the Chameleon
edition #6
November, 2004

In this edition:



Conflicting Traditions? Approaching historical linguistics from different perspectives – CRLC Workshop, Australian Linguistic Society Conference, 13-15 July 2004




Publications & Research Projects


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News of members

Laura Daniliuc was awarded the PhD from ANU in May. Her thesis title was “Auxiliary selection in the Romance languages. Synchrony and diachrony”. The thesis offers a detailed description of the status of auxiliary selection in Modern Romance, including the less-studied languages of this family. It also includes with an investigation of the diachronic development of auxiliary selection. It proposes a classification of the Romance languages according to the degree of evolution of auxiliary selection. This thesis also questions the traditional hypothesis that the choice of the perfect auxiliary in the Romance languages has its roots in the Latin deponent verbs. It argues in favour of a different explanation of the phenomenon, namely the reanalysis of the copula BE as the tense auxiliary BE.

Emeritus Professor Isabel McBryde, a foundation member of CRLC, was in December 2003 awarded the Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology. This is the highest award offered by the Australian Archaeological Association and Isabel is only the second archaeologist to receive it. This award was established in 2002 in honour of the late Professor Rhys Jones (also a foundation member of CRLC).

Professor Darrell Tryon has been awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government in a ceremony at the French Embassy 9 September. The citation mentioned his “years of devotion to the service of French language and culture, especially in New Caledonia and in the countries of the region”.
See further at



Change of Position

  • In June Claire Bowern was awarded a PhD from Harvard University. For more information, [see Profile].

  • Bethwyn Evans is leaving ANU at the end of November to take up a 3-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Manchester. Her project there will examine a number of linguistic features of the Northwest Solomonic languages from an historical perspective and attempt to use historical linguistics to gain insights into the social prehistory of the region. She will also be going to the Solomon Islands for fieldwork. We wish Beth all the best.

New Members and Affiliates

A warm welcome to our new CRLC Member for 2004!

New full members:

  • Francesca Merlan
  • Karl Rensch
  • Rachel Hendery

New associate members:

  • Alan Dench (University of Western Australia)
  • Mark Donohue (Department of English, Language, and Literature, National University of Singapore)
  • Kim Schulte (Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Exeter, UK)

The complete CRLC Members list is here.

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Conflicting Traditions? Approaching historical linguistics from different perspectives –

CRLC workshop, Australian Linguistic Society Conference, 13-15 July 2004

Luisa Miceli

As the title suggests, the theme of the first CRLC workshop, held at the Australian Linguistic Society Conference in July, focused on different traditions within the field of historical linguistics. Papers were solicited on issues concerning methodology, approach or models used in the study of different aspects of language change and within different languages or language families. We were especially interested in fuelling discussion on the issue of whether these traditions are conflicting in any way or whether they complement each other. With a theme focusing on methodological and theoretical issues we hoped to bring together a wide range of scholars and to create an opportunity for dialogue beyond the ongoing seminar series held at the Australian National University.
Thirteen papers were presented in total, most of them approaching the conference theme via a specific case study. Problematic issues in classification and reconstruction recurred in quite a number of papers, but there were also papers that dealt with explanations of language change.
Of the papers concerned with genetic affiliation, two focused on language varieties for which rather different accounts have been proposed - Naro & Scherre on Brazilian Portuguese and Zuckermann on Israeli. One of the interesting points raised in the former paper was the importance of comparing what is indeed comparable. The authors argued that the usual approach of considering only the highly codified variety of standard European Portuguese in exploring the origin of Brazilian Portuguese is flawed. A much better understanding of the processes at play and of the relationship Brazilian Portuguese displays to European Portuguese can be gained by comparing non-standard varieties. Another valuable methodological point raised was that much can be gained by considering the frequency of variables, as opposed to just looking at the data qualitatively. Zuckermann's paper presented the origin of Israeli (Modern Hebrew) as resulting from a process of hybridization rather than the revival of Biblical Hebrew or the relexification of Yiddish – the two traditionally proposed scenarios. Zuckermann's model therefore breaks away from the traditional family tree where language genesis is the result of diversification from a single parent. Toulmin also provided a fresh approach to the family tree by illustrating how sociolinguistic, as well as linguistic factors, can be used in determining the chronology of innovations. The issue of the appropriateness of the traditional family tree model was also addressed in my own paper. Current research suggests that the notion of genetic relationship needs refining and workshops such as this one provide the opportunity for the kind of dialogue necessary for assessing possible directions of change.
A second recurring topic was that of procedural matters in applying the comparative method. Such issues are especially pertinent to scholars working on languages whose history is still in the early stages of reconstruction since much of the methodology in historical linguistics is not well codified. Is it better to start off with a narrow research focus or a wide research focus? Pawley's paper demonstrated the usefulness of proceeding by undertaking both top-down and bottom-up reconstruction from the beginning stages, using the Trans New Guinea Phylum as an example. Koch's paper provided further support for this point by demonstrating what can be missed in approaching reconstruction from the bottom-up perspective only. Koch and Hercus further discussed matters of procedure by illustrating the inappropriateness of sticking to translation equivalents in searching for cognates, while Kikusawa's paper dealt with the issue of independent parallel innovation, a much neglected topic in the literature. Still on method, Grant suggested various ways in which qualitative lexicostatistic methods can be further refined, especially through changes to the list of contentives and functional concepts employed. Green's case study of the Daly languages demonstrated the use of morphological agreement in positing genetic relationship, providing scope for discussion on what is required in making a solid proposal of relatedness.
Another point raised, in the papers by Evans and Sidwell, concerned the value of studying the etymology of loanwords to gain a better understanding of language histories, and even in clarifying matters of classification.
Of the papers dealing with change, Round discussed the role of frequency in the reduction of function words and put forward a new hypothesis that this phenomenon is best explained in terms of the interplay between strong and weak forms, with frequency only playing an indirect role, while Jonas dealt with syntactic change, specifically the loss of verb raising, for which she argued that language contact may provide a better account than explanations based on formal syntactic frameworks.
Overall, a wide range of topics related to the general theme were therefore covered at the workshop, as we had initially hoped. The flavour of the event very much reflected the current state of the field as it begins to question, rethink and refine some of the longstanding 'traditions' in light of new research. A proceedings volume, co-edited with Bethwyn Evans, is currently in preparation.


