CRLC Seminar Series 2, ANU, 2005

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


19th July, 2005:

Claire Bowern and Barry Alpher

(Rice University)

“Yolngu Matha subgrouping”

Various proposals exist in the literature regarding the internal subgrouping of the Yolngu languages of Eastern Arnhem Land (Northern Australia). The Yolngu languages are Pama-Nyungan; we take this as given [Blake 1988, Alpher 2004] but are not geographically contiguous with the vast majority of Pama-Nyungan languages (there are two other such non-contiguous languages: Yanyuwa and Western Torres Strait Islands). As such, Yolngu languages assume great importance in the reconstruction of Proto-Pama-Nyungan because of their relative insulation from other related languages as sources of loans. We present evidence that the Yolngu languages constitute a genetic subgroup of Pama-Nyungan; furthermore we present hypotheses as to the placement of Yolngu within PN and the internal subgrouping of Yolngu, reviewing earlier work done on a more impressionistic basis .

Features diagnostic of a Yolngu subgroup within Pama-Nyungan include the loss of a stop after a homorganic nasal (e.g. second person dual *nhumpala > nhumala-), the specifics of the phonological contrast of tense and lax stops, the forms of verb inflection, and the generalization of the Ergative alternant *dhu the most productive of ergative allomorphs.

Innovations that distinguish groups of Yolngu languages from one another include the sets and paradigms of demonstratives, (for example, proximate demonstratives nhangu vs dhangu vs dhuwal(a)), the replacement of certain inherited PN nominative pronouns with demonstratives (*dhana 3pl replaced by walala), and the organisation of the verb system (including the generalization of imperative forms as counterfactuals).

26th July:

Peter Bakker

(University of Aarhus, Visiting Fellow at La Trobe)

“Borrowing of verbs in Michif”

Michif is a language spoken as a first language by several hundreds of Metis in Canada and the USA. The Metis are descendants of French fur traders and their Amerindian wives. The Michif language is best characterized as a language with Cree (Algonquian) verbs and French noun phrases (except the demonstratives). Michif combines the more complicated parts of both languages. Cree, being a polysynthetic language, has highly complicated verbs, which are used without modification in Michif. French gender and definite marking are preserved in the NP.

In my talk I want to focus on a rather marginal phenomenon in the language, which is nevertheless highly interesting, both from the perspective of theories on the genesis of the language, as well as for general linguistics. Occasionally French and English verbs are used with Cree verbal morphology, seemingly contradicting my hypothesis on the genesis of the language in which it is claimed that stems and bound morphemes cannot be separated in Michif/Cree verbs. For general linguistics it is interesting, since there may be up to four switches from one language to another within one word, where all elements retain the phonological traits of the source languages.

11th August, 2005:

Jay Jasanoff

(Harvard University)

“Reduplicated preterites in Germanic”

This paper has two objects. The first is to show how the different early Germanic languages dealt with the process of reduplication, originally a productive device for forming preterite (past) tense stems, after reduplication had become opaque through sound change. The second, more specific object is to solve the classic problem of the origin of the Germanic “class VII” strong preterites — the forms that mostly replaced reduplicated preterites in North and West Germanic. How, in other words, did the type of preterite formation seen in Go. le:tan ‘let’ : pret. lailo:t turn into the preterite type seen in OE læ:tan, pret le:t? A new answer will be offered.

16th August, 2005:

Russell Gray

(Auckland University)

“How old is the European language family? Progress or more moths to the flame?”

The origin of the Indo-European language family is “the most intensively studied, yet still most recalcitrant, problem of historical linguistics”. Numerous genetic studies of Indo-European origins have also produced inconclusive results. In this talk I will outline how computational methods derived from evolutionary biology can be used to test two theories of Indo- European origin: the ‘Kurgan expansion’ and the ‘Anatolian farming’ hypotheses without repeating the well known errors of glottochronology. The Kurgan theory centres on possible archaeological evidence for an expansion into Europe and the Near East by Kurgan horsemen beginning in the sixth millennium BP. In contrast, the Anatolian theory claims that Indo-European languages expanded with the spread of agriculture from Anatolia around 8,000–9,500 years BP. In striking agreement with the Anatolian hypothesis, our analysis produced an estimated age range for the initial Indo-European divergence of between 7,800 and 9,800 years BP. These results were robust to changes in coding procedures, calibration points, rooting of the trees, priors in the Bayesian analysis and model specification. I will conclude by discussing some objections to our work and by outlining possible extensions of the approach to Austronesian languages.

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

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.

