Standard Average Australian

0e02b73912d292c5ce6e7b5b8aebf6cb?s=47 Claire Bowern
December 11, 2017

Standard Average Australian

0e02b73912d292c5ce6e7b5b8aebf6cb?s=128

Claire Bowern

December 11, 2017
Tweet

Transcript

  1. Standard Average Australian Claire Bowern, Yale University

  2. None
  3. Today •  Examining our assumptions about – typological profiles – widespread features

    – and how we talk about them •  Implications for – generalizations about Australian languages – language documentation – what to study and how to study it
  4. tl;dr [aka conclusions] •  We talk about similarities a lot

    more than we talk about differences. •  Half the claims in the literature are either wrong, or impossible to verify.
  5. NOT •  “Someone is wrong on the internet”

  6. Also not ... •  Australian languages generally lack a part

    of speech with typical determiner features such as obligatory use, competition for a specific position in the noun phrase and specialization in this function. This study uses a of 100 languages to investigate whether Australian languages can be said to have any kind of determiner system, and if so, what it looks like in structural terms. I show that there is structural evidence for a determiner slot or zone in half of the languages. (Louagie 2016)
  7. But rather “Pama-Nyungan languages are fairly homogeneous in grammatical structure,

    but lexical sharings are often geographically uncoordinated, and there is much semantic flux in word meanings.” (Bellwood 2013:117)
  8. “Mantjiltjara, along with other languages of the Wati Subgroup, has

    a great concentration of Common Australian characteristics” (Marsh 1992, 11)
  9. Methods

  10. Searching •  Google scholar and pdf search for key terms,

    including: – ‘common (in)’, homogeneous, – ‘rare (in)’ – ‘unusual’ – ‘typical’ [Australian language] •  (plus noting terms in other reading) •  Not comprehensive of sources (but comprehensive by term)
  11. Sorting •  Author (+ other demographics) •  Year •  Type

    of claim •  Common/typical/rare/etc [categorizing the claim] •  testable? –  is the evidence in principle available? –  can we test it with the sample we already have? •  verified? –  does our data support the claim?
  12. Testing •  Test against Chirila (lexical data) for semantics (e.g.

    polysemy •  Test against phonological inference (e.g. as reported in Gasser and Bowern 2014) •  Sample of grammatical data (compiled under NSF grant; c. 90 languages from across Australia) •  (Still in progress; sparse in Non- Pama-Nyungan) Bowern (2016) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
  13. Results

  14. Summary •  89 claims •  from 48 different authors • 

    1937-2017 in current sample •  across phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse
  15. Authors

  16. Chronology of claims 0 5 10 15 20 25 30

    35 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Claims
  17. Universities of origin Adelaide ANU Else LaTrobe Melbourne Sydney UNE

    UQ UWA Adelaide ANU Else LaTrobe Melbourne Sydney UNE UQ UWA
  18. Australianist? N Y

  19. Subfield Culture Discourse Lexicon Morphology Phonetics Phonology Semantics Syntax Culture

    Discourse Lexicon Morphology Phonetics Phonology Semantics Syntax
  20. Terms used 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14

    16 18 a number of all almost all Aus'n langs common fair number generally generally rare large majority many many, if not most most not common rare several some standard Ausn typical unusual usually widespread
  21. Terms used, cont. common some rare

  22. Are the claims testable? •  Yes: Multi-level case marking is

    widespread in Australian languages (Dench and Evans 1988:1) •  Hard: Many Australian languages have a term that is at first glossed as "camp" or hut but in fact has a very general meaning. (Dixon 2002: 58) •  No: In all Australian languages ‘point time’ words then have interval reference rather than strict point or punctual specification. (Austin 1988:5)
  23. Testable claims? 0 5 10 15 20 25 yes no

    hard
  24. Are the claims true?

  25. Overall

  26. Verified claims:

  27. Negated claims: •  Dixon (1977:103) “It is unusual in an

    Australian language to have words ending in ng.” • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
  28. Further discussion

  29. Further discussion •  rare and common lose their meaning if

    features that are labeled rare appear more often than features labeled common •  When is a feature no longer rare? (10% of languages in sample? 20%? 30%?) •  What type of distributional restrictions should there be on calling a feature common? widespread? or locally common?
  30. Conclusions

  31. Conclusions/recommendations •  terms like “rare” or “common”

  32. Acknowledgments •  NSF grants BCS-0844550 and BCS-1423711 •  The Aboriginal

    and Torres Strait Islander people who have given permission for their languages to be included in the database, and made data available to me and other researchers. •  The 100+ linguists who have given permission for their work to be included in the database. •  The 50+ research students (undergraduates and graduates) who have been involved in the project since 2007, at Rice Univ. and Yale.