HistLing Seminars,
Centre for Research on Language Change, ANU

Series 2, November-December, 2001

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

Abstracts

8th November,2001:

Prof. Andrew Pawley
(Department of Linguistics, RSPAS, A.N.U.)

Proto-Polynesian *-Cia

8 November 2001 Andrew Pawley Proto-Polynesian *-Cia ABSTRACT: Individual Polynesian languages generally have between six and 12 suffixes having the shape -Cia (where C is a variable consonant), -ia, -a, -na, or -ina. In most languages the suffixes can be considered alternants of a single suffix (cover symbol -CIA). Among contemporary languages -CIA suffixes exhibit the following range of functions, though no one language has the full range: (i) marks imperative mood, (ii) derives passive verb, (iii) derives stative verb from noun or an intransitive or transitive verb, (iv) derives stative verb from another stative with meaning change,(v) derives transitive verb that takes ergative case-marking from intransitive verb or accusatively marked transitive verb, (vi) changes the meaning of ergative verb, (vii added to ergative verb under certain syntactic conditions but with no semantic effect. The paper seeks to reconstruct the history of the *-CIA suffixes, including determining their functions in Proto Polynesian (PPn) and earliier stages of Oceanic. The question of what functions *-CIA suffixes had in PPn has been an important but unresolved issue in a wider debate about Polynesian historical syntax: Did PPn canonical transitive clauses exhibit accusative case-marking, with a productive passive transformation, as is found in Maori and all other well-described Eastern Polynesian languages, or ergative case-marking, as is found in Tongan and Samoan?

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Andrew Pawley: andrew.pawley@anu.edu.au

14th November,2001:

Jennifer Hendriks
(School of Language Studies, Arts, A.N.U.)

On the use and abuse of social history in the history of the Dutch language

Linguistic histories make frequent though often poorly-informed appeals to historical events and to social history to account for linguistic developments that find no apparent explanation on language-internal grounds alone. The Dutch linguistic histories represent no exception. In this seminar I will show that social history plays a key role in our understanding of language variation and change, but that sociolinguistic arguments must be painstakingly assembled utilizing the most recent advances in historical methodology. Such arguments may not simply be introduced in the haphazard manner typical of the traditional linguistic histories. A classic example of the type of explanation I criticize is that of the traditional account of 'zich'-- an originally eastern Dutch/German dialect feature -- that appears in 17th century formal writings. Traditional explanations of 'zich' consider the emerging written standard language as the only possible conduit for this instance of linguistic transfer. Furthermore, this written-language based explanation has been accepted as unassailable in the standard histories and handbooks of Dutch up to the present. The flaws in the above explanation of 'zich' are numerous. There is no reason to posit a 'non-contact', written-based explanation when social historians have shown that migration from eastern dialect regions into the western cities of Holland occurred on a massive scale. There is no reason to posit a written-based explanation, which focuses on the importance of highly stylized, formal writings, when evidence from ego documents (personal letters and journals, that is, documents which would mirror most closely the spoken language of the time) shows the use of this reflexive pronoun decades before its use in formal writings. The evidence I will present in this seminar underscores the need to shift the emphasis in Dutch linguistic historiography from the process of standardization to the central role of the speaker in diachronic change. The insistence on close attention to sociohistorical data and the focus on developments in the spoken language rather than on the development of the written standard represent a radical departure from the traditional methodology of historical linguistics. If this approach is indeed valid, our linguistic histories are in need of radical revision.

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Jennifer Hendriks: jennifer.hendriks@anu.edu.au

21th November,2001:

Lawrence Reid
(University of Manoa at Hawaii, and Visiting Fellow, RSPAS, A.N.U.)

Austric: Is it a real language family or not

This talk will review some of the evidence that has been produced in the past for a genetic relationship between the two great language families -- Austronesian and Austroasiatic, commonly known as the Austric hypothesis. It will briefly also discuss some of the relevant papers that were presented at the recent Symposium on the Phylogeny of East Asian Languages held in Périgueux, France, in which this topic was discussed and will also cover some of the competing hypthoses that are now being proposed, in particular the Sino-Austronesian hypothesis.

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Lawrence Reid: lawrence.reid@anu.edu.au

28th November,2001:

Ritsuko Kikusawa
(Visiting Fellow, RSPAS, A.N.U.)

Taking Advantages of both the Comparative Method and Syntactic Typology:
An examination of the development of Indonesian basic sentence structures

This paper presents the first step of a morphosyntactic comparison of the basic sentence structures in the Indonesian languages, the goal of which is to reconstruct their proto casemarking system(s). Pronominal forms have been generally stable in Indonesian languages, and the reflex set(s) of the Proto Extra Formosan Genitive pronoun set are often identifiable in each language. I will show that the examination of the position of these reflexes combined with typological description of sentence structures enables us to trace how the basic sentence structures in these languages have developed from their proto structures. A scenario as to how a 'two-transitive' system, an 'accusative-pattern' system and an 'ergative-pattern' system have developed from the Proto Extra Formosan ergative system will also be proposed.