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Claire Bowern

It's been a busy year.
Couple of things to report in the way of historical linguistics.
In April I defended my dissertation, entitled "Bardi Verb Morphology in Historical Perspective". I wrote a grammar of Bardi, concentrating in particular on the verb morphology, presented reconstructions of Proto-Nyulnyulan verbs and discussed the changed between Proto-Nyulnyulan and Bardi. Data for the project came from published sources, unpublished notes of previous researchers, and my three trips to One Arm Point Community. A revised manuscript will be submitted for publication later this year. My PhD degree was awarded by Harvard University in June.
The book I co-edited with Harold Koch, Australian Languages: Classification and the Comparative Method, was released in March and was launched at the ALS in Sydney on 12 July.
I have started a project on comparative Yol?u, and spent July at Milingimbi Community working with the last speakers of Yan-nha?u, on a grant from the Hans Rausing Endangered Language Project. We have been writing a learner's guide and adding to the draft dictionary originally compiled by Bentley James. I have also been recording texts and hope to write a descriptive grammar from the materials. Yan-nha?u is the language of the Crocodile Islands and the Wessels (including parts of Elcho Island); there has been very little previous research on the language (and some that has appeared under "Nha?u" or "yanha?u" is very different from the language I am recording). It is not mutually intelligible with Gupapuy?u or other Dhuwal(a) varieties of Yol?u Matha, although all Yan-nha?u speakers also speak one or more of these languages. My Yan-nha?u recordings will feed into comparative reconstructions of proto-Yol?u and hopefully will eventually clarify the place of Yol?u withing Pama-Nyungan.
I have accepted a job at Rice University in Houston, Texas and started teaching in August. I will be teaching courses on syntax, historical linguistics and Australian languages.

Claire’s address:

Dr Claire Bowern
Department of Linguistics -MS23
Rice University
PO Box 1892
Houston TX 77251-1892 USA

ph: +1-713-348-5150

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Recent conferences

CRLC Workshop (see Editorial and http://

Language contact, hybrids and new varieties: emergent possessive constructions working symposium, 3-4 September 2004, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics Monash University

A list of conference participants and abstracts and papers can be found at the website:
The conference was organised by Dr Margaret Florey (Monash University) and Dr Patrick McConvell (AIATSIS) in conjunction with two current linguistics projects:

- Endangered Maluku Languages: East Indonesia and the Dutch diaspora
- Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project

Monash University Linguistics Papers, a DEST-recognised refereed journal, will be publishing the proceedings as a special volume, projected for 2005.

