Connate roles in Nyulnyul

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This paper is concerned with the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear grammatical relations in Nyulnyul, an effectively extinct language of Dampier Land, Western Australia. Drawing on research within Semiotic Grammar, it is proposed that a fundamental distinction needs to be drawn between experiential relations (Actor, Undergoer, Agent, and the like) and logical relations (circumstantial or adverbial elements). Although it is tempting to correlate nuclear and non-nuclear relations with the experiential-logical contrast, the relations are so unalike that it is misleading to place them on a single hierarchy. It is suggested instead that experiential grammatical relations can be meaningfully divided into nuclear and core types, and that this distinction provides a layered model for the clause as an experiential unit.


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