The Ergative in Proto-Australian
Since Dixon’s 1980 reconstruction of the ergative case suffix in Australian languages very little large scale comparison of the ergative has been carried out. However, as the result of a research project on Comparative Australian Studies (headed by R.M.W. Dixon and affiliated with the Australian National University) the author has carried out detailed comparative work on the ergative case suffix and proposes some alterations to the currently accepted reconstruction. In the first part of this study the author examines the ergative in the Pama-Nyungan languages (those looked at by Dixon in 1980) and proposes that the basic underlying allomorph of the ergative is -Dhu rather than -lu, while the previously accepted form -lu is a morphologically conditioned allomorph following nominals which are not common nouns. In the second part of the paper KRISTINA SANDS looks at the non-Pama-Nyungan languages, which have previously been held to not contain ergative suffixes cognate with the Pama-Nyungan forms, and finds reflexes of the same form -Dhu. It is thus shown that cognate forms of the ergative are found in both Pama-Nyungan and non-Pama-Nyungan (*-Dhu), thus helping to establish what type of language proto-Australian was, and also providing important evidence that the Pama-Nyungan and non-Pama-Nyungan languages are related.
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