[other information]
Send changes to David.Nash@ANU.edu.au

Australian National University, Canberra
convened by
Patrick McConvell (Northern Territory University)
Mary Laughren (University of Queensland)

PROGRAM as at 1 June 1996

Papers will be 20 minutes + 10 minutes questions/discussion

8.30 -9 Patrick McCONVELL and Mary LAUGHREN
Where did the Western Desert Language come from? [abstract]

9-9.30 Robert GRAHAM
The Western and Central Deserts, two deserts - one culture / two deserts - two cultures? [abstract]

9.30-10 Peter THORLEY and Ben GUNN
Archaeological research from the eastern border lands of the Western Desert [abstract]

10-10.30 Ilia PEJROS
Lexicostatistical classification of Pama-Nyungan languages [no abstract]

10.30-11 Patrick McCONVELL
Nyungic Kinship Reconstruction and the origins of the "Aluridja" (Western Desert) System [abstract]

11-11.30 MORNING TEA

11.30-12 David NASH
Cardinal direction terminology in Western Desert (Wati) languages [abstract]

12-12.30 Nick RIEMER
Subgrouping polysemy

12.30-1 Mary LAUGHREN and Patrick McCONVELL
The correspondence r:rl and the prehistory of western Pama-Nyungan [abstract]


2-2.30 Luise HERCUS and Jane SIMPSON
Contact with Western Desert language and its effect on the Thura-Yura languages of South Australia [abstract]

2.30-3 Harold KOCH
The subgrouping of Western Desert based on verb inflectional morphology [abstract]

3-3.30 Alan DENCH
Pilbara verbal morphology and the Western Desert: some first steps towards a comparative reconstruction [abstract]


Discussants' commentaries on papers
(Discussants: Ken HALE and Barry BLAKE)

including O'Grady*, Austin* and Veth* papers
(*O'Grady, Austin and Veth are unable to attend)

Geoffrey O'GRADY
Lexicostatistic Evidence for the Genetic Position of the Western Desert Language [abstract]

Kanyara-Mantharda languages and their relationship to Western Desert [abstract]

Peter VETH
Language on the Move [abstract]

4.30-5 General discussion


(in alphabetical order of first author)

The Kanyara-Mantharda languages and their relationship to Western Desert
(no abstract available)

Pilbara verbal morphology and the Western Desert: some first steps towards a comparative reconstruction
(no abstract available)

GRAHAM, Robert
The Western and Central Deserts, two deserts - one culture / two deserts - two cultures?

The western deserts of Australia are among the driest in the world. Average annual rainfall figures are low and periods between rain can be lengthy. The eastern deserts (eg. Tanami) / central Australian pastoral areas by comparison, though arid receive higher and more predictable rains. While clearly linked these two areas possess distinctive natural features. This pattern is repeated in traditional Aboriginal culture. The people of the wide western areas (Gibson, Victoria and Great Sandy deserts) share cultural traits which mark them from the inhabitants of the Centre. Both groups however also have much in common.In the religious sphere both share the pan Australian totemic ideology of creative beings in a timeless, continuously creative Dreamtime. Both share an essential belief in travelling beings which left chains of sacred sites across the country which have intimate bonds to existing social groups and natural categories (animals/natural phenomenon etc). Many other cultural features are common. In both the sacred life is dominated by the restricted churinga and thread crosses. Both share many terms for ceremony and religious matters. Both have the dual circumcision - marliyarra, aspects to male initiation. Clear differences exist however between the two regions with respect to the nature of this totemic ideology.

KINSHIP * homogeneity *diversity * smaller number of kinship terms *larger number of terms * emphasis on cognatic descent *patrilineal descent principles. (kirda/kurdungurlu concept * emphasis on birth and conception. * emphasis on descent. FUNERARY PRACTICE * organised by affines of deceased, *organised by siblings of siblings do not attend. deceased, some affines do not attend. ROCK ART * abstract art, motifs largely *a range of motifs which contain limited to tracks, and geometric those opposite but is not limited to shapes them and where the most important and culturally significant are additional large figurative designs. STONE TOOLS * few, if any stone axes used. * stone axes used and considered significant. CEREMONY * generation moiety organisation * ceremony organised on the in the conduct of ceremony. kirda/ kurdungurlu concept. LAND TENURE * weak corporate groups. *cult lodges * ego-centric. * socio-centric.

The evidence of both shared and divergent traits will be outlined. This material will be analysed to illustrate similarities derived from a common heritage and recent diffusion but also to show a long standing cultural division between the Aboriginal inhabitants of the two regions.

