HistLing Seminars,
Centre for Research on Language Change, ANU

Series 2, November, 2002

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

Abstracts

6th November, 2002:

Paul Sidwell
(Linguistics, RSPAS)

Identifying the language(s) of the Mon-Khmer strata in Chamic

This paper is a report on research in progress on the history of language contact in Mainland Southeast Asia. Phonological reconstruction of Proto-Bahnaric and Proto-Katuic has clarified their internal genetic classifications, allowing some inferences to be made about their historical locations and contacts with Proto-Chamic. Comparison with the Proto-Chamic lexicon (a reconstructed by Thurgood 1999) is beginning to reveal a picture of the linguistic situation in Mainland Southeast Asia at the beginning of the first Millenium, strongly suggesting an ancient Sprachbund involving Proto-Chamic and North and Central Bahnaric.

13th November, 2002:

Phil Rose
(School of Language Studies, ANU)

Bayesian inference and historical linguistics

All sub-parts of Linguistics have to deal with making hypotheses — even description is a hypothesis — and some linguists are concerned with evaluating the strength of competing hypotheses. It has been known since the 18th century that the logically correct way of evaluating the strength of evidence in support of a hypothesis is by using Bayes’ theorem, and Bayesian inference is acknowledged as the correct conceptual framework for assessing the strength of evidence in making decisions under uncertainty, as in forensics. It is also the only statistical approach that boasts its own songbook.

Yet Bayes is seldom otherwise encountered in the humanities/hermeneutic sciences: it will be interesting to see how much he is invoked in the upcoming AAHA symposium Proof and Truth: the Humanist as Expert, for example. (There is no mention of him in the program.) This seminar gives an introduction to Bayesian inference from the point of view of a forensic phonetician, and looks at some applications within historical linguistics.

20th November, 2002:

Daniel MartÍn
(School of Languages and International Education, University of Canberra)

The demographic dimension of Migrant Language Maintenance and Shift:
Some conclusions based on the Australian case

This seminar explores the influence of ethnolinguistic concentration in language maintenance and shift. Some conclusions about the status of a classical factor affecting language maintenance and shift, the existence of language islands or Sprachinseln, will be drawn analysing data from the 1996 Australian Census. The theory of language maintenance and shift, more specifically, the theoretical status of the concept of a “factor affecting language maintenance and shift”, will also be examined in the light of the findings, and implications for the practice of Sociolinguistics will be discussed.

27th November, 2002:

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

On Latin Deponent Verbs

The purpose of this study is to investigate the history of a special class of Latin verbs, that of deponents. As their name indicates (‹ deponere ‘put away), these verbs have a deficient conjugation, that is they are characterized by the absence of active forms. They display only passive forms, i.e. they use the same passive endings as regular verbs, but their meaning is active. Compare, for instance, amo (active) I love, amo-r (passive) I am loved, horto-r (deponent) ‘I exhort’.
Deponent verbs, in Latin, as well as in Old Irish, are generally considered to be historical remnants of the Indo-European middle voice. The survival of the Latin deponents in the Romance languages has been quite a delicate topic in linguistics and many have preferred to investigate other issues, less complex and more familiar. It is my intention to study whether the particular conjugation of Latin deponents has survived in Romance in what is known as
auxiliary selection - a number of intransitive verbs do not always go for HAVE as the perfect auxiliary, but make the choice between HAVE and BE. In order to establish the connections (if any) between the auxiliary BE from the Latin deponent conjugation and the Romance perfect auxiliary I will discuss in this paper the origins and development of the Latin deponent verbs, covering both the semantic and structural aspects of their evolution.

 

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