The Keynote Speaker was Professor Pieter Muysken, University of Nijmegen. Pieter Muysken used his keynote address to introduce the topics we would be discussing during the course of the conference and proposed that we consider developing a framework for asking the right questions and how the structures we find in contact settings might be interpreted. Some scenarios and phenomena discussed include maintenance (restructuring, convergent change), shift (L2 learning, substrate influence, levelling, creole) and mixing (intertwining, multilateral diffusion).
Most of the languages presented in these papers have or had a alienable/inalienable possessive distinction. Therefore a major theme of the symposium was what happens to this system under language contact conditions, as the substrate or 'catalyst' languages in these cases do not make this distinction. Jeff Siegel summarised the sort of phenomena we find: no marking, or reduction of marking, of alienable/inalienable possession with a tendency to adopt the alienable marker; a shift from a synthetic to an analytic structure; overgeneralisation of third person marking as a possessive; double marking; juxtaposition and changes in word order.
The symposium provided ample opportunity for discussion, and it was agreed that this format and the choice of topic allowed for presentation of specific data and phenomena whilst promoting debate on wider issues of language contact. Thanks again to the organisers and all participants. [Susan Love]

Forthcoming Conference

The 17th International Conference on Historical Linguistics will be held July 31 - August 5, 2005 in the Pyle Center on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, overlooking Lake Mendota.

Abstracts: The deadline for submission of abstracts for papers (20 min. + 10 min. for discussion) is March 1, 2005, and decisions will be emailed to authors by April 1. Those who need an earlier decision on abstract should contact the conference organizers (see below). Abstracts (no more than 250 words) can be submitted on our website; for those who lack access to the internet, please send your abstract to:

ICHL Organizing Committee
Department of German, 818 Van Hise Hall
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A.

Special sessions: In addition to broad general sessions, ICHL will include several special topics:
* Native American historical linguistics
* Linguistic theory and language change
* Socio-historical linguistics
* Immigration and language change

Invited speakers
B. Elan Dresher, University of Toronto
Steven Fassberg, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
William Labov, University of Pennsylvania
Michele Loporcaro, University of Zurich
Keren Rice, University of Toronto
Ans van Kemenade, University of Nijmegen

For additional details (including on travel, lodging and registration), please visit or contact the organizers.

CRLC Seminar Series 2004

March 26th

On the history of the Papuan-speaking populations of Near Oceania: What can linguistics add to the evidence of archaeology and other historical disciplines?
Andrew Pawley

ŒPapuan¹ is a useful label for the various families of non-Austronesian languages that are sandwiched between Australia to the south and the vast Austronesian-speaking area to the west, north and east. These almost certainly represent continuations of linguistic stocks that have been in Near Oceania (New Guinea and northwest Island Melanesia) for many millennia before Austronesian speakers entered this region some 3500-3300 years ago. Evidence concerning the prehistory of Near Oceania comes from a range of disciplines, including archaeology, palynology, historical linguistics, population genetics, paleozoology, geomorphology and human geography. The question we will address is: To what extent does linguistic evidence corroborate, contradict or add to the testimony of other disciplines concerning the history of the Papuan-speaking populations of Near Oceania? I will review recent work in historical linguistics and comment on how this squares with recent interpretations of evidence from other fields.

April 7th

On Frequency and Finiteness: a universal path from pragmatics to syntax?
Kim Schulte (University of Exeter)

Despite some clear differences between Romanian and most other Romance languages in their use of the infinitive, remarkable similarities can be observed regarding the distribution of subordinate prepositional infinitives and their corresponding finite clauses: certain semantic notions, most clearly purpose, facilitate the use of the infinitive, whilst others, notably concessivity, show a strong resistance to infinitival subordination across the Romance languages. This is particularly interesting if one takes into account that this construction is not inherited from Latin and has emerged independently at different times in the languages' history.
In this paper it is argued that these distributional patterns develop as a function of the frequency of subject co-reference found with the respective semantic notions. A diachronic statistical analysis of Spanish and Romanian shows that the essentially extra-linguistically determined likelihood of co-reference with a given semantic notion remains virtually constant through time, but that a comparatively high frequency of subject co-reference goes hand in hand with an increasing preference for infinitival constructions. This clearly stems from the fact that the subject of prepositional infinitive clauses is, as a default, co-indexed with that of the main clause. But the link between semantic notion and finiteness develops its own dynamics by expanding beyond this default pattern. The fact that some of the resulting distribution patterns are cross-linguistically common raises the question whether this path, from pragmatically determined usage frequency to syntactic structure, might be a more wide-spread or even universal phenomenon.

