Noun classification has always been popular among linguists, and there is an immense body of literature on the topic; yet the corresponding phenomenon of verbal classification remains largely unknown and little explored. This book deals with systems of verb classification in
Australian Aboriginal languages, with a particular focus on languages of the north-west of the continent. Most of these languages distinguish two types of verbal construction: a simple verb construction consisting of an inflecting verb (often belonging to a closed word class), and a compound verb construction consisting of an almost invariant verbal element (uninflecting verb) together with an inflecting verb. In the latter construction, it is argued, the inflecting verb serves as a verbal classifier, categorising the uninflecting verb and its conceptual referent.
The book has three main objectives: the first is to provide a description of the main formal and semantic characteristics of verb classification systems in Australia, identifying the main parameters of consistency and variation. The second is to make some proposals concerning their historical origins and subsequent development, culminating in their degrammaticalisation in some languages. It is suggested that the verbal conjugation class systems characteristic of
Pama-Nyungan languages of the southern and eastern parts of the continent have historical origins in classifying compound verb constructions, thus challenging the received account according to which they developed via reanalysis of root-final consonants as conjugation markers: the latter derive, rather, from classifying inflecting verbs. The third aim is to put forward some suggestions regarding the grammatical relationships involved in verb classification, in an attempt to situate it within the wider context of related grammatical phenomena such as complex predicate constructions, serial verb constructions, noun incorporation, etc., and to identify what is essential to the grammatical phenomenon of classification.
2. The Gooniyandi verb classifier system
3. CVC-based verb category systems
4. Comparison of verb category systems
5. Verb class systems: conjugations
6. The grammar of verb superclassifying constructions
7. Related grammatical phenomena
8. Evolution of verb classification in Australia
9. Verb classification in discourse: a preliminary investigation