HistLing Seminar Series 2, ANU, 2003

Fridays, 11.00am-12.30pm
Nadel Room (Seminar room C), HC Coombs Building (no.9), Australian National University


5th September, 2003:

Bethwyn Evans

(Department of Linguistics, RSPAS, ANU)

The value of applied phonology in morphological reconstruction

What methods do we have for the reconstruction of morphology? In 1972 Anttila described "comparative morphology" as "simply applied phonology" using "normal synchronic analysis" of proto-forms reconstructed following methods of comparative phonology (Anttila 1972:351-2). This concept of morphological reconstruction has been taken up in a number of textbooks on historical linguistics. For example, Fox (1995:93) claims that much of what passes for morphological reconstruction is primarily phonological, concerned more with the phonological form of proto-morphemes than the grammatical functions.

Here I illustrate the value of "applied phonology" in the reconstruction of even the Œnon-phonological¹ features of proto-morphemes. I show how detailed lexical reconstruction enables the reconstruction of the functions and distribution of particular valency-changing devices in Oceanic languages. For example, many modern Oceanic languages have a lexically-determined transitive suffix that reflects a form *-i. Through morphological analysis of reconstructed verbal lexemes we can conclude that in Proto Oceanic this suffix was in fact phonologically-conditioned.

Anttila, Raimo (1972) An introduction to historical and comparative linguistics. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co.

Fox, Anthony (1995) Linguistic reconstruction. An introduction to theory and method. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

12th September, 2003:

Harold Koch

(School of Language Studies, Arts, ANU)

Particles and proto-paradigms: extending the catchment area for the reconstruction of pronominal inflection

What data should be compared in reconstructing the inflectional morphology of pronouns of a proto-language? I am concerned with the non-personal "pronominals" that signal deictic, anaphoric, interrogative, and indefinite meanings in the Pama-Nyungan (PN) languages of Australia. Where the obvious evidence from the paradigmatic forms of the descendant languages, supplemented by the evidence of stems which result from the reanalysis of particular inflected words (e.g. pala- 'the one there' < pa-la 'that-Locative'), is still insufficient for confident reconstructions, particles constitute a further source of comparative evidence, which is yet to be exploited.

A recurrent type of linguistic change, common with pronominals, involves an individual member of an inflectional paradigm being re-analysed as an independent, unanalysable, and un-inflecting word, i.e. particle, adverb, etc., with meanings relating to space ('away'), time ('later'), manner ('thus'), modality ('perhaps'), discourse linkage ('hence'), etc. In this paper I exploit such patterns of change in reconstructing PN proto-paradigms-- at the same time drawing on a broader comparative database and providing etymologies for certain particles. Reflexes of forms such as *pa-la, *ngu-la, originally Locative case-forms of deictic/anaphoric pronominals, are drawn from the directional, modal, etc. particles of particular PN languages.

19th September, 2003:
Kate Laffan
(School of Language Studies, Arts, ANU)
Getting to the core of the Proto Wakka-Kabic case system

There has been a transient nature to the Pama-Nyungan Wakka-Kabic group of Queensland¹s southeast over the years, with many languages being included based on dubious criteria before being quietly discredited and Œremoved¹. Attempts at subgrouping have also proven unreliable: supposed subgroups (collections of languages with shared innovations) seem to have been determined by a random combination of geography and lexicostatistics. By reconstructing Proto-Wakka-Kabic core-case pronouns based on data from eight stable group languages I hope to provide some evidence for a redistribution of languages among the three subgroups which form Wakka-Kabic.

I have been fortunate in that there have been several attempts at reconstructing Proto-Pama-Nyungan pronouns in the recent past, notably by Blake and lately by Koch, and this data has been of great assistance in the task of reconstructing the pronominal system of Proto-Wakka-Kabic where there are no cognates between subgroups. However, there still remains the problem plaguing many Australianists ­ with no regular sound change correspondences how can we be sure whether unexpected or irregular forms are archaisms, innovations or borrowings?

17th October, 2003:
Claire Bowern
(Dept. Linguistics, Harvard University)
Devolution of noun incorporation

While the two branches of the Nyulnyulan family are quite close, we are
presented with anomalies in verb root number and structure between the two groups. It is a startling fact that around two-thirds of the closed class of Eastern Nyulnyulan roots are directly reconstructible to Proto-Nyulnyulan qua roots, but the figure is much lower for the Western languages. This arises in part because the two Western languages also have more than twice as many roots as the two Eastern languages (over 200 versus fewer than 100). What happened to the verb roots in the Nyulnyulan languages? Why do four languages with overall very similar verb structure and morphology show such differences in the number of verb roots (85-225+), the etymology of those roots, and the organisation of their verb classifier/light verb systems? I propose here that many of the 'extra' roots in Western Nyulnyulan can be analysed as fossilised combinations of incorporated nominal + monosyllabic verb root. This is particularly interesting from the point of view of historical syntax because the same monosyllabic verb roots are still in use in Nyulnyulan languages as light verbs in complex predicates. We will examine the historical syntax of Nyulnyulan predicate formation to reveal some
interesting stable and not-so-stable properties.

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This document last modified: 10th September, 2003
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