April 23rd

Mood swings and downward migration in South Slavic and Ngumpin-Yapa (Pama-Nyungan)
Patrick McConvell (AIATSIS)

The paper focuses on some similarities in parametric variation between Ngumpin-Yapa and Indo-European subgroups whose history is better attested, (Slavic, Romance). Ngumpin-Yapa has been well established as a sub-group by the standard comparative method (McConvell & Laughren 2004) and some preliminary work has been done towards reconstruction of the syntax of the proto-language (eg McConvell 1996). In Slavic, Romance and Ngumpin-Yapa pronominal clitics are widely found, but their placement varies between different languages and dialects. Here I am mainly concerned with the behaviour of imperative and other non-indicative clauses. As well as exploring the history of clitic placement in these clause types comparatively, I also look at how the Ng-Y contributes towards debate about whether Minimalist or Optimality Theoretic approaches are best suited to explaining the observed variation and the patterns of historical change in the syntax.
In Ngumpin-Yapa, imperatives in (a) Yapa (Warlpiri & Warlmanpa) require pronominal enclitic placement in clausal second position (2P) but (b) Gurindji and some other Ngumpin languages require enclisis to the verb (V=). The same pattern of variation is found between Bulgarian and Macedonian repectively in South Slavic. I refer to this pattern as ŒMood Swing¹. I argue that in both cases the clitic placement results from adjunction of clitics to C in the (a) but raising of the verb into C in the (b) case. Raising of the verb to C because of mood features seems particularly common in a range of unrelated languages and constitutes a parameter explaining variation. In Minimalism this type of parameter has been interpreted in terms of variation between strong/weak features on heads an approach which requires further theoretical elaboration. An alternative proposed for the South Slavic case is couched in terms of OT, with violable principles of clitic placement in competition with each other (Legendre 1998).
Another issue is whether the parametric difference discussed here, the obligatory raising of V to C in imperatives in some Ngumpin, is related to the obligatory raising of NEG to C in Yapa, and to other features of Ngumpin vs Yapa eg the aspectual nature of Yapa auxiliaries/catalysts versus their modal nature in Ngumpin.
Finally, we explore the relevance of these comparative analyses to the reconstruction of syntactic structures in Proto-NGY and their subsequent change. In the case of the placement of clitics in imperatives and other non-indicative moods, one might posit that NGY had either (a) all clauses 2P; (b) all clauses V=; (c) a split according to mood, retained in some languages, but lost in Yapa. Considerations based on both comparative data from the history of Slavic, Romance etc and theoretical considerations are adduced in searching for an answer.
More generally this kind of alternation is the matrix from which the historical trend which McConvell has called ŒDownward Migration¹ (1996, 2003, 2004) emerges. This is the process of clitics appearing to be move to lower heads in historical sequences, which we argue results from the lower heads (most importantly, verbs) being raised into higher positions such as C. The ŒMood Swing¹ whereby verbs are raised in non-indicative contexts as in the unrelated subgroups we have discussed provides the background from which categorical clitic placement on the verb (as in some other northern Pama-Nyungan subgroups) can arise.

May 21st

Languages in contact in the Canberra region in the 19th century. Towards a description of the local Aboriginal language
Harold Koch

The recent publication by Ian Clark of George Augustus Robinson's non-Tasmanian journals and Aboriginal vocabularies affords linguists the opportunity to document the Aboriginal language of the Canberra region. Robinson's journal of an 1844 expedition through south-eastern N.S.W. includes a wordlist of some 180 items recorded at Yarralumla, plus considerable information on individual people, including their indigenous names and places of affiliation. To Robinson's documentation can be added a short wordlist from S.M. Mowle, dating from his experiences in the 1830s, plus the evidence of place names taken over by European settlers from the1820s to the 1850s. I will show to what extent it is possible to reconstitute the phonetics and phonology of the language, through the comparison of the same items across different spellings by the same or different recorders of the same or closely related languages, including Curr's wordlists (especially of Queanbeyan and the Monaro) from the 1880s as well as modern professional analyses by Luise Hercus of Southern Ngarrigu and Diana Eades of Dharawal and Dhurga. The relationship of the Canberra language to these and other languages of what Schmidt 1919 called the Yuin language group (including Ngunawal and Gundungurra) will be explored. Conclusions will relate to aspects of methodology, synchronic description, and genealogical relationship.

May 26th

The relationship between Yalarnnga and Kalkutungu
Barry J. Blake & Gavan Breen (presented by Barry Blake)

Kalkutungu and Yalarnnga, two neighbouring languages of northwestern Queensland, are more similar to one another in functional and lexical forms than either is to any other language. In a recent publication Dixon suggests that 'they appear to constitute something resembling a linguistic area' (Dixon 2002: 679). While it is true that there is evidence of convergence, there are also many shared function forms, some obscured by sound changes, which are unlikely to have been borrowed. This raises the question of whether the two languages constitute a relic area or whether they shared an exclusive period of common development, i.e. whether they can be subgrouped.

