[X] Anthropological Linguistics

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Vol. 44, no. 1 (Spring 2002)


Copula Clauses in Australian Languages: A Typological Perspective R. M. W. Dixon 1
Dynamic Embodiment in Assiniboine (Nakota) Storytelling Brenda Farnell 37
Birds for Words in Jirel: Structure and Function in a Tibeto-Burman Folk Taxonomy James Hamill, H. Sidky, and Janardan Subedi 65
The Nostratic “Accusative” in *-mA: An Altaic Perspective Peter A. Michalove 85

Book Reviews

Language Change: Progress or Decay? (Jean Aitchison) Keren Rice 96
Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages (Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine) Peter G. Sercombe 98
Walapai (Hualapai) Texts (Werner Winter) Mauricio J. Mixco 101
Writing and Literacy in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese (Insup Taylor and M. Martin Taylor) William J. Poser 103
A Modern Runyoro-Rutooro Grammar (L. T. Rubongoya) Robert Botne 106
A Grammar of Koyraboro (Koroboro) Senni: The Songhay of Gao, Mali (Jeffrey Heath) Gerrit J. Dimmendaal 108
A Reference Grammar of Spoken Tamil (Harold F. Schiffman) Ian Smith 110


Copula Clauses in Australian Languages: A Typological Perspective

R. M. W. Dixon
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, La Trobe University

Abstract. Copula clauses are distinguished from transitive and intransitive clause types. They have two core arguments, copula subject (CS) and copula complement (CC), together with a copula verb (which may sometimes be omitted). A general characterization of copula clauses is presented, in terms of syntax, form, meaning, and occurrence. For a verb to be identified as a copula, it must occur with these two core arguments (CS and CC) and show a relation of identity/equation or of attribution. It may also have some or all of the senses: location, possession, wanting or benefaction, and existence. The copula verbs reported in the literature on Australian languages are then summarized, and the analytical problems associated with them are discussed. These problems include: whether verbless and copula clauses should be combined as one clause type, the difficulties associated with attribution, the need to distinguish between a copula verb and an inchoative derivational suffix, and the distinction between the existential use of a verb of rest or motion and a copula verb. It appears that Australian languages show a recurrent tendency to create copula verbs (generally, by grammaticalization of stance verbs ‘sit’, ‘stand’, and ‘lie’, or of ‘stay’ or ‘go’), and also that the property of having a copula clause type tends to diffuse from language to language, within the continent-wide Australian linguistic area.

Dynamic Embodiment in Assiniboine (Nakota) Storytelling

Brenda Farnell
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Abstract. This article reexamines a Nakota storytelling performance in which Plains Sign Talk and spoken Nakota are employed simultaneously. The new analysis presents further observations regarding relationships between vocal signs and action signs, nested performance spaces external and internal to the narrative, and the spatial syntax of Plains Sign Talk. It also illustrates how processes of entextualization and traditionalization can occur through visual-kinesthetic means as well as speech.
    The analytic focus on pragmatic function rather than assumed differences in semiotic channel (i.e., “verbal” versus “nonverbal”) illustrates the theoretical value of a dynamic conception of embodiment in the analysis of discursive practices generally.

Birds for Words in Jirel: Structure and Function in a Tibeto-Burman Folk Taxonomy

James Hamill, H. Sidky, and Janardan Subedi
Miami University

Abstract. As a result of ethnographic field research conducted in the summer of 1999 among the Jirel, a Tibeto-Burman–speaking people in eastern Nepal, ethnosemantic data concerning the Jirel names for 134 species of birds found in their territory were collected. The semantic structure of these Jirel words for birds offers no surprises in the general folk classification literature in that they provide a clear Life Form taxon (gloss ‘bird’) and a reasonable set of generic taxa for the Jirel bird lexicon. The data were, however, missing any clear taxa at the Specific or Varietal levels, although Jirel speakers clearly subdivided the group. These subdivisions, as shown by the responses to sorting tasks, make reference to meanings that would be not expected in a taxonomic hierarchy model of folk taxonomies, but more closely conform to a natural core model.

The Nostratic “Accusative” in *-mA: An Altaic Perspective

Peter A. Michalove
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Abstract. The suffix in *-mA has been posited as an accusative suffix underlying forms common to Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, and Dravidian. V. M. Illic-Svityc and others have considered this as evidence to support the Nostratic hypothesis, which proposes a genetic relationship among these and some other language families of Eurasia. The Altaic component of this comparison appears, on the basis of Illic-Svityc’s work, to be the weakest part of the comparison. However, a deeper examination of the Altaic forms shows them to be highly informative; they ultimately support the proposal of a common origin for this formative in all of the language families considered. The usages indicate that the original function of the suffix was not as a direct object marker, but as an indicator of specificity.

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