Eva Schultze-Berndt

Closed-class verbs as classifiers of events in Jaminjung

It has been claimed by Australianists since Capell that the
closed-class verbs of many Northern Australian languages can be
regarded as verbal classifiers.  Following up on this idea, I will
argue that at least for some languages with a relatively large class
of verbs, the closed-class verbs can be more adequately thought of as
classifiying events rather than classifiying the closed-class
components of complex verb expressions (known by the terms of
'preverbs', 'coverbs', or 'main verbs', among others). In this view,
the closed-class verbs can be regarded as classifiers even in their
use as simple verbs, because a speaker has to chose one of them to
represent any event that is encoded by a verbal predicate - simple or
I will examine the parameters or 'features' of events accounting for
the choice of verbs in Jaminjung/Ngaliwurru, a language of the
Victoria River District which has around 30 verbs. These parameters
include, for example, stance, translational motion, change of locative
relation, contact, shape of instrument, trajectory, total
affectedness, continuous interaction, possession and change of
possession. Concentrating on the verbs of contact/instrument, I will
demonstrate that this system is creatively extended, as well as
exhibiting variation, in the case of events that are less clearly
characterised by one of the parameters in question. This will take
into account data from the description of staged 'unusual' events, as
well as the classification of events likely to be introduced by
European contact and the integration of Kriol loans.

Date created: 30 March 1998
Last modified: 30 March 1998
 1998 Eva Schultze-Berndt
Maintained by: David Nash

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