May 28th

Comparative Issues in Endophora and Exophora: Jawoyn (southern Arnhem Land) and wider implications
Francesca Merlan and Pascale Jacq

The noun class agreement system in Jawoyn, as in other Kunwinykuan languages (Harvey 1997, Evans 1997), is somewhat loose, with many instances on 'non-standard' agreement. Recognition of this stimulated our closer consideration of demonstratives as part of the larger set of reference-making and cohesive resources in the language.
We consider spatial deixis and textual reference (both to specific items and larger stretches of discourse), and especially the ways in which demonstrative categories overlap in fulfilling these functions, playing a central role in the on-going organization of a Œcommunicative frame of reference¹ of which the centrepoint is the current speech situation (see Hanks 2004). We discuss our findings and compare them briefly with Djambarrpuyngu material (Wilkinson 1991), hint at the many parallels with English (Halliday & Hasan 1976), and suggest the further relevance of our approach.

Evans, Nicholas. 1997. ŒHead Classes and Agreement Classes in the Mayali Dialect Chain¹ In M. Harvey & N. Reid (eds.), pp.105-146.
Halliday, M.A.K. & Ruqaiya Hasan. 1976. Cohesion in English. London: Longman Group.
Hanks, William F. 2004. Explorations in the deictic field. ms. Harvey, Mark. 1997. ŒHead and Agreement Classes: An Areal Perspective¹ In M. Harvey & N. Reid (eds)., pp.147-164.
Harvey, Mark & Nicholas Reid (eds.) Nominal Classification in Aboriginal Australia. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Wilkinson, Melanie. 1991. Djambarrpuyngu: a Yolngu variety of Northern Australia. PhD, University of Sydney (ms).

June 4th

Mon-Khmer Creaky voice: ancient relic or structural tendency? A discussion of the evidence from Bahnaric, Katuic and Vietic
Paul Sidwell

Creaky (or laryngealised) phonation, as a phonemically contrastive feature, is found in a number of Mon-Khmer sub-groups, including Vietic, Pearic, Katuic and North Bahnaric. In some cases, such as the North Bahnaric language Sedang, and the Katuic language Pacoh, it is clear that creaky phonation is a secondary development. However, in other groups, especially some Ta’Oi dialects of Katuic, creaky voice is so well distributed across the lexicon and phonology that it does not appear to be a recent development, and the possibility that it may have to be reconstructed to a much greater time depth has been suggested. However, a clue to the origins of creaky voice in Mon-Khmer can be gleaned from typological considerations: in all cases where creak is attested, so far as I can determine, breathy phonation also exists in languages of the same sub-groups, or existed previously. In the specific case of Sedang we know that a contrast of clear versus breathy phonation shifted to creaky versus clear, in effect the overall system simply became more tense, without any particular segmental conditioning. It is therefore possible to suggest that creaky voice generally arises secondarily out of breathy voice systems, the origins of which are already well understood, being connected with voicing of initial consonants. Segmental features may well affect the distribution of creak, masking the relationship with previously voiced initials, such that all traces of this origin may be lost. More extensive and detailed typological data may well shed considerable light on what is a difficult issue for progress in Mon-Khmer reconstruction.

June 11th

Recovering linguistic prehistory in the Solomon Islands: the use of complementary methods
Bethwyn Evans

Oceania is a region where both traditional and innovative methods of historical linguistics have proven to be useful in recovering linguistic and sociolinguistic prehistory. While the prehistory of some groups of languages in the Pacific can be fittingly explained within the family tree model of language diversification, a model that also includes convergence is needed to explain the prehistory of other groups. This paper takes two subgroups of the Oceanic family, namely Northwest Solomonic and Southeast Solomonic, and looks at how the complementary use of different methods of historical linguistics can lead to a more detailed prehistory of the region than would the use of a single method.
The linguistic boundary between the Northwest Solomonic and the Southeast Solomonic languages is clearly defined by phonological innovations, but there appear to be a number of lexical and grammatical features that are shared across the two groups. In this seminar I will look at a few of these features from the point of view of contact-induced change in an attempt to further add to our knowledge of the linguistic prehistory of the region.

June 18th

From linguistic to socio-linguistic reconstruction: a study of the 'Kamata' or 'Rajbanshi' lects of north Bengal
Matthew Toulmin

The Indo-Aryan languages are commonly said to constitute a dialect-continuum which stretches from Afghanistan to Assam (cf. eg. Masica 1991:25). Such a context presents challenges to historical linguistics that are not unique to Indo-Aryan: How shall we theorise about language genesis so as to do justice to the non-discrete evolution of inter-related lects? Can processes and stages of non-discrete development be reconstructed without marginalising particular processes as Œnon-genetic¹?

