CRLC Seminar Series, ANU, 2006

Normal time: Tuesdays, 11.00am-12.30pm
Seminar Room B, HC Coombs Building (no.9), Australian National University


22 November, 2006:

Patrick McConvell


“Lenition and the identification of loanwords in Gurindji”

Gurindji is a Pama-Nyungan language of the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup, spoken in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory, Australia. Its vocabulary consists of at least 30% loanwords, mostly from the Jaminjungan branch of the non-Pama-Nyungan Mirndi family, to its north. The paper surveys the sources of the loans and their distribution in different grammatical and semantic categories – for instance Jaminjungan loans are particularly numerous in environmental vocabulary and coverbs.

Lenition has affected consonants intervocalically (and to some extent following liquids) in Gurindji and other eastern Ngumpin languages. This produces w from *p and *k; y from *j; and r from *rt eg

ngawa ‘water’ < *ngapa

kaarra ‘east’ < *kakarra (with additional loss of w)

pura ‘hear’ (coverb) <*purta

If this is a regular sound change it provides a very useful diagnostic for loanwords: words which retain the stops in intervocalic position are prima facie loanwords, which belong to the stratum after Lenition ceased to be active (there are also early loanword to which Lenition does apply). A source for many of the non-leniting items can be found in NPN donor languages, However in other cases the non-leniting forms can only be found in western members of the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup (which do not have Lenition or have it only to a minor extent) or a definite source cannot be found for them. Up to now I have assumed that these items are due to borrowing internal to the Ngumpin-Yapa sub-group, thus maintaining the exceptionless nature of the Lenition change.

However another possibility is that Lenition has applied gradually and partially in Gurindji with some lexical items left untouched. Bybee (2001) and Pierrhumbert (2001) have singled out Lenition as a type of sound change particularly liable to this kind of patterning, and proposed particular factors which might make some items less amenable to rapid speech variation and thus resistant to this type of change. This model is tested for its possible applicability in this case.

26 September, 2006:

Jennifer Hendriks

(School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, ANU)

“The possessive doubling construction Jan z’n boek in Dutch: its origins and implications for developments in other Germanic languages”

The Modern Dutch possessive doubling construction equivalent to ‘the man his house’ (de man z’n huis , ‘the man’s house’), continues to generate discussion in the historical linguistic literature. These discussions tend to address the question of its origins, or they focus on the features of the Modern Dutch construction (animacy and agreement) to explain the development of similar constructions in other Germanic languages. While many scholars note that these constructions were present in Middle Dutch, the examples cited to support their claims are from the late 15th, the 16th or even the 17th century—that is, a period more recent in the history of the language than the label ‘Middle Dutch’ might suggest. Underlying the explanations of the origins of this possessive construction in Dutch to date is an assumption that it arose through reanalysis. Although the accounts differ as to what the source construction might have been, there appears to be a general consensus about the manner in which it came into being. The explanations of the origins of Dutch possessive doubling constructions are not without weakness, one being that they based on little historical evidence. This study calls into question the reanalysis position regarding the origins of possessive doubling constructions in Dutch and shows that previous explanations are not only inherently flawed, relying as they do on incorrect assumptions about the breakdown of the case marking system, but they also do not hold up to evidence which suggests that doubling constructions were in use as early as the late 13th century. The empirical approach taken here offers new insight into the origins question. Equally important, however, since many of the discussions of the origins of doubling constructions in Dutch make links to developments in other Germanic languages, this study shows that we cannot assume the development of doubling constructions in the Germanic languages to have necessarily followed the same path.

12 September, 2006:

Phil Rose

(School of Language Studies, Faculty of Arts, ANU)

“Zooming-in on Oujiang Wu: tonal homogeneity and acoustic reconstruction in a small subgroup of Chinese dialects”

Abstract currently unavailable. It will appear here when the webmaster works out how to do Chinese characters in html.

22 August, 2006:

William B. McGregor

(Aarhus University)

“Grammaticalisation of verbs into temporal and modal markers in Australian languages”

In this paper I present some speculative stories about the development from verbs of some TAM markers in Australian languages. The verbs in question are basic and high frequency ones, including ‘say, do’, which can appear as a marker of inceptive aspect; telic, accomplishment, or activity Aktionsart; desiderative and possibly irrealis and imperative moods; and future tense. Rather than focussing on what particular lexical verbs might grammaticalise into, I take a construction-based approach, and examine possible grammaticalisalisations of three verbal constructions: the compound verb construction, complement constructions, and auxiliary constructions. This approach imposes some degree of control on the speculations about possible grammaticalisation pathways, and permits explanation of the rather different outcomes in the development of a single verb. To conclude the paper I turn to the question of motivation, and suggest that at least some of the grammaticalisations do not lend themselves well to simplistic cognitive explanations in terms of conceptual similarity of source and target domains. Instead, I suggest the need for a more complex cognitive explanation in which the linguistic sign plays a central role.

