HistLing Seminars,
Centre for Research on Language Change, ANU

Series 1, March-May, 2002

Wednesdays, 4pm. Room W1.08 Baldessin Precinct Building (no.110), Australian National University

Abstracts

27th March, 2002:

Michael Dunn
(School of Language Studies, Arts, ANU)

Chukchi-Russian language contact in the mind of the bilingual.

Interesting insights into the relationship between linguistic encoding and cognitive construal (i.e. versions of the Whorfian Hypothesis) have been made on the basis of investigations into spatial ‘frames of reference’—systems of relating figure and ground in space with respect to a language-specific reference point. Naturally enough, these studies have hitherto mostly been carried out using the subject's native language. But questions arise when we consider the situation of the bilingual. If it is true that language structure influences thought, how is it possible that two systems of linguistic encoding of space can coexist with (presumably) one non-linguistic spatial system?

Structured elicitation experiments carried out with pairs of Chukchi-Russian bilinguals suggest that, rather than any cognitive adaptation, a common strategy is for a subtle semantic restructuring of the spatial domain in one of the speaker's languages to match spatial encoding in the other. This provides a robust mechanism for structural change in a bilingual language-contact situation.

If you missed this Seminar, email Malcolm for a handout or any questions: michael.dunn@anu.edu.au

3rd April, 2002:

Malcolm Ross
(Department of Linguistics, RSPAS, ANU)

Constructions: continuity and contact

There are (at least) two reasons to study grammatical constructions diachronically. First, their study illuminates aspects of morphosyntactic change. Second, although designers of syntactic theories often pay little attention to diachrony, it seems obvious that the study of morphosyntactic change should provide a testbed for theory.

In this paper I examine two case studies and show that there is a sharp contrast between the fates of constructions under continuity and under contact. Where there is historical continuity, as with Oceanic Austronesian locative adjuncts, the organisation of constructional meaning persists unchanged, often surviving morphosyntactic change. Where ‘constructional borrowing’ occurs, there is historical discontinuity in the organisation of constructional meaning in the ‘borrowing’ language as one organisation is replaced by a new one copied from another language. This copying is accompanied by progressive imitation of morphosyntax, but without the borrowing of forms.

This analysis implies an architecture of language reminiscent of one proposed by Grace (1981). In Grace's architecture, language has two primary components, ‘lexification’ (phonological form) and ‘content form’ (everything encoded by phonological form). Content form, in turn, consists of morphosyntactic structure and ‘content substance’ (the organisation of meanings). Similar architectures have been proposed by Langacker (1991) and by Levelt (1992).

If you missed this Seminar, email Malcolm for a handout or any questions: malcolm.ross@anu.edu.au

10th April, 2002:

Andrew Pawley
(Department of Linguistics, RSPAS, ANU)

On grammatical categories and grammaticisation in Oceanic languages: synchronic and diachronic perspectives

Several questions to do with grammatical categories and grammaticisation will be considered with particular reference to the structure and history of the verb complex (VC) in Oceanic languages: (a) How do languages manage, in some cases, to change but still stay the same, i.e. to replace morphemes but preserve semantic and grammatical structure? (b) Which kinds of meanings are typically grammaticised in the VC the and by what formal means? (c) How stable are particular grammatical categories and particular lexical/grammatical polysemies? (d) Are shifts from one functional category to another usually gradual (involving the emergence of new, intermediate categories) or abrupt? Recent studies of grammaticisation in Oceanic languages will be reviewed.

If you missed this Seminar, email Andy for a handout or any questions: andrew.pawley@anu.edu.au

17th April, 2002 (note: room change to BPB 1.07):

Laura Daniliuc
(School of Language Studies, Arts, ANU)

Auxiliary Selection in diachrony: Case Studies from the Romance Languages

Several languages of the world do not always select ‘have’ as the perfect auxiliary of all (intransitive) verbs, but make the choice between ‘have’ and ‘be’, depending on a variety of factors. This phenomenon is known under the name of ‘auxiliary selection’ and it is generally found in a number of Romance and Germanic languages. During the last fifteen years, the intricate topic of auxiliary selection has generally been studied from either a syntactic (Hoekstra (1984), Kayne (1993), Den Dikken (1994)) or, more often and more convincingly, a semantic perspective (Vincent (1982), Van Valin (1990), Zaenen (1993), Lieber & Baayen (1997), Sorace (2000)).

Based on my previous research on both language-internal and cross-linguistic auxiliary selection problems, I propose that the historical dimension of auxiliary selection should not be forgotten in a scrupulous analysis. On the contrary, it needs to be thoroughly studied, as it may offer solutions to many questions raised by the syntactic and semantic approaches. The present study is a corpus-based investigation of a number of Romance intransitive verbs (especially French), particularly change of location verbs like ‘go’, ‘come’, ‘arrive’, change of state verbs like ‘descend’, ‘become’, ‘die’, and existence of state verbs like ‘be’. The interesting case of the verb ‘be’ is discussed in the light of the perfect auxiliary it chooses in different Romance languages and of the past participle (missing in Latin) that the Romance languages created. The aim of this seminar is to test the predictions of a recent theoretical account of auxiliary selection (A. Sorace, 2000, Gradients in Auxiliary Selection with Intransitive Verbs, in Language 76:4, 859-90) when confronted with the facts concerning the development and synchronic variation of perfect auxiliaries