HERCUS, Luise and Jane SIMPSON
Contact with Western Desert language and its effect on the Thura-Yura languages of South Australia

The Thura-Yura, Arabana and Lower Southern Aranda languages were at the edge of W.D. expansion: this can be seen territorially by tales of events dating back to before white settlement, and from the evidence of place-names. It can also be seen linguistically by looking at Thura-Yura. This group consists of Kaurna, Narangga, Ngadyuri, Nukunu, Parnkala, Adnyamathanha and Kuyani. Wirangu, once thought to be a W.D. outlier, may also be a member of this group distinguished, with Nawu (from southern Eyre peninsula), by initial palatals varying with initial interdentals, whereas other members have initial interdentals.
Wirangu shows a classic case of increasing borrowings of vocabulary while the framework of the language stayed Thura-Yura. Records, however slight, from Eyre (1845) to the present allow us to trace this. Going back further in time is difficult, but there are some indications that Thura-Yura was at least for some time close to the Western Desert languages: well established words like kawi 'water' show this.
We will present our reconstructions for Thura-Yura and show correspondences with W.D.

KOCH, Harold
The subgrouping of Western Desert based on verb inflectional morphology

This paper will present a reconstruction of the main features of WD verb inflectional morphology, in particular (a) the number of inflectional classes that can be reconstructed, (b) the inflectional suffixes of each class, and (c) the lexical membership of each class, especially the minor classes. It will then ask what other languages (as reconstructed to the proto-language of a low-level subgroup) are most similar with respect to proto-WD. Particular attention will be given to the Marrngu subgroup (Nyangumarta, Karrajarri, Mangarla) and the Kartu subgroup (Watjarri, Yingkarta, Badimaya, and perhaps Nhanta). It will attempt to define, on the basis of shared innovations in the verb morphology system, a subgroup intermediate between proto-WD and proto-Nyungic (or whatever). It is expected that if a plausible subrouping can be established, inferences may be drawn from the spatial distribution of the subgrouped languages as to the plausibe location of the relevant proto-languages, and hence the possible route of linguistic expansion of the WD language itself.
Attention will be given to methodological issues with respect to both morphological reconstruction and subgrouping. (Some of the former issues will be discussed in my presentation on "Reconstruction in morphology" in the ALI Workshop on Methodology in Historical Linguistics, 3 July.)

The correspondence r:rl and the prehistory of western Pama-Nyungan

A sub-group Ngumpin-Yapa is proposed within Nyungic which includes the former sub-groups Ngumbin and Ngarga and, probably, Mangala (formerly classified as Marrngu). There are a number of shared innovations found in this sub-group, one of which is the change of proto-Nyungic *r to rl, which can be seen in correspondences like Western Desert waru 'fire' : Ngumpin-Yapa warlu.
This change occurs in all environments except when i precedes. Other cases of apparent retention of r in Ngumpin-Yapa are where r descends from *rt by lenition, and in loan words including words for certain artifacts and social institutions, which by hypothesis came into Ngumpin-Yapa after the change stopped operating. The fact that the third person singular indirect object clitic *=ra also undergoes this change to =rla implies a considerable time-depth for the pronominal clitic system, and it is argued here that the system was present in the common ancestor of Western Desert, Ngumpin-Yapa and other sub-groups, rather than being borrowed into Western Desert. Other examples of the correspondence r:rl with similar conditioning elsewhere are examined, particularly in Non-Pama-Nyungan families to the north and east of Ngumpin-Yapa, and the possibility is discussed that the change r>rl is part of an early areal change which occurred when some groups which are today distant from each other were in closer contact.

McCONVELL, Patrick
Nyungic Kinship Reconstruction and the origins of the "Aluridja" (Western Desert) System

Four main kinds of kinship system are found in the Nyungic group of Pama-Nyungan (using the Radcliffe-Brown terms):

  1. "Aluridja" throughout the Western Desert, not distinguishing any line in the grandparent generation, only distinguishing gender;
  2. "Kariera" in fact quite restricted to the eastern Pilbara, distinguishing parallel (MM/FF) from cross (MF/FM) grandparents;
  3. "Karadjeri", also in the Pilbara, distinguishing MM from FF, but classifying MF and FM together;
  4. "Aranda" in the north-east, the northwest, and parts of the southeast, with terms distinguihing all four grandparent types: MM, FF, MF and FM.
In this scheme the Western Desert kinship stands out as being the most "simple" in having less terms. This paper makes a detailed study not only of the kinship systems of Nyungic, but also of the forms of the kinship terms, attempting to reconstruct proto-forms and their original meanings, especially for the grandparent terms. It is argued that the WD kinship system is most closely related to systems in the south-west of WA, supporting the general hypothesis of McConvell and Laughren about WD origins. A more difficult question is also tackled: whether the WD system represents a simplification of one or other of the types found in Nyungic; or the other types represent an elaboration of a original simpler system like WD's.

McCONVELL, Patrick and Mary LAUGHREN
Where did the Western Desert Language come from?