15 August, 2006:

Erma Vassiliou

(Visiting Fellow, ANU)

“Romance NPs with Greek Morphology in Medieval Cypriot”

This paper discusses morphological changes and innovations in the lexicon of the late Medieval Cypriot, occurred from the influx of a large number of Romance loan words in the language, of Noun Phrases in particular, during the long Frankish Dominion in Cyprus. From 1192 to 1489 the island passed to the Franks, and from 1489 to 1571 it was under the Venetians. The seminar examines the morphological adaptation of the borrowed elements to the general Greek grammatical system(s).

The main morphological operations we find in Medieval Cypriot are affixation (used in inflection and derivation) and compounding. Examples of compounding where both Cypriot and Old French are used for word formation will be exhibited.

Words used as heard, the particular Cypriot morphological traits, the ability of the language to transform the borrowed NPs and ‘Cypriotise’ them will also be discussed.

8 August, 2006:

Dianne Jonas

(Harvard University)

“The Scots language in Shetland - A diachronic perspective”

The topic of this talk is the verb syntax of Shetland Dialect, a variety of Scots spoken in Shetland. Shetland Dialect retains verb movement operations of various types: main verb movement in interrogatives and imperatives, and verb movement to the left of negation for a subset of main verbs. A discussion of these facts is presented together with an overview of auxiliary use and agreement facts in expletive constructions.

1 August, 2006:

Frank Lichtenberk

(University of Auckland)

“Attributive possessive constructions and the relational - non-relational noun distinction in Oceanic languages and in English”

It is generally assumed that with relational nouns as possessums there is typically one salient interpretation of the relation between the possessum and the possessor; for example, my face as ‘the face that is part of my own body’. On the other hand, nouns that are not relational much more freely allow a variety of possessum – possessor relations; for example, my house as ‘the house I own’, ‘the house I live in without owning it’, ‘the house I designed’, etc.

One part of the paper discusses two studies of possessive constructions in English with relational and non-relational nouns as possessums. One is a psycholinguistic experiment and the other a corpus-base study.

Most Oceanic languages make a grammatical distinction between constructions that express inalienable possession and constructions that express alienable possession. And there are further distinctions within alienable possession by means of possessive classifiers, but (typically) not within inalienable possession. The complex system of possessive constructions was a later development from an earlier system where there was only one type of possessive construction.

Why did possessive classifiers develop for alienable possession and not for inalienable possession? The hypothesis discussed in the paper is that the development of possessive classifiers was motivated in the case of alienable possession and that there was no such motivation in the case of inalienable possession. The results of the studies of English possessive constructions reported on here provide support for this hypothesis.

Friday 4 August, 2006
Seminar Room C (note time and room change)

Russell Gray

(University of Auckland)

“Out of Taiwan? Genes, languages and the peopling of the Pacific”

Despite over hundred years of academic inquiry, and numerous recent genetic studies, the sequence and timing of Pacific settlement is still under substantial dispute. In this talk I will outline how computational phylogenetic methods can be used to test between five hypotheses about the settlement of the Pacific. These hypotheses differ in the predictions they make about how tree-like lexical data will be, where the root of an Austronesian language tree should be, and the age of proto-Austronesian. Lexical data drawn from our database of basic vocabulary for over 400 Austronesian languages (see ) will be used to test these predictions. Bayesian phylogenetic methods and rate smoothing enable us to estimate divergence dates without assuming constant rates of lexical replacement. The results from the linguistic data will be contrasted with the apparently conflicting evidence found in mitochrondrial and nuclear DNA studies. I will suggest that recent evidence for a "J curve" in the rate molecular change affords a partial reconciliation between the linguistic and genetic evidence.

Atkinson, Q. and Gray, R.D. (2005). Curious parallels and curious connections: Phylogenetic thinking in biology and historical linguistics. Systematic Biology, 54(4), 513-526.

Atkinson, Q., Nicholls, G. and Gray, R.D. (2005). From words to dates: water into wine, mathemagic or phylogenetic inference? Transactions of the Philological Society, 103(2), 193-219.

Gray, R. D. (2005). Pushing the time barrier in the quest for language roots. Science, 309, 2007-2008.

Gray, R.D. and Atkinson, Q. (2003). Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origins. Nature, 426, 435-439.

Gray, R.D. & F.M. Jordan. (2000). Language trees support the express-train sequence of Austronesian expansion. Nature, 405, 1052-1055.

