- Tamsin Donaldson Using 20th Century spoken
Ngiyampaa to interpret an 1840 manuscript grammar of Wiradjuri
Friday 19th December
- Patrick McConvell Searching for polysemy and
semantic change across lexica
- Andrew Pawley Strategies of doing semantic
reconstruction: examples from the Oceanic Lexicon Project
- Harold Koch Australian language cognates: in
support of morphological reconstruction
- Kate Laffan Displaying cognates using excel
- Malcolm Ross Unsophisticated storage of Oceanic
HistLing Seminar Series 2, 2003
The second HistLing Seminar Series for 2003 was held
during Sept-November. The seminar titles and abstracts are given below:
5th Sept.: Bethwyn Evans (Department of Linguistics, RSPAS,
ANU) “The value of applied phonology in morphological reconstruction”
12th Sept.: Harold Koch (School of Language Studies, ANU)
“Particles and proto-paradigms: extending the catchment area
for the reconstruction of pronominal inflection” [Abstract]
19th Sept.: Kate Laffan (School of Language Studies, ANU)
“Getting to the core of the Proto Wakka-Kabic case system”
17th Oct.: Claire Bowern (Dept. Linguistics, Harvard University)“Devolution
of noun incorporation” [Abstract]
A guest seminar for the 26 November was given by Anna Zalizniak
A "Catalogue of Semantic Parallels": towards a Typology
of Semantic Change [Abstract]
The next series is projected for first semester
Please contact the coordinator, Beth Evans <email@example.com>
for details or to send seminar proposals.
to CRLC by Dr Anna Zalizniak
Dr Anna Zalizniak, a Senior
Research Fellow in Russian and Comparative Linguistics at the Moscow
Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences and an eminent
semanticist, visited the CRLC and the ANU School of Language Studies
25-26 November 2003. Dr Zalizniak presented a well-attended seminar
‘A "Catalogue of Semantic Parallels": towards a Typology
of Semantic Change.’ We are grateful to the Australian Academy
of the Humanities, who made Dr Zalizniak’s visit possible through
their Visiting Scholars Programme—Former USSR.
Theses submitted by CRLC members, ANU
Helen McLagan (School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts,
ANU) submitted her Master of Linguistics thesis in November, entitled
The Syntax of Genitive Constructions in Old English: placement of
genitive phrases in Ælfric's second series of Catholic Homilies.
(Supervisor Cynthia Allen)
Kate Laffan (School of Language Studies, Faculty of
Arts, ANU) submitted her BA(Hons): Reconstruction of the Wakka-Kabic
languages of south-eastern Queensland. (Supervisor Harold Koch)
Laura Daniliuc (School of Language Studies, Faculty
of Arts, ANU) submitted her PhD Thesis entitled: Auxiliary selection
in the Romance languages. (Chair: Cynthia Allen)
2003 Courses run
by Program in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics of the School for
Language Studies, ANU
- Language Change and Linguistic Reconstruction (LING2005/6005)
was taught in first semester by Dr. Bethwyn Evans.
- Study of a Language Family (Mon-Khmer) (LING3008/6508) was
taught in second semester, by Dr. Paul Sidwell (see Lecture
planned for 2004 by the Program in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics,
- Language Change and Linguistic Reconstruction (LING2005/6005)
to be taught in first semester by Dr. Harold Koch.
- Languages in Contact (LING2018/6018) to be taught in first
semester by Dr. Harold Koch.
- Study of a Language Family (Austronesian) (LING3008/6508)
in second semester will be coordinated by Dr. Bethwyn Evans.
Publications by CRLC Members & Affiliates
(concerning language change/historical linguistics)
Allen, Cynthia. 2003.The Early English ‘his
Genitives´ from a Germanic Perspective. In Collins, Peter and
Mengistu Amberber (eds.) (2003) Proceedings of the 2002 Conference
of the Australian Linguistics Society. http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/ling/als/als2kproceedings.html.
—. 2003. Deflexion and the development of the genitive in English.
English Language and Linguistics 7.1 (2003). 1-28.
Bowern, Claire & Harold Koch
(eds). in press. Australian languages: classification and the comparative
method. [= Papers from the Workshop on Subgrouping and Reconstruction
in Australian languages, 15 International Conference on Historical Linguistics,
Melbourne, 16 August 2001]. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Jennifer Hendriks. 2003. Agreement and Animacy in “Auxiliary
Pronoun Possessives” in Middle and Early Modern Dutch. In Collins,
Peter and Mengistu Amberber (eds.) (2003) Proceedings of the 2002
Conference of the Australian Linguistics Society. http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/ling/als/als2kproceedings.html
Koch, Harold. 2003. Morphological reconstruction as
an etymological method. In Blake, Barry J. and Kate Burridge (eds),
Historical Linguistics 2001: Selected papers from the 15th
International Conference on Historical Linguistics, 13-17 August 2001.
Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 271-291.
Lacadena, Alfonso and Søren Wichmann. in press.
On the representation of the glottal stop in Maya writing. In: Wichmann,
Søren (ed.), The Linguistics of Maya Writing. Salt Lake
City: University of Utah Press.
McConvell, Patrick. 2003. ‘Millers and mullers:
the archaeolinguistic stratigraphy of seed-grinding in Central Australia’
In H.Andersen ed. Language contacts in prehistory:studies in stratigraphy,
177-200. Amsterdam: Benjamins (with M.Smith)
— . 2003. Review of J.Simpson et al eds. Forty Years on:
Ken Hale and Australian languages. Oceanic Linguistics 42.1
— . 2003. 'Language data assessment at the national level: learning
from the State of the Environment process in Australia' In J.Blythe
& R.McKenna Brown eds. Maintaining the links: Language, Identity
and the Land. 51-57. Bath:Federation of Endangered Languages. (with
— . in press. Headward migration: a Kimberley counter-example.
In N.Evans (ed.) The Non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia:
comparative studies of the continent’s most linguistically complex
region. 75-92. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics .
— . in press. A Short Ride On A Time Machine: Linguistics, Culture
History And Native Title. In S.Toussaint (ed.) Crossing Boundaries.
Melbourne University Press.
— . in press. The grammaticalization of demonstratives as
complementizers in Ngumpin-Yapa languages. In special number of
Australian Journal of Linguistics. Ed. R. Nordlinger.
Senft, Gunter. 2003. Wosi Milamala - Weisen von Liebe
und Tod auf den Trobriand Inseln. In Ireneusz Bobrowski (ed.). Anabasis
- Prace Ofiarowane Professor Krystynie Pisarkowej. 289-295. Kraków:
— . 2003. Ethnographic Methods. In Werner Deutsch, Theo Hermann,
Gert Rickheit, (eds.). Psycholinguistik - Ein internationales Handbuch
Psycholinguistics - An International Handbook. 106-114. Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter.
Sidwell, Paul & Pascale Jacq. in press. A
Handbook of Comparative Bahnaric, Vol. 1: West Bahnaric. Pacific
Linguistics Series on Language Change.
Wichmann, Søren. 2002/2003. Georges Raynaud:
An overlooked figure in the history of Maya epigraphy. The PARI
Journal 3.2/3.3: 15-17.
— . 2003. Contextualizing proto-languages, homelands and distant
genetic relationship: some reflections on the comparative method from
a Mesoamerican perspective. In: Peter Bellwood and Colin Renfrew (eds.),
Examining the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis, pp. 321-29. McDonald
Institute Monographs. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological
— . in press. The Linguistics of Maya Writing. Salt Lake City:
University of Utah Press.
— . in press. The linguistic epigraphy of Mayan writing: Recent
advances and questions for future research. In: Wichmann, Søren
(ed.), The Linguistics of Maya Writing.
— . in press. The grammar of the half-period glyph. In: Wichmann,
Søren (ed.), The Linguistics of Maya Writing.
— . in press. The grammaticalization of a paradigm of auxiliaries
in Texistepec Popoluca: A case study in diachronic adaptation. SKY
Journal of Linguistics.
Wichmann, Søren and Cecil H. Brown. 2003. Contact
among some Mayan languages: inferences from loanwords. Anthropological
Linguistics 45.1: 57-93.
Zuckermann, Ghil'ad. 2003. Language Contact and
Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. London, New York: Palgrave
Macmillan; 2003. See http://www.zuckermann.org/enrichment.html
— . 2003. 'Language Contact and Globalisation: The Camouflaged
Influence of English on the Worlds Languages - with special attention
to Israeli (sic) and Mandarin'. Cambridge Review of international
Affairs 16.2, 287-307
— . 2003. 'Cultural Hybridity: Multisourced Neologization in
Reinvented Languages and in Languages with Phono-Logographic Script'.
Languages in Contrast 4.2.
— . in press. 'LEXICAL ENGINEERING as a Means for Judging Other
Religions: A Socio-Philological Perspective' in Joshua A. Fishman and
Tope Omoniyi (eds), Readings in the Sociology of Language and Religion,
— . in press. 'Hebrew'. The New Companion to Modern Jewish
Culture, Glenda Abramson (ed.), London: Routledge.
