HistLing Seminar Series 2, ANU, 2004
Normal time: Fridays, 11.00am-12.30pm
Nadel Room (Seminar Room C), HC Coombs Building (no.9), Australian National University
Salads of Fruit and Mountains of Tongues: Comparative Perspectives on the Balkans and the Caucasus
Both the Balkans and the Caucasus -- as exemplified by the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Daghestan, respectively -- are regions of significant linguistic complexity and contact. The former provided the original model for Trubetzkoy's Sprachbund, while the latter has been world-renowed for its linguistic complexity at least since the days of medieval Arab geographers. Particularly striking is the way multilingualism in the two regions has had such different results. This talk will provide an overview of both grammatical and sociolinguistic contact phenomena in the two regions and discuss possibilities of origins and current situations.
The meaning(s) of Proto Oceanic *panua. An exercise in lexical semantics
Reconstructing the meaning of Proto Oceanic (POc) *panua is not a straightforward task. Across the 400 or so Oceanic languages reflexes of *panua show a remarkably wide range of glosses, including 'land', 'ground', 'island', 'field', 'garden', 'community', 'people', 'village', 'social division within a village', 'house', 'world' and 'weather'. One immediately feels challenged to think of reasons to connect these disparate glosses and to arrange them into a logically intergrading series. Then comes a sterner challenge - to check and extend the data and to try to construct a systematic semantic history to account for the distribution of meanings.
I will argue that half the battle is not so much determining the historical facts but deciding how to describe them. Blust (1987) proposed that *panua had a single, rather complex primary meaning, which was extended or narrowed in diverse ways by daughter languages. My view is that *panua was rather highly polysemous and that it is best regarded (as all truly polysemous words are) not as a single lexical unit but as a family of distinct lexical units. Some daughter languages have discarded some senses of POc *panua and others have added some. It is rarer to find a genuine change in the meanings of lexical units. Usually it has been a case of old senses being paired with new forms. The more general implication is that what we call 'semantic change' is often just the relabelling of established senses, their transfer from form A to form B, with resultant change in the sense structures of A and B.
Verbal derivative suffixes in Mundang and their cognates: a case study in morphological evidence in comparative Niger-Congo
Bound morphology provides important evidence for linguistic relatedness. In comparative Niger-Congo linguistics, much attention has been given to noun class systems. Noun classes are defined here in the Bantuist sense: paired noun class affixes that are substituted in singular/plural pairs and that trigger concord on dependent forms in the noun phrase and in the sentence. Some noun class affixes function as derivative affixes. The various branches of Niger-Congo show systematic correspondences between form and meaning of noun class affixes and between noun class pairings. Further, several families of Niger-Congo have elaborate systems of verbal derivative suffixes (verbal extensions). They are known from Bantu languages, but they also occur in other families, such as Gur and Atlantic. Much less attention has been given to the comparative evidence that verbal extensions may supply. The paper will discuss the evidence for verbal extensions in Mundang, an Adamawa language of the Cameroon/Chad border area. Although this language has no productive verbal extensions, it can be shown to have traces of them. These traces of verbal extensions can be shown to correspond to operative systems in well-established Niger-Congo families (Bantu, Gur).
The Early Mainland Austronesian Complex (EMAC) hypothesis - Moken/Moklen and Aceh.-Chamic
It is now well recognised that Chamic is an Austronesian (An.) language family that underwent radical restructuring as a result of contact with Mainland SEAsian languages. The recent reconstruction of Proto Chamic (PC) by Thurgood (1999) (henceforth 'Thurgood') has significantly improved our understanding of the phonetic and lexical evolution of Chamic, yet some important questions remain to be satisfactorily resolved, such as:
(a) where and in what circumstances did PC form?
(b) which contact languages contributed to the formation of PC?
(c) what is the status of Acehnese and is it a late Chamic off-shoot or more distantly related?