If you missed this Seminar, email Laura for a handout or any questions: laura.daniliuc@anu.edu.au

24th April,2002:

Patrick McConvell (AIATSIS) and Kim Akerman (University of Sydney)

Wommera: tracing the technology and terminology of the spearthrower in Australia

Early observers such as Grey in the 1840's recognised the possible connections between words for spearthrowers across the continent (such as (w)amirra, mirra,mirru). Davidson in the 1940's plotted the distribution of different types of spearthrower, including areas with two or three different types and those with none, but did not investigate terminology. This paper offers an improved database of distribution of designs and terminology, and proceeds from there to build hypotheses about the spread of different types, whether associated with language spreads or cultural diffusion unconnected to language sub-groups. As well as dealing with the well-known set of related forms mentioned above it also deals with some of the other sets of terminology found in Northern Australia. Some of these look very different from the first set dealt with but may be connected if some radical processes like initial dropping are part of their history .

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Patrick McConvell: patrick@aiatsis.gov.au

1st May,2002:

Peter Hill (Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, Arts Faculty, ANU)

Dűgan pipl: English is in, but Turkish is cool:
Developments in Standard Macedonian in the Post-Independence Era

The Macedonian Standard Language (MSL) is the official language of the now independent Republic of Macedonia, also known as Vardar Macedonia, to distinguish it from Aegean Macedonia (in Greece) and Pirin Macedonia (in Bulgaria).

On 2 August, 1944 the Yugoslavian communists formally took the decision to set up a Macedonian republic within the Yugoslavian Federation and declared also that the vernacular speech of the indigenous Slavs would be the official language of the republic. Following the decision that the central dialects, together with some widespread traits from the other dialect areas, would form the basis of the standard language, the tasks of standardizing the phonology and morphology of the language were relatively simple. The lexicon was another matter. The matter of lexicon development, along with the development of different functional styles, became the most important concern of Macedonian language specialists in the early years after the establishment of the Macedonian state.

Garvin (1959, 28-31; cf. also Garvin/Mathiot 1956), building on the work of the Prague School, has distinguished four sociolinguistic forces of standard languages: the unifying, separating, and prestige functions (“symbolic functions”), and the so-called frame-of-reference function (an "objective function"); they are parallelled by three sociolinguistic attitudes: language loyalty, pride, and awareness of the norm. Expansion of the MSL lexicon was to be based on the following principles:

  1. Some words were already available in the dialects, which made borrowing unnecessary, e.g. nastan "event". Semantic expansion of native words was also possible: bran "wave" could also be used in technical senses, sneg "snow" was expanded to designate snow on a TV screen.
  2. It was possible to replace some existing loans with native words, e.g. the Russianism vopros "question" from Bulgarian včpros is replaced by the native derivation praŻanje < praŻa "to ask"
  3. .Calquing: e.g. v-lez "entrance" corresponding to Russian v-xod and Serbian u-laz.
  4. Borrowing (in practice mainly from Serbian or via Serbian from other languages)

The Macedonian dialects had previously been considered to be part of the Bulgarian diasystem. The MSL needed a sufficient distance both from standard Serbian and standard Bulgarian in order to fulfil the functions described by Garvin. In practice, however, for political reasons, while Bulgarian influence was eliminated, there was a de-facto diglossia in the Republic, with Serbian as the H-language. Moreover, the vernacular of the capital, Skopje, which is heavily influenced by Serbian, acquired great prestige, at the expense of the central dialects, on which the codified standard is based. The MSL was therefore heavily influenced by Serbian. Church-Slavonic elements (widely used in standard Bulgarian) were reduced, but by no means eliminated altogether. Turkisms (lexical items borrowed from Ottoman Turkish during the 500 years of Turkish rule) were relegated to the colloquial register or to the substandard. English influence was weak and was filtered through Serbian.

The language of newspapers was particularly heavily influenced by Serbian, since (1) journalists had to be loyal communists, who therefore looked to the Yugoslavian capital Belgrade to identify the party line, and many of the journalists had done their training in Belgrade anyway and knew Serbian better than the MSL (2) all non-local news items were received from the Yugoslavian news agency in Belgrade and had to be translated from Serbian.

Since Independence (1991) things have changed radically. The prestige of Serbian has declined considerably. English is now the prestige language. News items are now received from international news agencies and translated from English. At the same time the substandard has acquired a new prestige, which means that many Turkisms have re-appeared in the public domain. Petroska quotes the delightful expression dűgan pipl “a crowd (Turkish) of people (English)”, adding: “This expression is emblematic of the acceptance by the younger generation of these two languages; where Turkish had influenced Macedonian, English is in the process of influencing it”.

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Peter Hill: Peter.Hill@anu.edu.au

8th May,2002:

Luisa Miceli (PhD Student UWA; Visiting Fellow, School of Language Studies, ANU)
Australian Comparative Linguistics: rethinking the working assumptions

In this seminar I will briefly review the two interpretations of the history of Australian languages currently present in the literature: the majority position‚ (see for example Evans & Jones 1997) and the Dixon position‚ (see Dixon 1997, 2001). I will then focus on Pama-Nyungan, one of the crucial points of disagreement. Pama-Nyungan is the largest and geographically most extensive subgroup to have been proposed within the Australian family, but it is rejected completely by Dixon. On the basis of a review of the different interpretations of the Comparative Method, I will evaluate whether or not Pama-Nyungan can in fact be considered an established genetic entity.  

References:

 


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