Serial verbs in Wambaya

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Australian languages are traditionally not thought of as having serial verb constructions (although cf. Goddard 1988; Wilkins 1988), and are therefore rarely discussed in the extensive typological and theoretical literature on verb serialization. However, in recent work Laughren (2009, 2012) has reported on the existence of serial verb constructions in Waanyi, a non–Pama-Nyungan language of northern Australia. In this paper I show that serial verb constructions are also present in Wambaya, another non–Pama-Nyungan language which shares some areal and lexical similarities with Waanyi. I show that the serial verbs in Wambaya exhibit many of the key morphosyntactic and semantic properties described as characteristic for serial verb constructions in the literature (e.g. Sebba 1987; Durie 1997; Aikhenvald 2006a). A particularly interesting property of Wambaya serial verb constructions, and one that is highly unusual cross-linguistically, is that the verbs need not be ordered iconically. I suggest that this anti-iconic ordering may be related to Wambaya’s nonconfigurational clausal structure and its free word order possibilities, highlighting the need for consideration of the full typological range of language structures in the analysis of verb serialization cross-linguistically.


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