— . in press. Review Article of Yaacov Levy, Oxford Pocket Dictionary
English-Hebrew / Hebrew-English. Jerusalem: Kernerman-Lonnie Kahn, 2002.
Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 3:1.
— . in press. Review of Agnieszka Kuczkiewicz-Fras, Perso-Arabic
Hybrids in Hindi: The Socio-Linguistic and Structural Analysis. New
Delhi: Manohar, 2003. Yearbook of South-Asian Languages and Linguistics,
Ranjendra Singh (ed.), Mouton de Gruyter.
Continuing the new feature of this Newsletter, Members and Associates
are invited to submit one-paragraph book notes to bring to the attention
of colleagues recently published books relevant to language change.
Mufwene, Salikoko S. 2001. The ecology of language
evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In this book we find revised versions of several papers and essays
by Salikoko Mufwene preceded by an introductory chapter that clarifies
many of the concepts and terms used by the author and also summarises
some of his most important arguments. Among the concepts defined we
find the very three that appear in the title: ‘language’,
‘ecology’ and ‘evolution’. A ‘language’,
traditionally likened to an ‘organism’, is here defined
as a ‘species’. Languages or species in turn consist of
I-languages or idiolects – i.e., a communal language is an ensemble
of I-languages. This perspective enables Mufwene to explain language
change as resulting from the competition-and-selection dynamics of co-existing
I-languages – variation motivates change. ‘Ecology’
is then what determines which of the variables in competition are selected
within a language or species, or between languages/species: the same
language in different habitats will evolve differently as restructuring
will not necessarily involve identical variables. And indeed the same
language may thrive in one habitat while it is dying in another due
to the fact that it is in competition with different languages. From
this theoretical position Mufwene covers topics such as creole genesis
(chapter 2) and the status of various non-standard varieties of English
(chapters 3 and 4), genetic linguistics (chapter 5) and language endangerment
(chapter 8). It is extremely refreshing to view all of this from a different
viewpoint as it makes one realise that many of the metaphors and theoretical
models we use, the distinctions that we make – although they serve
us well – are mostly just ‘tradition’. And tradition
needs to be challenged from time to time.[Luisa
Blake, Barry J. and Kate Burridge. 2003. Historical
Linguistics 2001. Selected papers from the 15th International Conference
on Historical Linguistics, Melbourne 13-17 August 2001. Amsterdam:
This volume, like many conference proceedings, includes papers covering
a wide range of languages and topics, from language contact in the Amazon
(Aikhenvald) to isomorphism in Afrikaans (Conradie), and from the principles
of vowel shifts (Chun-fat) to the concepts of grammaticalisation and
degrammaticalisation (Heine). Many of the papers examine specific changes
in a particular language or small group of languages. Dench, for example,
examines the verbal suffix -(l)ku in two languages of the Pilbara region
of Australia, describing in detail the functional shift from purposive
to present tense. And papers by Jensen, Manoliu and Pekkarinen describe
specific changes in the history of Danish, Romanian and Finnish, respectively.
Such papers are, undoubtedly, of most interest to others working on
the same or closely related languages, but they also provide clear descriptions
and explanations that add to knowledge of language change. Other papers
use specific changes within particular language families to make more
general claims about models of language change and methods of reconstruction.
K. Schulte, describing the development of prepositional complementisers
in Romance languages, demonstrates the importance of pragmatics in explaining
syntactic change. Riemer, taking the English verb ‘to strike’
as an example, demonstrates the application of a typology of meaning
change that incorporates metonymy and metaphor, and Aikhenvald presents
two models of contact-induced change using language contact situations
in the Amazon. Koch uses data from the Arandic languages of Australia
to highlight the use of etymological methods in morphological reconstruction,
and Kikusawa develops a method of describing morphosyntactic change
to clarify changes to the pronominal paradigms of a number of Indonesian
languages. Papers by Campbell, critiquing methods that try to go beyond
the comparative method, and by Joseph and Janda, on models of sound
change, highlight issues that are central to historical linguistics;
reconstruction and language change. With papers ranging from very specific
to more general, this volume brings together many different ideas on
and approaches to historical linguistics, providing a snapshot of the
state of the discipline in 2001. [Bethwyn
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs and Richard B. Dasher. 2002.