This paper will outline the cultural and linguistic relationships of the region, point to the kinds of evidence relevant to answering the main question of the workshop, and propose one possible answer to the question. The explanation of why one language is so widespread is more likely to be relatively recent expansion than convergence of different languages. It is vital to establish a classification (subgrouping) within Nyungic (the western branch of Pama-Nyungan) to establish the position of Western Desert and what are its closest 'sister' and 'cousin' languages since, it is argued, the WD homeland is likely to be in or near to the territory one of these closely related sub-groups. Here a number of typological features of grammar are discussed as well as phonological, morphological and lexical peculiarities shared or not shared by WD and other Nyungic languages.
Three other techniques are also explored : (1) the evidence of semantic change, where an original meaning can point to an area of origin; (2) linguistic palaeontology, which matches reconstructed environmental vocabulary in a proto- language to different possible origin areas; (3) linguistic stratigraphy which shows contact with different groups at different periods by looking at borowed words, particularly cultural vocabulary. Cultural traits are also used in conjunction with linguistic evidence. Finally a hypothesis is proposed, using the above kinds of evidence, that the Western Desert language originated in the far west of Western Australia, not far from the central west coast; there is also discussion, going further back in time, of possible scenarios of the origin and spread of Nyungic as a whole.

NASH, David
Cardinal direction terminology in Western Desert (Wati) languages

The paper surveys the relevant cardinal direction terminology, both stems and suffixal morphology, and compares the data both within the WD dialect web, and externally, with a view to hypothesising about its origins. The common cardinal stems in WD are:

/kakarra/ 'east', common
/wilurarra/ 'west'
/yapurra/ 'west', shared with languages to west
/kayili/ 'north', shared with Ngumbin languages
/alinytjara/ 'north'
/yulpari-/ 'south'
/kankarra/ 'up, etc', shared with languages to north and east
/katu/ 'up, etc'
/kaninytjarra/ 'down, etc'
In addition, there are number of other stems recorded in particular dialects.
Two types of comparison with surrounding languages will be undertaken: semantic, and morphological. A semantic generalisation is that, unlike Ngumbin languages, the WD terminology appears not to include separate stems for 'upstream', 'downstream'. Morphologically, special suffixes occurring only, or mainly, with cardinals, are found in Pitjantjatjarra, Yankunytjatjara and more so Martu Wangka, but even there not with the elaboration of the Ngumbin and Yapa languages to the north-east.

O'GRADY, Geoffrey, N.
Lexicostatistic Evidence for the Genetic Position of the Western Desert

Work which I did in the 1950's and 1960's resulted in the preparation of six maps of Australia showing percentages of putative cognates shared by six different Pama-Nyungan languages with thirty to forty other widely distributed Australian languages. The six languages were; Western Desert (Warburton Ranges dialect); Western Arrernte; Northern Nyungar; Thalandji; Nyangumarta; and Gupapuyngu (O'Grady 1959, 1964). The present paper represents, in part, a reworking of my earlier studies, based on my 1990's judgements of cognation of Australian languages. In it, Pintupi is compared, in turn, with Thalandju, Nyangumarta, Walmajarri, Warlpiri, Gupapuyngu and Yanyuwa. Then follow comparisons of Pintupi with a sampling of eastern Pama-Nyungan languages - Umpila, Yidiny, Gidabal, Iora, Woiwurrung and Diyari. Finally Pintupi is compared to Nyulnyul, Ami, Tiwi and Mawng to gain a perspective on its relationship to non-Pama-Nyungan languages. I plan to supplement the earlier six maps with a seventh, showing putative percentages of cognates shared by Pintupi with other Australian languages.

THORLEY, Peter and Ben GUNN
Archaeological research from the eastern border lands of the Western Desert.

Western Desert language speakers have been recognised as having a distinct set of cultural traits. Originally it was Strehlow (1965) who contrasted the social structure and environments of Western Desert and Arandic-speaking groups. Following Strehlow, Gould proposed that differences would be observable in the archaeological record in a number of ways and set out to demonstrate this through the comparison of two sites, one from central Australia (James Range East) and one from the Western Desert (Puntujarpa). Gould's results were inconclusive and highlight the difficulties of inferring cultural patterns over a large area from a small number of sites. With more recent research, including the excavation of sites by Smith (1988) and the documentation of rock art by Gunn (in press) there is now a larger sample of sites from which to revisit Gould's hypothesis. Of particular interest in this paper is what Strehlow referred to as the "eastern border lands" of the Western Desert, which lie within the upper catchments of the Finke and Palmer Rivers. Results will be presented from work in progress by the authors and will be analysed in conjunction with previous studies from this and neighbouring Arandic-speaking areas.

Peter VETH
Language on the Move

Recent archaeological research from the Western Desert indicates a human presence before 24,000 years ago. Provisional interpretations of rock art and other cultural assemblages from this early phase of occupation suggests uniformity with surrounding regions. During the last glacial maximum major demographic restructuring occurred, most likely due to intensified aridity. Large areas of the Western Desert appear to have been used far less intensively during this time until gradual amelioration in climate was experienced from the early to mid-Holocene. Adjoining "refuge" areas do not experience this decline in occupational intensity. There is then ubiquitous evidence for uniform desert occupation from 5,000 to 3,000 years ago, with a marked increase from 1,400 years ago. Much of the art, material culture and settlement behaviour appears to differ from the earlier, pre-glacial phase. Where do the cultural affinities of this latter phase lie? Which "refuge" area might have donated recolonising populations? Several alternative hypotheses will be presented of relevance to linguistic modelling.