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Roper River Aboriginal language features in Australian Kriol

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Abstract

Kriol, an English-lexified creole language of northern Australia, is the primary language of the Roper River region in the Northern Territory. This paper describes findings from research that examined Roper Kriol for evidence of influence from the Indigenous substrate languages of that region, namely Alawa, Marra, Ngalakgan, Nunggubuyu, Ngandi and Warndarrang. Of particular note is that, even though syntactic transfer of features, such as nominal case marking suffixes, postverbal TMA markers and verbal pronominal prefixes, did not occur, it appears that semantic categories regarding these features did transfer. The Transfer Constraints approach used in this research calls for a comparison of the substrate languages to find shared, core features. Predictions could then be made based on the Reinforcement Principle of frequency as to the features that could be expected to have been retained during levelling of the stabilising pidgin. A description of any corresponding Kriol features plus examination of the Availability Constraints of perceptual salience and congruence in English is used to determine whether transfer to the preceding pidgin was constrained or not. There was evidence to suggest that the shared range of semantic categories in the pronominal, TMA and case marking systems was transferred to the preceding pidgin, and retained during levelling, to ultimately be found in Kriol.

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