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Ritsuko Kikusawa: ritsuko@coombs.anu.edu.au

5th December,2001:

Mark Dras
(Macquarie University)

Evolution of Turkic vowel harmony: a computational simulation

This is joint work with K. David Harrison (Swarthmore College, USA) and Berk Kapicioglu (University of Pennsylvania, USA). In recent years there have been attempts to model language change mathematically and, more recently still, using computational simulation. These are based on the idea that languages are not just cognitive phenomena but are conditioned by social interactions, making them dynamical systems in the same way as biological and physical phenomena. In all of these systems there are typical patterns of change observable at the population level: change starts off slowly, accelerates, then slows again, and this takes place over several generations; this is the sort of behaviour we'd want a model to exhibit. So far, almost all work in computational simulation of language change has focussed on whether a particular phenomenon can emerge from nothing, rather than looking at the trajectory of change. And of the other, more mathematical, work on trajectories, these either impose the form of the change onto the model or give empirically inaccurate results. We've been looking at a particular language phenomenon, vowel harmony in Turkic languages, and modelling that using a software simulation we've built. In the simulation the agents are endowed with low-level preferences and linguistic and social behaviors. We show that empirically-observed patterns of change are an emergent property of the model, in that they arise naturally, but without prior specification, from the interactions of the agents. As part of this, at a broader level, we've become interested in questions raised by the notion of agent-based simulation: What can be said about the methodology of developing agent-based models? How do they compare with mathematical models? And what can these simulations "prove" when used for (social) science?

28th November,2001:

Patrick McConvell (AIATSIS) and Jane Simpson (University of Sydney)

Language change among Central Australian Aboriginal children

Contemporary language change among Australian Indigenous bilingual children and young people is rapid and often radical. There are many cases where the younger generation speaks some variety quite different from the ‘traditional’ language spoken by old people in the same community. At the same time there is often no straightforward shift towards English, which is reportedly spoken less now than some years ago in many communities. While depth study of each language situation is obviously not feasible, study of a representative sample in a key region will, we believe, portray the main features of the fluid situation. In this paper we briefly review the approaches which have been used to analyse such situations of rapid change including 'language death'/'language obsolescence'; and 'language ecology' approaches ranging from domains/diglossia to more interactional approaches to language choice, code-mixing and 'language intertwining'. We then turn to the few examples of the application of such approaches to Indigenous Australian situation, and also evaluate the potential of bilingual acquisition research (usually carried out in quite different circumstances) for these cases. We then focus on the cases which we are studying in Central Australia: Gurindji, Warlpiri, Warumungu and Alyawarre. These have different characteristics in terms of 'strength'/endangerment of the language as generally measured, and type of language program to which children have been exposed (English monolingual vs. bilingual) so that they can be fruitfully compared. They also have had work done on children's language and language in school in the past allowing for longitudinal study to be carried out. Speech which is a mixture of the traditional language and Aboriginal English/Kriol varieties is found among children of all these groups, but the kinds of grammatical adaptations found vary, at least partially in response to features of the traditional language involved. This situation represents a problem for education programs, not only for English-only programs which are routinely run in such communities, but also for the bilingual education programs which have been attempted in some, particularly in the Northern Territory, for 25 years until the abandonment of bilingual education in the NT in 1998 (a decision now being reconsidered by the new NT government). Education programs typically ignore the intricacies of actual language situations and issues of language change in favour of just focussing on ideal goals of reproducing speakers/writers of one language (monolingual model) or two (bilingual model) but the deep current crisis of Indigenous school education today forces us to reconsider this approach.

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

28th November,2001:

Bethwyn Evans
(PhD Student, RSPAS, A.N.U.)

Proto Oceanic *akin[i]: reconstructing a process of grammaticalisation

Cognate forms in many Oceanic languages support the reconstruction of Proto Oceanic *akin[i]. In Proto Oceanic *akin[i] appears to have had a participant role marking function, introducing participants with a range of semantic roles. Less clear concerning the reconstruction of *akin[i] is its status as either a verbal suffix or an independent word. This paper presents a reconstruction of *akin[i] as both a verbal preposition and a suffix. Implicit in this reconstruction is the hypothesis that *akin[i] had at some stage in its history developed into a verbal suffix from an original preposition. An examination of modern suffixed reflexes of *akin[i] suggests that this process of grammaticalisation had begun prior to Proto Oceanic and was continuing on a lexeme by lexeme basis in Proto Oceanic and also into the daughter languages.

If you missed this seminar or would like more information, contact Bethwyn Evans: evans@coombs.anu.edu.au


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