"Working under the auspices of the Australian National Research Council during the period August 1929 to August 1931, I have been engaged on a survey of the aboriginal languages of Australia, choosing six languages in representative areas for intensive study. These are, (1) Kumbaingeri of Northern New South Wales, (2) Karadjeri, near Broome, Western Australia, (3) Barda, of Cape L'Évêque Peninsula, north of Broome, (4) Kurin, near Albany, southern Western Australia, (5) Hermit Hill, Daly River, Northern Territory, and (6) Ngengumeri, also on the Daly River.

Up to the present date, a fairly large body of material on Australian languages has appeared in print. Unfortunately, however, the greatest part of this literature is so fragmentary and phonetically inaccurate as to be of little use for either specific or for comparative studies. [...]

Professor Radcliffe-Brown, who directed my research in Australia, originally suggested my studying only one or two languages. However, in view of the similarities I discovered between Kumbaingeri of New South Wales and Karadjeri of Western Australia, he advised my investigating other key positions whose significance he had suspected on the basis of his own researches and the preliminary reports of his field workers in ethnology as well as the earlier literature. [...]

[...] Pitch and accent, generally speaking, have no grammatical value.  Aspiration is rare and the glottal stop is restricted almost entirely to a small area in Northern Queensland.  The distinction between voiced and unvoiced consonants is not, for the most part, phonemic, being determined by the position in the word and by adjacent sounds.  The following table offers a generalized phonemic scheme of the consonants of all the Australian languages; parentheses indicate sporadic occurrence: [table of symbols, with rows for alveolar, alv. palatal, alv cerebral, etc]

Phonetically, I have been able, on the basis of my material, to group together all of the Australian languages. With respect to morphology, however, it is necessary to separate them into three major groups. The first and by far the largest in area, would seem to occupy the entire south of the continent, project to the north coast in the eastern Northern Territory and cover all of the continent to the eastward except for a few languages in northern Cape York Peninsula of northern Queensland. This large group I propose to name the Transcontinental Languages. The second is to be found in northern Western Australia to the north of Broome and extends over into the north- western part of the Northern Territory including the lower reaches of the Victoria, the Fitzmaurice and the Daly Rivers. This group I shall designate as the Northwestern Languages. The third, and smallest, group embraces a few languages in the northern extremity of Cape York Peninsula, northern Queensland; I shall call them the Cape York Languages despite the fact that there are also Transcontinental languages in the peninsula...

[...] It is very possible that an etymological relationship between certain verbal suffixes and the stems of certain of the auxiliary verbs can later be established.  It is very likely that there will be found such a relationship between these stems and nouns, especially those referring to parts of the body.  Examples illustrating one of these series are as follows: the generalized east-coast word for 'hand' (mala); the Kumbaingeri (also east-coast) word for 'hand' (man<underdot>a), the verb meaning 'to handle' or 'to take' (mana-), the verbal causative (-m-); the Karadjeri (west-coast) verb meaning 'to handle' (mara-); the Barda (west-coast) word for 'his hand' (nimal<underdot>a) and the verb meaning 'I put', 'I effected that...' (ŋanəmə).
Reduplication is of frequent occurrence in all the languages. [...]

It remains to be seen how these genetically related groups are to be further subdivided and whether the criss-crossing of the lines of division will materially alter the present grouping."

--From 'A Preliminary Report on the Languages of Australia' by Gerhardt Laves (To be presented before Section L of the A.A.A.S. at Atlantic City, the morning of December 31, 1932), which appears in draft as Section 7.2.1 (Series 8, Box 8) of the Laves Papers.
An appended note (p.7407), dated (by hand) October 20, 1931, reads:
"It is the purpose of the attached paper to prepare for myself a bird's-eye view of the entire Australian linguistic situation before proceeding to a detailed consideration of the individual languages.  In view of the fact that I have written almost entirely from memory and from brief preliminary sketches, there will, no doubt, appear a good deal of misplaced emphasis and, perhaps, certain errors.  I have, however, followed this course in order to retain the fresh images of recent field work."
Abstract of Report

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