Regularity in semantic change. (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics)
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Here, finally, is a book that gives a comprehensive account of semantic
change within a framework that takes seriously the pragmatics of speaker-hearer
interaction within actual discourse contexts. The authors argue for
an Invited Inference Theory of Semantic Change. They explore recurrent
changes of a prevailingly unidirectional nature that are documented
from a wide range of languages, but in most detail from the history
of English, Japanese, and Chinese. The main topics explored with chapter-length
studies are the development of: modal verbs, discourse markers out of
adverbials, performative verbs and constructions, and social deictics.
The results of these studies in semantic-pragmatic-discourse change
can be expected to prove as useful for the study of semantic change
and reconstruction as the accumulation of patterns of grammaticalisation
do for the historical study of syntax and morphology. [Harold
Nicholas Evans (editor). in press. The
Non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia: Comparative studies
of the continent's most linguistically complex region. Pacific
Publisher's blurb: The present volume brings together detailed
comparative work on a number of non-Pama-Nyungan languages of Northern
Australia, and is the first book-length study to span this linguistically
complex region, containing as it does perhaps 90% of Australia's linguo-genetic
diversity in an eighth of its land area. Many papers originated at a
workshop held at the 1989 Australian Linguistics Society conference
at Monash University, but several have been written specially for this
volume. It has been said that no language changes faster than a proto-language,
and in the intervening period a great deal of new descriptive data on
non-Pama-Nyungan languages has accumulated, as well as careful sifting
of complex data, which has led many of the authors to completely revise
or develop their arguments since the original workshop. Hence, the delay
in the appearance of the volume reflects some major shifts in position
on the part of some authors.
The introduction the main issues in comparative non-Pama-Nyungan studies,
and forms a state-of-the-art survey of the classification of non-Pama-Nyungan
languages, which have undergone substantial changes over recent decades.
It also consider the main issues in their subgrouping, and their relation
to the Pama-Nyungan languages. The second to fourth sections then looks
at issues of subgrouping, reconstruction and areal influence that pertain
to particular non-Pama-Nyungan families or subregions. The final sections
returns to the issue of whether one can carry the process of reconstruction
back to deeper levels than the families themselves, that is back to
some level from which all or most non-Pama-Nyungan families are descended.
Overall, the volume illustrates that - despite recent claims by some
authors - the comparative method can be successfully applied to Australian
languages. It also furnishes a number of detailed and intricate studies
of morphological reconstruction applied to complex paradigms.
ISBN 0 85883 538 X
Aust $99.00 International $90.00
Malcolm Ross, Andrew Pawley and Meredith
Osmond. 2003. The lexicon of Proto Oceanic:
The culture and environment of ancestral Oceanic society. Vol. 2: The
physical environment. Pacific Linguistics Series No.545.
Publisher's blurb: This is the second in a series of five volumes
on the lexicon of Proto Oceanic, the ancestor of the Oceanic branch
of the Austronesian language family. Each volume deals with a particular
domain of culture and/or environment and consists of a collection of
essays each of which presents and comments on lexical reconstructions
of a particular semantic field within that domain.
Volume 2 examines how Proto Oceanic speakers described their geophysical
environment. An introductory chapter discusses linguistic and archaeological
evidence that locates the Proto Oceanic language community in the Bismarck
Archipelago in the late 2nd millennium BC. The next three chapters investigate
terms used to denote inland, coastal, reef and open sea environments,
and meteorological phenomena. A further chapter examines the lexicon
for features of the heavens and navigational techniques associated with
the stars. How Proto Oceanic speakers talked about their environment
is also described in three further chapters which treat property terms
for describing inanimate objects, locational and directional terms,
and terms related to the expression of time.
2003 ISBN 0 85883 536 3 xviii + 387 pp
Aust $88.00 International $80.00
Bethwyn Evans. 2003.A study of valency-changing
devices in Proto Oceanic. Pacific Linguistics Series Studies
in Language Change. No 539.
Publisher's blurb: Characteristic of many of the Oceanic languages
of the Pacific is the presence of several valency-changing devices.
This work is an historical study of three valency-increasing and two
valency-decreasing morphemes, presenting descriptions of their reflexes
in a number of modern Oceanic languages and a detailed reconstruction
of their forms and functions in the ancestor language, Proto Oceanic.
The reconstructions of valency-changing devices is presented within
of an analysis of morphosyntactic classes of verbs, both in the modern
languages and in Proto Oceanic.
Pacific Linguistics in association with Centre for Research on Language
2003 ISBN 0 85883 487 1 xix + 352 pp
AUS $79.20 International $72.00