CRLC Seminar Series 3, ANU, 2005

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


8th November, 2005:

Jacinta Smallhorn

(Linguistics, RSPAS)

“Comparative reconstruction of Proto-Binandere”

In my thesis I made a start on the reconstruction of Proto-Binandere, a language ancestral to about fifteen languages of southeast Papua New Guinea, using the comparative method. A sound system was posited, over one hundred items of lexicon reconstructed, and some observations on morphology and semantic shifts made. The language Guhu-Samane was confirmed as a family-level isolate coordinate with Proto-Binandere, and a Proto-Nuclear-Binandere was set up as an intermediate stage between Proto-Binandere and the non-northern member languages. Four subgroups were identified among the daughters of Proto-Binandere, with one member seeming to stand alone.

15th November, 2005:

Patrick McConvell


“The Archaeolinguistics of Migration: Hunter-Gatherers and Farmers”

Migration is only just re-emerging as a respectable concept in archaeology, especially in Australia. In linguistics, the central model of language divergence over time has been often associated with migration, and this has been  less stigmatised than in archaeology, but nowadays is to some extent under the shadow of theoretical frameworks which emphasise equilibrium, convergence and stasis. It is clear however that migration is the most important driving force in spreading languages and cultures in all eras, among hunter-gatherers as well as among farmers and pastoralists. There is often debate in discussions of language spread, between those who emphasise population replacement or displacement and those who emphasise language replacement (language shift on the part of a resident population when contacted by migrants). Both occur, often in complex combinations, and linguistic, archaeological and particularly recently bio-genetic research are assisting us to differentiate cases. A model of language spread (McConvell 2001) is presented, in which ‘upstream’ spread is primarily purely by migration and ‘downstream’ spread at least partially by language shift. The characteristics of these phases are compared with other models of language differentiation and convergence, and examples are presented from indigenous North America and Australia. The issue of marriage patterns and the feedback between this and change in kinship systems and terminologies in these different situations is also raised.

The question of how to muster evidence to decide if the spread of a language or cultural traits was by migration or language shift, or some combination, is crucial to those studying linguistic prehistory. For others interested in the mechanisms of migration more generally what may be of more immediate relevance are the approaches developed by archaeologists and linguists to how linguistic and cultural change occurs and is propagated in and between groups. Here archaeolinguistic prehistory has drawn on contemporary sociolinguistics and anthropology including social network theory. It is suggested that linguistic (and perhaps other cultural) convergence, while not as significant as some ultra-diffusionists suggest, can play a role within some migrant groups at certain phases.

22nd November, 2005:

Peter Trudgill

(University of Fribourg)

“Dialect archaeology and predicting the past”

This talk will discuss J.C. Wells' assertion that: “The Australian and New Zealand accents of English are very similar to one another”. South African, although differing in a number of important respects, also has a general similarity to Australian. These facts are not surprising when we consider that all three territories were settled from Britain at about the same time, the English language becoming established in each around the beginning of the nineteenth century. All reflect, therefore, the developments which had taken place in the south of England up to that time: they are non-rhotic and have BATH Broadening.

29th November, 2005:

Erma Vassiliou

(Visiting fellow, ANU)

“Romance NPs with Greek Morphology in Medieval Cypriot”

Abstract to be announced

6th December, 2005:

Matthew Toulmin

(Linguistics, RSPAS)

“Reconstructing in a dialect continuum: sorting out chronology of changes in Kamota, Rajbanshi and North Bengali”

Dialect continua, marked by non-discrete boundaries between speech communities, pose methodological problems for historical reconstruction. Innovations do not necessarily nest discretely within a lect or a subgroup of lects. Thus, given the right socio-historical conditions, a more widespread innovation may be more recent than a more localised innovation. Consequently, it may be impossible to reconstruct the relative chronology of innovations using only ‘system-internal’ or ‘a-social’ linguistic methodologies, including the comparative method.

In this paper I take the dialect geography of phonological changes (reconstructed using the comparative method) and interpret the linguistic geography using extant and hypothetical socio-historical scenarios. The socio-historical reconstruction supplements the comparative reconstruction by disambiguating the chronology of innovations.


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