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Asia-Pacific Language Variation

image of Asia-Pacific Language Variation
ISSN 2215-1354
E-ISSN 2215-1362

This journal aims to report research on the description and analysis of variation and change from the Asia-Pacific region. The journal encourages research that is firmly based on empirical data and quantitative analysis of variation and change as well as the social factors that are reflected and constructed through language variation and change. Though much of the research is expected to be based on new speech data and fieldwork, the language data may be either oral or written, including both modern and historical resources. The unique emphasis of the journal is to promote understanding of the multifaceted linguistic communities of Asia-Pacific.


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  • Turning variation on its head: Analysing subject prefixes in Nkep (Vanuatu) for language documentation
    • Author: Miriam Meyerhoff
    • Source: Asia-Pacific Language Variation, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2015, pages: 78 –108
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    • This paper uses variationist methods to attack a descriptive problem: by looking at the distribution of a typologically unusual subject prefix (tem- in realis and t- in irrealis) in a set of narrative texts recorded in Nkep, the language of Hog Harbour (Vanuatu), it explores the extent to which the goals of language documentation and variationist sociolinguistics can be pursued simultaneously. It concludes that a dual focus can benefit both enterprises. We find out considerably more about the nature of subject-verb prefixes in Nkep and about the ways in which the Nkep language handles grammatical properties such as the realis/irrealis distinction. The paper also notes that studies of variation in endangered language contexts can provide a positive framework for the local community to evaluate synchronic variation and change.
  • The discovery of the unexpected
    • Author: William Labov
    • Source: Asia-Pacific Language Variation, Volume 1, Issue 1, 2015, pages: 7 –22
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    • The history of sociolinguistic research leads us to expect certain patterns of variation by social class, age and gender, but as the field expands to new societies with different social structures we often encounter unexpected results. Such findings can have great value in leading to higher level generalizations. Cases are cited of unexpected gender variation in studies of rural communities in Spain, Egypt, central India and south China where ethnographic observation leads to a better understanding of what seemed at first to be anomalous results.
  • Professor Sibata’s haha and other sociolinguistic insights
    • Author: J.K. Chambers
    • Source: Asia-Pacific Language Variation, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2015, pages: 112 –128
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    • Takesi Sibata, the pioneer of sociolinguistic dialectology, anticipated several developments that we now apply internationally in the discipline of sociolinguistics. I outline Professor Sibata’s accomplishments from a Western perspective, but I am mainly interested in promoting wider appreciation of his work in the study of language variation. To do that, I review some of his analyses and show how Professor Sibata developed concepts that persist in contemporary sociolinguistics. I show that, for instance, about fifteen years before the inception of Western sociolinguistics, Professor Sibata was already engaged in studying sound change in apparent time, identifying linguistic innovators, eliciting folk concepts about dialects, and seeking empirical evidence for the critical period in dialect acquisition, as well as other pursuits that are now integral to our discipline.
  • Not obligatory: Bound pronoun variation in Gurindji and Bilinarra
    • Author: Felicity Meakins
    • Source: Asia-Pacific Language Variation, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2015, pages: 128 –162
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    • This is the first quantitative study of bound pronoun variation in an Australian language. Bound pronouns in Gurindji and Bilinarra (Ngumpin-Yapa, Pama-Nyungan) are obligatory for first and second persons, categorically absent for the third person minimal, and used 73% of the time to cross-reference third person non-minimal referents and minimal third person oblique referents. A total of 1095 tokens of referents were coded for three predictors: the grammatical relation of the referent, whether the referent was human and whether a co-referential nominal was also present in the clause. A number of properties of the referent significantly decreased the appearance of a bound pronoun including if the referent was non-human, non-human and an object, or also cross-referenced by a nominal. This variation has a number of implications for the function of bound pronouns in discourse and characterisations of non-configurational languages.
  • Morphotactic variation, prosodic domains and the changing structure of the Murrinhpatha verb
    • Author: John Mansfield
    • Source: Asia-Pacific Language Variation, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2015, pages: 163 –189
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    • Bound morphology is usually realized on lexical stems following fixed rules of sequencing, but in some highly agglutinative languages this is not the case. Morphotactic variation has previously been described in detail for Chintang and Tagalog, and more briefly noted for various other languages including Udi, Totonac and Athapaskan languages (Bickel et al., 2007; Harris, 2002; McFarland, 2009; Rice, 2000; Ryan, 2010). I here report another case of variable ordering, in Murrinhpatha, spoken in northern Australia. I argue that in this case the variable ordering of verb suffixes reflects change in progress in the morphological structure of the verb, and the dynamic nature of prosodic domains in this language. I also note that in Chintang, Udi and Murrinhpatha, morphotactic variation is associated with word-like prosodic domains occurring inside the syntactic verbal word.
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