According to Thurgood's model Acehnese is the highest branch of the Chamic family, splitting well after the formation of Mon-Khmerisised Proto Chamic. However, this reconstructed history is difficult to reconcile with careful etymological analysis of the Aceh.-Chamic lexicon. My analysis suggests that Acehnese and Chamic must have been separated for a much longer period, since before the bulk of Mon-Khmer contact effects on Chamic. Significant structural innovations of Chamic and Acehnese are also attested in Moken/Moklen, a much more distantly related Austronesian group of Malaysia and Thailand, suggesting an ancient linguistic area dubbed the Early Mainland Austronesian Complex (EMAC) by Larrish (1999). Many of the Aceh.-Chamic isoglosses cited by Thurgood could be explained by the much later, historically attested, Chamic migrations to Aceh of the 15th century, so that we should more properly talk of the convergence of Acehnese and Chamic. Such a revised model has important consequences for the reconstruction of the contact history of Chamic.
Innovations and the Maric languages of Central Queensland
The Maric languages, comprising some thirty named local dialects which once were spoken over a vast tract of central Queensland, have long been recognised as forming a rather close-knit low-level subgroup of Pama-Nyungan languages. Comment has often been made regarding their evident linguistic homogeneity, to the point that they may even constitute a geographically extensive dialect network. Dixon (2002), extremely cautious about positing genetic affiliation between Australian languages, identifies these languages as a small genetic subgroup, requiring reconstruction of the proto-language.
Despite this consensus of opinion, the identification of innovations which define the Maric subgroup with respect to its putative proto-Pama-Nyungan (pPN) ancestor, and in opposition to neighbouring non-Maric languages is far from straightforward. This is due in part to the apparent phonological conservatism of proto-Maric with respect to pPN, borrowing and diffusion of vocabulary and structure which have served to obscure linguistic boundaries, as well as the paucity and unreliability of data for a great many of the dialects. In this seminar I wish to present and evaluate some of the evidence for linguistic innovations which may be used to define the Maric group within the Pama-Nyungan family and also for internal subgrouping purposes. This evidence will come from phonological change, lexical replacement and semantic shifts, and morphological and grammatical paradigms such as the pronominal system.
Towards a diachronic typology of relative clauses
The relative clause is a complex construction that exists in many typologically and genetically diverse languages. Historical studies in individual languages have shown that this construction can be affected by many different types of change in the history of a language, including lexical, morphological, morpho-syntactic and syntactic change. My thesis topic is a cross-linguistic study of change in the relative clause construction: a diachronic typology of relative clauses.
In this preliminary seminar, I will be focusing on why I have chosen to look at this specific construction type, what methods I am using in my study and what questions I am hoping to address by examining the changes in this one construction over a variety of languages.
Some arguments for genetic relatedness among the Worrorran languages of the northern Kimberly region of Western Australia
In the northwestern part of the Kimberley region, in the far north of Western Australia, there is a group of Aboriginal Languages including Ngarinyin, Worrorra, Wunambal and a number of others which are typologically and lexically far more similar to each other than any of them is to any language outside the region. Based on these resemblances, it has long assumed that the languages comprise a single genetic family, known as the 'Northern Kimberley' or 'Worrorran' family. But this assumption has been challenged recently by R.M.W. Dixon, who rightly points out that it has never been substantiated on the basis of rigorous comparative-historical study. Since 1999, in collaboration with William McGregor, I have been working on such a study. In this seminar I will concentrate mainly on the phonological evidence, with particular reference to vowels and lamino-dental consonants. Whereas most or all attested Worrorran languages have five vowels and few or no lamino-dental consonants, based on the comparative evidence I argue that the proto-language had only three distinctive vowels, and three distinctive lamino-dental consonants: stop th, nasal nh, and corresponding glide yh. All three of these consonants are attested in Unggumi, at the southern end of the Worrorran region, and th is also found in languages on the northern, eastern, and western edges of the region. I will present cognate sets which show lamino-dentals in all of these spatially peripheral, non-contiguous Worrorran languages with corresponding apicals or lamino-palatals in the intervening languages Ngarinyin and Worrorra. Based on this, and on other Ngarinyin-internal morphophonemic evidence, I argue that proto-Worrorran had lamino-dental consonants, which have been lost within the daughter languages at the center of the region and retained in languages at the periphery. The evidence for an original three-vowel system in proto-Worrorran (/i/-/u/-/a/) is less decisive, but, as I will show, is interestingly related to the evidence for lamino-dentals in that instances of distinctive /e/ and /o/ in Worrorran languages can be shown to have arisen from allophones of /a/ in the environment of lamino-dental consonants following the loss of these as a conditioning environment.
An activity of the