5th European Australianists’ Workshop (1)

Many of the Northern Hemisphere based Australianists met in Manchester last week for a two-day conference.

Bill McGregor kicked off the proceedings with a talk on spatial frames of reference in Gooniyandi* and a critique of Levinson’s (2003) typology of spatial categorisation. The Gooniyandi system appears to have something a bit different going on, and it’s hard to argue for clear-cut categories of absolute and relative directionals. 

We then moved east to the VRD and Felicity Meakins’ talk on Gurindji Kriol coverbs. She argued that Gurindji Kriol positional constructions do not use true coverbs, but rather are an instance of Aikhenvald’s asymmetric serial verb constructions. I have a bit of a problem with this, since the Aikhenvald asymmetric serialisation construction actually includes complex predicates like the Gurindji coverbs, but whatever we call the things, it’s clear that they behave rather differently in Kriol, Gurindji Kriol and Gurindji.

After the break we moved to Cape York for two talks: Clair Hill on Kuuku Ya’u and Umpila ignoratives, and Jean-Christophe Verstraete on place names in Lamalama country. Clair’s talk was on the grammar of items that have also been called indefinite/interrogatives, interrogatives, or ignoratives. The Umpila ignoratives function very differently from the ones in the languages with which I’m familiar (and Yan-nhaŋu doesn’t have them at all, really). All a good reminder that Australian languages are actually kinda diverse.  JC’s talk used place name etymology to look at population movement. It was also a really nice illustration of google earth in toponym studies.

The final talk in that session (and of the day) was by Anthony Grant, who presented an analysis of the ‘lower Burdekin language’ lists in Curr (1886).

We then headed off to the curry mile for a pretty good South Indian dinner.

Day 2 report follows…

*Not the advertised talk, which was to be on Nyulnyul, but I got the summary version of the other talk on the walk to lunch and it’s pretty clear that something weird has been going on in the history of Western Nyulnyulan.

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