23rd August, 2005:

Harold Koch

(SLS Fac. Arts)

“Divergent regularity in word-initial truncation in the Arandic languages”

The Arandic languages are among the Australian languages that have historically undergone the complete loss of word-initial consonants (others being Nganyaywana in New England and many languages of Cape York Peninsula). There are minor but nevertheless regular differences in the way initial CVs are treated in the two branches of Arandic. These can be accounted for by differential developments in a late stage of an initial consonant weakening process (all initial palatals having been reduced to a glide). According to this interpretation Glide+Vowel sequences *ya, *yu, and *wi in Proto-Arandic resulted in i, u, u respectively in the southern (Aranda) branch but in a, i, i in the northern (Kaytetye) branch. These historical changes will be justified by the citation of relevant etymologies where possible. The implications of these correspondences will also be explored: they involve issues not only of Arandic etymology but also of Pama-Nyungan comparative phonology and the methodology of linguistic reconstruction with respect to the Australian languages.

30th August, 2005:

Jutta Besold

(SLS Fac. Arts)

“Language Recovery of NSW South Coast Indigenous Languages - Philology, analysis and application to community reclamation”

It is regrettable, but undeniable that no more linguistic work can profitably be done with these [NSW South Coast] languages – either with ‘speakers’ or earlier sources. (Eades, 1976:19)

With the increased interest in reclaiming cultural traditions and languages in NSW Aboriginal communities and, needless to say from a linguistic viewpoint, the languages of the New South Wales South Coast have too long been neglected. The most recent grammar was published in the mid 1970s (Eades, 1976) and is in dire need of reworking within a more modern linguistic framework, and using language description from closely related and neighbouring languages as a comparative tool.

The challenges in this research lie in the interpretation of the archival material that comprises the majority of language material, and winning the respect and approval of the appropriate communities, whose collaboration is needed in order to produce a language description within a holistic framework.

I would like to use this seminar presentation as an opportunity to point out some of the challenges that present themselves to researchers of archival material and my proposed methodology of conducting language analysis within this framework. Any suggestions and or critique will be appreciated.

This seminar will not so much provide research findings but rather introduce my proposed research on the NSW South Coast languages (and neighbouring inland languages).

6th September, 2005:

Malcolm Ross

(Linguistics, RSPAS)

“Negative verbal clause constructions in Puyuma”

Puyuma (Austronesian, Taiwan) has separate intransitive and transitive verbal clause constructions. The verb is marked for transitivity. Intransitive S and transitive P are in the nominative, i.e. subject, case, whilst the A noun phrase (if any) is in the oblique case but is crossreferenced on the verb by a genitive proclitic. Schematically:

(1) ItrVerb ItrSubject:nom

(2) gen=TrVerb TrSubject:nom (TrAgent:obl)

(Since S and P are both marked as subject, one might say the language is ergatively aligned, but other features belie this epithet.) A first or second person subject appears as a nominative enclitic attached to the verb. In this circumstance, the two constructions are:

(3) ItrVerb=nom

(4) gen=TrVerb=nom (TrAgent:obl)

In the negative intransitive construction, the negator aDi precedes the verb, which retains its intransitive form. If there is a nominative enclitic, it is attached to aDi:

(5) aDi=nom ItrVerb

Thus the nominative enclitic appears to be a second-position clitic, and from these constructions one might expect to be able to predict the negative transitive construction, but one can't. The negator aDi precedes the verb as expected, but the verb itself has a special form found only in negative transitive clauses and the nominative enclitic remains attached to this verb, as in (4), not to the negator, as in (5), giving the negative transitive construction in (6):

(6) aDi gen=NegTrVerb=nom (TrAgent:obl)

The paper shows that this puzzling constructional disharmony is easily accounted for. The corresponding Proto Austronesian (PAn) constructions are readily reconstructed on the basis of data from other languages, and appear to have been in harmony with each other. The steps leading from the PAn constructions to Puyuma can be reconstructed, and I show that (6) reflects a PAn construction, although it is the seemingly disharmonic member of the set in Puyuma. It has become disharmonic because of changes in (4) which have, so to speak, left (6) stranded.

I conclude by asking why Puyuma has retained this disharmony, rather than bringing (6) into line with the other constructions and creating the ‘expected' but non-occurring construction in (7).

(7) **aDi=nom gen=TrVerb (TrAgent:obl)

20th September, 2005:

Stefan Engelberg

(University of Wuppertal)

“German Language Contact in Micronesia and Polynesia”

Although many German traders and planters were present in Micronesia and Polynesia from the middle of the 19th century until World War I, and large parts of the South Pacific were under German administration for almost three decades, not much is known about the role the German language has played in Polynesia and Micronesia. In this talk I will present ongoing research on language contact between German and other languages spoken in this area.

The first part of the talk will provide an overview on the topic. I will sketch the contact situation, i.e. how German explorers, traders, settlers, administrators and missionaries interacted with other parts of the population, indigenous and non-indigenous. I will also outline which kinds of consequences of German language contact can be observed (borrowings, language attrition, relexifications, bilingualism, etc.) and which kinds of sources have to be investigated in order to trace the history of German as a contact language in the South Pacific.

The second part of the talk will be devoted to case studies on single languages in Micronesia and Polynesia (Palauan, Kusaiean, Nauruan, Samoan) and how they reacted to German language contact. The outcome of the contact situation was surprisingly different on these islands and I will try to determine the factors that lead to these differences.


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