This paper responds to these challenges and demonstrates a model I am developing to explain such inter-related genesis among the Indo-Aryan lects of north Bengal. The model is innovative, bringing together historical linguistic, dialectological and sociolinguistic approaches.
Theoretically, the model takes its lead from Milroy, his promulgation of a speaker-based approach to language change (1992, 1999), and the relativisation of the distinction between internally- and externally-induced change the genetic and the areal (Milroy 1997). Following Milroy, Ross (1997) applied the speaker-based approach to the reconstruction of prehistory, developing a theory for using linguistic innovations as windows onto Speech Community Events.
The model outlined in this paper builds on Ross¹ work, to develop a methodology for reconstructing language prehistory within a speaker-based approach. The key methodological innovation is that, rather than focusing exclusively on the reconstruction of linguistic features, the model requires a dual process of reconstruction: concurrently recovering both linguistic features and the linguistic (or dialectological) ranges attained by these features. The model thus brings together spatial and temporal approaches, dialectology and diachrony, without marginalising either.
In the case of north Bengal, where records of social history are available, the recovered changes in linguistic ranges can be compared with historically attested social entities to deliver an inter-disciplinary reconstruction of socio-linguistic history.

Masica, Colin P. 1991. The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Milroy, James. 1992. Linguistic variation and change. Oxford: Blackwell.
Milroy, James. 1997. Internal vs external motivations for linguistic change. Multilingua 16(4): 311-323.
Milroy, James. 1999. Towards a speaker-based account of language change. In Ernst Hakon Jahr (ed.) Language change: advances in historical sociolinguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ross, Malcolm D. 1997. Social network and kinds of speech-community event. In Roger Blanch and Matthew Spriggs (eds.). Archaeology and Language I: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations. London / New York: Routledge. 1. pp 209-261.

June 25th

Catastrophic change in current English: Emergent Double-be's and Free-be's
Patrick McConvell

In 1988 I reported in AJL on what was then a relatively new development in English speech what I called Œdouble be¹ - at least the first examples I found were from the early 1980¹s. In the 80¹s-90¹ it seems to have spread quickly throughout the (first-language) English-speaking world by diffusion between adults and became well established including in Australia. The kind of sentences in which this Œclassic double-be¹ occurs are equational copular sentences is one in which the subject NP represents the situating in discourse of the predicate, which is a subordinate clause

The main issue is is that they are dividing the party.

The information packaging in this type of clause is unusual in that the subordinate clause is the main assertion and the main clause supplies a discourse frame.
The 1988 paper shows this construction has a particular prosodic pattern which is a blend of two targets which led to the doubling of the copula. It was clearly a new construction and not a performance error. The present paper presents sound data from the US Switchboard corpus which confirms this distinctive character and shows clear diagnostic criteria which separate Œdouble be¹ from two types of hesitation-repetition.

In 2004 I heard a radio announcer in Australia say the following:

The headline is is kinda cute

apparently with a Œclassic double be¹ not hesitation-repetition prosody, and I discuss some possible examples in the Switchboard corpus which may be of this Œextended double be¹ type in normal descriptive sentences with non-clausal predicates. If this is so, this would be a major intrusion of the doubling phenomenon into core grammar with possible radical consequences for the future development of English grammar.
In the 1988 paper I also discussed another emergent grammatical phenomenon involving the copula, which I call Œfree-be¹ which is illustrated by a sentence heard recently on Australian radio

It¹s important to remember when we discuss the bombing of Japan is that there weren¹t any easy options

I related the emergence of Œfree-be¹ directly to Œdouble-be¹. Recent work on Œfree-be¹ (Ross-Hagebaum 2004) is treating it as a discrete phenomenon but I will argue that in its origin and spread it is indeed strongly linked to the Œdouble be¹.