Greenhill, S. & Gray, R.D. (2005). Testing dispersal hypotheses: Pacific settlement, phylogenetic trees and Austronesian languages. In: The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: Phylogenetic Approaches. Editors: R. Mace, C. Holden, S. Shennan. London: UCL Press, pp. 31-52.

Tuesday 25 July, 2006:

Adrian Clynes, Alex Henry and Maslin Jukin

(Universiti Brunei Darussalam)

“The evolution of the Brunei Malay Wedding Invitation: from a British model to a Bruneian one ”

This paper examines the historical development of a discourse genre, the Brunei Malay Wedding Invitation (BMWI), from its first appearance in the 1960's, to the present. Historical linguistics usually focuses on change at the `micro' level - sound change, changes in word meaning, changes in syntactic structures. The evolution of the BMWI gives us a chance to study change at the level of discourse, to examine for example whether processes and motives for linguistic change applying at those `micro' levels also apply at this higher level.

The BMWI was, we argue, originally borrowed from and calqued on British models. (Brunei was a British protectorate from the late 19th century until 1984). In a period of rapid social change in the 70's and 80's, the BMWI too changed rapidly; it was adapted linguistically and culturally until it became quite different from the original models in both form and content. In part that development reflects major cultural differences between British and Bruneian societies. Its continuing evolution reflects ongoing changes in Bruneian .

This (ongoing) study in part uses the Genre Analysis approach (Swales; Bhatia; Henry & Roseberry) to explain some aspects of that change. Genre Analysis holds that the form and content of a given genre are shaped in particular by (i) the values of the discourse community which `owns' and produces it, and (ii) by the communicative purposes of the particular genre. It follows then that significant changes in either of those two factors should be reflected in the genre itself - in its overall structure, as well as in its lexico-grammatical features. We argue that that is the case, and that this approach thus helps explain historical change at the level of discourse.

6 June, 2006:

Rachel Hendery

(School of Languages, ANU)

“When discourse elements become relative clause markers”

Most of the literature that deals with sources of relative clause constructions tends to centre on the grammaticalization of interrogatives and demonstratives as relative clause markers. Other sources of these markers sometimes mentioned in the literature include possessive markers, classifiers and nominal elements. But, although the development of relative clause markers into focus markers is a relatively well known phenomenon, to my knowledge there has been little or no discussion in the literature of discourse elements such as topic markers, focus markers and similar elements as sources of relative clause markers.

In this presentation I will explore the similarities in the roles played by discourse elements in the grammaticalization of certain relative clause markers in four unrelated languages (Basque, Tocharian, Quechua and Georgian). For example, the relative marker in Tocharian A is kusne or kucne, which obligatorily contains the suffixed particle –ne, usually translated as “indeed” when used in other contexts (Adams 1988). The cognate relative marker in Tocharian B is simply kuse/kuce, so it appears that Tocharian A has grammaticalized as part of its relative clause marker an item otherwise used as a marker of emphasis or focus.

The view that cases such as this and the similar grammaticalizations found in Basque, Quechua and Georgian are examples of a more general phenomenon involving discourse elements finds additional support from the existence of further connections between relativisation and topic/focus that have been noted before in the literature.

I will argue that this grammaticalization “pathway” is a pattern that we might expect to find in other languages too.

30 May, 2006:

Maarten Mous

(Leiden University)

“Reconstructing sociolinguistic situations: Test case East Africa”

There are various fundamental problems why it is difficult to reconstruct a past sociolinguistic situation on the basis of the outcome of language contact. A lot of language contact does not lead to language change and it has been argued that correlations between types of language change and types of language contacts are problematic because anything can happen in the domain of language change. Still I want to discuss these issues in the presentation and present a basis for discussion on the parameters of language contact and their possible relation with language change taking Ross's expansion of Guy's model as point of departure. Secondly I discuss the prospects of interdisciplinary research in particular genetics, the limitations and the challenges it poses for historical linguistics.

All will be illustrated by language contact and language change situation in East Africa, the area I know best and where different language families meet making the recognition of change through contact easier.

2 May, 2006:

Sander Adelaar

(Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne; visiting fellow at RSPAS Linguistics, ANU)

“A multidisciplinary perspective on the settlement of Madagascar”

That Malagasy is next-of-kin to the South-East Barito languages of South Borneo has been known since 1951. However, it is only very recently that this theory was backed up by non-linguistic evidence (from human genetics).

In this talk I will use evidence from linguistics, archaeology, genetics, and other disciplines to come to an integrated theory about the Austronesian migrations from South East Asia to Madagascar. I will focus on linguistic borrowing, migration routes, migration dates, religion and social conditions under which the migrations took place.


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