LINGUIST List 15.1510

Thu May 13 2004

Diss: Historical Ling: Bowern: 'Bardi Verb...'

Editor for this issue: Tomoko Okuno <>


  1. bowern, Bardi Verb Morphology in Historical Perspective

Message 1: Bardi Verb Morphology in Historical Perspective

Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 14:11:39 -0400 (EDT)
From: bowern <>
Subject: Bardi Verb Morphology in Historical Perspective

Institution: Harvard University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Claire Bowern 

Dissertation Title: Bardi Verb Morphology in Historical Perspective

Linguistic Field: 
General Linguistics, Historical Linguistics, Language Description,
Linguistic Theories, Morphology, Syntax

Subject Language: 
Baadi (code: BCJ) Nyigina (code: NYH) Nyulnyul (code: NYV) Yawuru (code: YWR)

Subject Language Family: Australian & Nyulnyulan

Dissertation Director 1: Jay Jasanoff
Dissertation Director 2: Harold Koch
Dissertation Director 3: Susumu Kuno

Dissertation Abstract: 

This dissertation is an investigation into the structure of verbal
predicates in Bardi, a Nyulnyulan language from the North-Western
Australian coast. I examine possible synchronic analyses and
reconstruct the history of the formation of the systems between
Proto-Nyulnyulan and the modern attested languages. There has been
very little previous work on the history of complex predicates, and no
detailed historical reconstruction for the Nyulnyulan family. The
results presented here are a significant contribution to a topic in
linguistics that it has only recently become possible to research.

My analysis of Nyulnyulan verbal morphology and predicate formation is
both synchronic and diachronic. I give an analysis of the structure of
inflecting verbs and complex predicates, and present reconstructions
to show how the Nyulnyulan languages have changed over
time. Synchronically, there are issues in the analysis of predicate
structure that reflect fundamental assumptions about the nature of
generative grammar, such as lexical 'adicity' (the ability of lexical
items to be modified by their syntactic context) and the role of
morphology and syntax (if there is one) in the lexicon.

There are also many intriguing diachronic problems in the Nyulnyulan
languages that warrant investigation. Although the two branches of the
family are very close, the number and type of simple predicates in
each branch is very different. Why, for example, should so few
inflecting verb roots be cognate between Eastern and Western
Nyulnyulan when the lexicon as a whole is highly isomorphic? Why do
Western Nyulnyulan languages have double the number of roots that the
Eastern languages do? It is striking that the verbal elements used in
root formation of this type are the same light verbs that are used in
complex predicates in the modern Nyulnyulan languages. Discussion of
Nyulnyulan complex predicates embraces syntactic reconstruction,
calquing and language contact.
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