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Up-coming Seminar Series

October 15th
Victor Friedman (University of Chicago, RCLT)
"Salads of Fruit and Mountains of Tongues: Comparative Perspectives on the Balkans and the Caucasus"

October 29th
Stefan Elders (Universität Bayreuth, RCLT)

"Verbal derivative suffixes in Mundang and their cognates: a case study in morphological evidence in comparative Niger-Congo"

November 5th
Malcolm Ross

"Thoughts on the history of tone in Trans New Guinea languages"

November 12th
Paul Sidwell

"The Early Mainland Austronesian Complex (EMAC) hypothsis - Moken/Moklen and Aceh.-Chamic"

November 19th
Bevan Barrett

"Innovations and the Maric languages of Central Queensland"

November 26th
Rachel Hendery

"Towards a diachronic typology of relative clauses"

December 3rd
Alan Rumsey

"Some arguments for genetic relatedness among the Worrorran languages of the northern Kimberly region of Western Australia"

December 10th
Patrick McConvell

"Structural diffusion: a critical view"

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CRLC Reading Group 2004

Convened by Bethwyn Evans and Luisa Miceli

The CRLC is now holding a lunchtime reading group on the last Monday of each month. Each month we discuss a couple of papers on related topics, such as grammaticalisation, linguistic areas, dialect geography etc. The reading group aims to stimulate discussion amongst scholars working on issues of language change at the ANU.

Monday 29th March, 12:30 - 1:30, Seminar Room B, Coombs Building.
Topic: grammaticalisation.
Papers for discussion:

1) Campbell and Janda (2001) "Introduction: conceptions of grammaticalization and their problems" Language Sciences 23(2-3): 93-112.
2) Campbell (2001) "What's wrong with grammaticalization?" Language Sciences 23(2-3): 113-161
3) Heine (2003) "Grammaticalization" in Joseph and Janda, The handbook of historical linguistics. Oxford: Blackwells
4) Heine (2003) "On degrammaticalization" in Blake and Burridge, Historical Linguistics 2001. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Monday May 3rd

Croft, William (2000) Explaining language change. A evolutionary approach. Harlow: Longman
Chapter 1: Introduction (pp.1-8)
Chapter 3: Some theories of language change in an evolutionary framework (pp.42-86)

Monday May 31st

Mufwene, Salikoko S. (2001) The ecology of language evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 5: What research on development of creoles can contribute to genetic linguistics

Monday 28th June

(1) Emeneau, Murray B. (1980) Language and Linguistic area: essays. California: Standford University Press. Chapter 6: India as a linguistic area (1956)
(2) Campbell, Lyle (2002) "Areal Linguistics: A Closer Scrutiny". Paper presented at the 5th NCWL International Conference. Linguistic Areas, Convergence and Language Change. Manchester, November 2002.

Monday 26th July

(1) Nichols, Johanna (1997) The Eurasian spread zone and the Indo-European dispersal, in Blench and Spriggs (eds) Archaeology and Language II. Archaeological data and linguistic hypotheses. London: Routledge
(2) Nichols, Johanna (1992) Linguistic diversity in space and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Chapter 5: Diachronic stability: genetic and areal.

Monday 30th August
Kurath, Hans. 1972. Studies in area linguistics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Chapter 6: The patterning of dialect areas
Chapter 8: Diffusion


The following courses on language change are being taught at ANU in 2004.

1st Semester:
Language Change and Linguistic Reconstruction (LING2005/6005) by Luisa Miceli
Languages in Contact (LING2018/6018) by Harold Koch

2nd Semester:
Study of a Language Family (Austronesian) (LING3008/6508), co-ordinated by Bethwyn Evans

Research projects

Update your projects!!!

All members and associates are invited to update their research information given on our website (see
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Newly reported Research Projects:

"Mon-Khmer Comparative Etymological Database and Language Documentation Project"
Details at:

Pama-Nyungan comparative reconstruction
Harold Koch (view profile), Barry Alpher, Patrick McConvell, plus other collaborators.

This project aims to reconstruct the prehistory of the Pama-Nyungan languages of Australia, a hypothesised genetic grouping of around 150 languages covering the bulk of the continent, using the best methodological practice of historical linguistics. It involves systematic comparison of those aspects of the language (especially in vocabulary and inflectional morphology) that best serve as traces of earlier historical connections, the reconstruction of the basic features of the ancestral proto-language (labelled Proto-Pama-Nyungan), the determination of the relative chronology of innovations and the concomitant establishment of low-level genetic and areal groupings of languages, and an attempt to relate the discovered historical relations among languages to the evidence of other prehistorical disciplines to forge an interdisciplinary prehistory of the Indigenous peoples of Australia. The project is modular, with collaborating colleagues and research students contributing to the overall enterprise by working out the comparative evidence in particular subgroups within Pama-Nyungan. We intend to make public the comparative data that supports our conclusions concerning linguistic prehistory. Some preliminary findings are available in the recently published book: Bowern, Claire and Harold Koch (eds). 2004. Australian languages: classification and the comparative method. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 249) Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


1 Bowern, Claire and Harold Koch (eds). 2004. Australian languages: classification and the comparative method. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 249) Amsterdam: John Benjamins. xii, 377 pp. + CD-ROM with more than 300 pp. of appendices.

