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LINGUIST List 18.1794

Wed Jun 13 2007

Diss: General Ling/Lang Documentation: Gaby: 'A Grammar of Kuuk Tha...'

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        1.    Alice Gaby, A Grammar of Kuuk Thaayorre

Message 1: A Grammar of Kuuk Thaayorre
Date: 12-Jun-2007
From: Alice Gaby <agabyberkeley.edu>
Subject: A Grammar of Kuuk Thaayorre

Institution: University of Melbourne
Program: Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Alice Rose Gaby

Dissertation Title: A Grammar of Kuuk Thaayorre

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
                            Language Documentation

Subject Language(s): Thayore (thd)
Language Family(ies): Pama-Nyungan

Dissertation Director:
Nick Enfield
Nicholas Evans
Stephen C. Levinson
Rachel Nordlinger

Dissertation Abstract:

The thesis is a comprehensive description of Kuuk Thaayorre, a Paman
language spoken on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, Australia. On the
basis of elicited data, narrative and semi-spontaneous conversation
recorded between 2002 and 2005, this grammar details the phonetics and
phonology, morphosyntax, lexical and constructional semantics and
pragmatics of one of the few indigenous Australian languages still used as
a primary means of communication. Kuuk Thaayorre possesses features of
typological interest at each of these levels.

At the phonological level, Kuuk Thaayorre possesses a particularly rich
vowel inventory in Australian perspective, with five distinct vowel
qualities and two contrastive lengths producing ten vowel phonemes. It is
in the phonotactic combination of sounds that Kuuk Thaayorre phonology is
particularly noteworthy, however. Kuuk Thaayorre's tendency towards closed
syllables (with codas containing up to three consonants) frequently leads
to consonant clusters of as many as four segments. Kuuk Thaayorre is also
cross-linguistically unusual in allowing sequences of its two rhotics (an
alveolar tap/trill and retroflex continuant) within the syllable - either
as a complex coda or as onset plus syllabic rhotic. Finally, monosyllables
are ubiquitous across all Thaayorre word classes, despite being generally
rare in Australian languages.

At the level of morphology, Kuuk Thaayorre is one of the very few languages
demonstrated to possess phrasal affixation; the irregularity of Thaayorre
ergative case inflection proves the ergative morpheme to be a suffix, yet
only the final nominal of the noun phrase is inflected. The syntactic
combination of words into phrases and clauses reveals a predominantly
nonconfigurational language which nevertheless has a highly structured noun
phrase. Of particular theoretical significance, is the complex encoding of
arguments by apposed noun phrases, free pronouns and incipient enclitic
pronouns. Kuuk Thaayorre is also unusual in possessing multiple distinct
inclusory constructions, including a set of inclusory pronouns that encode
separate superset and subset within a single lexeme.

Kuuk Thaayorre possesses myriad polyfunctional, homophonous and polysemous
forms. Of particular interest here is the exploitation of morphosyntactic
categories for pragmatic purposes (e.g. the use of spatial distinctions in
demonstratives to express how easily the referent is retrievable, or the
use of ergative case-marking to signal whether or not the subject's
reference is expected). The fact that Kuuk Thaayorre is one of the few
traditional Australian indigenous languages still being learned by children
and used in daily interactions allows us the rare opportunity to explore
such pragmatic concerns alongside the grammatical structures through which
they are expressed.

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