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By Karen Stollznow

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By Maria Polinsky

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Dissertation Information

Title: Agreement in Mawng: Productive and lexicalised uses of agreement in an Australian language Add Dissertation
Author: Ruth Singer Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Melbourne, Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Completed in: 2006
Linguistic Subfield(s): Language Documentation; Semantics; Syntax; Typology;
Subject Language(s): Maung
Director(s): Rachel Nordlinger
Nicholas Evans

Abstract: This thesis is a morphosyntactic description of the Australian language
Mawng with a focus on verbal gender agreement and its lexicalisation.
Mawng's five genders have a strong semantic basis. In verbs with
lexicalised agreement, a verbal pronominal prefix that usually indexes a
core argument of a particular gender instead functions to specify a
particular sense of the verb. Such verbs form a significant portion of the
verbal lexicon in Mawng. An investigation of these verbs requires an
updated description of Mawng, which has not been the object of linguistic
study for some time.

A non-Pama Nyungan language of the Iwaidjan language family, Mawng is still
spoken by around three hundred people living on the north-west coast of
Arnhem land, Northern Territory, Australia. This description is based on
new fieldwork carried out at Warruwi (Goulburn Island) and adds to what was
previously known about the Mawng language. Complex verb constructions,
reciprocal constructions, argument structure, complex sentences, NP
structure, the semantic basis of the gender system and the nature of verbal
agreement are some of the topics explored in greater detail in this thesis
than previously available materials.

Lexicalised agreement was not discussed in previous work on Mawng.
Lexicalised agreement is defined as the lexicalisation of otherwise
productive verbal agreement morphology. Verbs with lexicalised agreement
are described through descriptions of various classes of verbs with common
semantic and syntactic properties. I argue that verbs with lexicalised
agreement are best understood as a type of verb- argument idiom like
noun-verb idioms. In both lexicalised agreement verbs and noun- verb
idioms, a verb and an element that usually expresses an argument of the
verb develop a conventionalised meaning that is noncompositional.

There are many semantic and syntactic parallels between lexicalised
agreement verbs, noun-verb idioms and also lexicalised noun-incorporations.
All three expressions are a type of verb-argument idiom in which an element
that usually encodes an argument of the verb has become lexicalised as part
of a new expression together with the verb I develop a preliminary typology
of lexicalised agreement which is rare but by no means unique to Mawng. It
is also found in the non-Pama Nyungan languages Gaagudju and Tiwi, the
North American language Southern Tiwa (Kiowa-Tanoan) and the Siberian
isolate Ket.