This book addresses controversial issues in the application of the comparative method to the languages of Australia which have recently come to international prominence. Are these languages 'different' in ways that challenge the fundamental assumptions of historical linguistics? Can subgrouping be successfully undertaken using the Comparative Method? Is the genetic construct of a far-flung 'Pama-Nyungan' language family supportable by classic methods of reconstruction? Contrary to increasingly established views of the Australian scene, this book makes a major contribution to the demonstration that traditional methods can indeed be applied to these languages. These studies, introduced by chapters on subgrouping methodology and the history of Australian linguistic classification, rigorously apply the comparative method to establishing subgroups among Australian languages and justifying the phonology of Proto- Pama-Nyungan. Individual chapters can profitably be read either for their contribution to Australian linguistic prehistory or as case studies in the application of the comparative method.

For details see publisher's website
Available in Australia from: Lawton's of Canberra, Curtin Shopping Plaza, Curtin ACT 2605, Tel. (02) 6260 5640,

2 The Non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia: Comparative studies of the continent's most linguistically complex region (Pacific Linguistics)
Nicholas Evans (editor)

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.

3 'Papers in Contact Linguistics', a volume edited by Anthony Grant, is available from Mrs A E Croasdell, Department of Languages and European Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, BD7 1DP for GBP 6.50 incl postage and packing

4 A handbook of comparative Bahnaric, Vol. 1: West Bahnaric (Pacific Linguistics)
By Paul Sidwell and Pascale Jacq

This book is the first in a planned series that will form a multi-fascicled Handbook of Comparative BahnaricÑoffering a reconstruction of the phonology and lexicon of each sub-group of the Bahnaric family (West Bahnaric, Central Bahnaric, North Bahnaric), and a consolidated reconstruction of Proto Bahnaric and discussion of its place within the Mon-Khmer family. The West Bahnaric sub-branch is the smallest with perhaps 100,000 speakers living in the three southern Lao provinces of Champassak, Attapeu and Sekong and adjacent areas of Cambodia. Historically it has been heavily influenced by Khmer and Katuic languages such as Ta'Oi. These days most speakers are bilingual in Lao, and there is a serious danger that Lao will replace the West Bahnaric languages entirely. The historical reconstruction offered here includes 1094 sets of lexical comparisons, with reconstructed proto-forms and extensive etymological commentary. Special attention has been given to the effects of language contact and borrowing in the formation of Proto West Bahnaric.

5 Darrell T. Tryon & Jean-Michel Charpentier: Pacific Pidgins and Creoles. Origins, Growth and Development, Mouton de Gruyter 2004.

Pacific Pidgins and Creoles discusses the complex and fascinating history of English-based pidgins in the Pacific, especially the three closely related Melanesian pidgins: Tok Pisin, Pijin, and Bislama. The book details the central role of the port of Sydney and the linguistic synergies between Australia and the Pacific islands in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the role of Pacific islander plantation labor overseas, and the differentiation which has taken place in the pidgins spoken in the Melanesian island states in the 20th century. It also looks at the future of Pacific pidgins at a time of increasing vernacular language endangerment.


Publish with the CRLC!!!

Manuscripts are solicited for the CRLC’s Publication series “Studies in Language Change”.
The series Studies on Language Change (SLC) is a joint venture of Pacific Linguistics and the Centre for Research on Language Change.
The SLC series aims to publish high-quality works on aspects of historical linguistics or related subjects, especially, but not exclusively, works on languages of Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. Potential contributors should contact Pacific Linguistics in the first instance, enquiring whether their manuscript would be suitable for publication in the SLC series.
For more information visit


CRLC Advisory and Management Committee

Chair of Management Committee: Mr. John Byron, Executive Director, Australian Academy of the Humanities

Director: Dr. Cynthia Allen, FAHA, School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, ANU. e-mail:

Associate Directors:

         Dr. Malcolm Ross, FAHA, Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU

         Associate Professor Ann Kumar, FAHA, Centre for Asian History, Faculty of Asian Studies, ANU

Other Management Committee members:

         Dr. Harold Koch, School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, ANU

         Mr. Evershed Amuzu, School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, ANU (Graduate Student Representative)

         Dr. Michael Smith, Director of Research, National Museum of Australia

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This newsletter edition was edited by Harold Koch and Laura Daniliuc
and compiled by the Administrator Laura Daniliuc <>
Thanks go to the contributors whose names appear within the newsletter
This document was last modified: 11th November, 2004
Copyright 2003 by the Centre for Research on Language Change, ANU