Monash Linguistics Seminars 2012

Tuesdays, 11.00am-1.00pm
Room H10, Building 11 (Menzies)
Followed by lunch & coffee in the Staff Club
(You can also bring your own food to the club).
All welcome!

7 August - Five-minute poster presentations on theses in progress
Monash Linguistics Honours Students

21 August - Incorporation and applicatives in Murrinh-Patha 
Rachel Nordlinger (University of Melbourne)

30 August* - Quotatives Down Under: Be like in cross-generational Australian English speech
Celeste Rodríguez Louro (University of Western Australia)

11 Sept. - Grammatical change in North East India – the case of Tangsa 
Stephen Morey (La Trobe University)

2 Oct.† - Who’s Your Daddy?: Mockery, Genealogy, and Chinese Modernity
Chris Rea (University of British Columbia and ANU)

16 Oct. – Australian English: What do Adolescents in Queensland think?
Donna Starks, (La Trobe University), Louisa Willoughby (Monash University) and Kerry Taylor-Leech (Griffith University)

*Special Thursday seminar in room KG19, building 5 (near Education).
†Special joint seminar with Literary Studies.


7 August

Five-minute poster presentations on theses in progress
Monash Linguistics Honours Students

In this special seminar, Monash Linguistics Honours students will discuss their projects with staff, students and the general public.

21 August

Incorporation and applicatives in Murrinh-Patha 
Rachel Nordlinger (University of Melbourne)

Murrinh-Patha, a polysynthetic non-Pama-Nyungan language of the Daly River region of northern Australia, allows for productive incorporation of body parts into the verbal word. These incorporated body parts, while all involving the same morphological structure, can be shown to have a range of different functions corresponding in many cases to different syntactic constructions.  In this paper I discuss the morphosyntactic properties of the different uses of body part incorporation (Forshaw 2011), focussing particularly on interesting cases in which incorporated body parts have grammaticalised into applicative markers – a pattern that is found in a number of Daly River languages (e.g. Green 1989, Reid 1990), but appears relatively unusual cross-linguistically (cf. Peterson 2007).


Forshaw, William. 2011. A continuum of incorporation: noun incorporation in Murrinh-Patha. Honours thesis, University of Melbourne.

Green, Ian. 1989. Marrithiyel: a language of the Daly River region of Australia’s Northern Territory. PhD thesis, Australian National University, Canberra.

Peterson, David. 2007. Applicative constructions. Oxford: OUP.

Reid, Nicholas. 1990. Ngan’gityemerri: a language of the Daly River region, Northern Territory of Australia. PhD thesis, Australian National University, Canberra.

30 August

Quotatives Down Under: Be like in cross-generational Australian English speech 
Celeste Rodríguez Louro (University of Western Australia)

The English quotative system (featuring forms such as saythinkzerogoall and be like used in direct speech reproduction and thought) has been the subject of vigorous, in-depth sociolinguistic investigation, particularly in the past two decades. However, with the notable exception of Winter’s  (2002) study of quotative be like in the speech of Melbourne adolescents, the Australian English quotative system remains virtually uncharted. I address this gap in the literature by offering a quantitative sociolinguistic analysis of the quotative system of Perth English, investigating to what extent linguistic (grammatical person, content of quote and tense) and social (age and sex) variables are implicated in the use of be like. My results stem from 32.5 hours (325,096 words) of spontaneous narratives of personal experience recorded with 47 speakers in Perth in 2011 and evince an overwhelming increase in the use ofbe like particularly amongst the youngest speakers—as compared to Winter’s (2002) findings for Melbourne in the late 1990s. Multivariate analysis using Goldvarb (Sankoff, Tagliamonte & Smith 2005) indicates that—although some constraints like the favouring effect of first person subjects behave similarly across the generations and are in line with other Englishes—Australian be like is subject to different constraints across generations of young speakers. Pre-adolescent and adolescent girls are active agents of language change by upping be like’s frequency and its use with the historical present in narratives. Young adults are steady users of be like in historical present contexts but the significant effect of sex has reversed: it is young male adults—rather than women—who favour be like in this cohort. The findings are in line with trends noted in the literature on English quotation elsewhere and point once again to the irrevocable link between system-internal forces and social factors as speakers move through life.


Sankoff, David, Sali Tagliamonte & Eric Smith. 2005. Goldvarb X: A multivariate analysis application for Macintosh and Windows.

Winter, Joanne. 2002. Discourse quotatives in Australian English: Adolescents performing voices. Australian Journal of Linguistics 22(1): 5–21.

11 September

Grammatical change in North East India – the case of Tangsa 
Stephen Morey (La Trobe University)

Burling (2003) has described the linguistic situation on the India-Burma border as one of “massive heterogeneity and uncertainty”. One thing that we can be reasonably certain of is that the two ‘languages’ called Tangsa (ISO 639-3:nst under the name ‘Naga, Tase’) and Nocte (ISO 639-3:njb ‘Naga, Nocte’) are reasonably closely related. In India the language names Tangsa and Nocte seem to be more connected with geographical rather than linguistic distinctions. Tangsa is the term used for otherwise uncategorised Tibeto-Burman languages in Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh and in Tinsukia district in Assam, whereas Nocte is used for languages spoken in Tirap District. The term Tangsa was coined in the 1950s by some tribal leaders in consultation with the Indian bureaucracy to group together disparate but related communities.

70 subgroups have been identified within ‘Tangsa (Naga, Tase)’ within India and Burma combined. Each subgroup has a distinct linguistic form, sometimes mutually intelligible with others, and sometimes not. The linguistic diversity is in terms of sound change, different word structure, and differences in grammatical features.

In this paper, we will take as our data the feature known as ‘agreement’ or ‘pronominalisation’, the marking of information about tense /aspect/modality and person on verbs. This can be seen in the following example, from the Chamchang variety of Tangsa, where tvkai marks a 1st person plural continuous / habitual.

1 ) jamlai wa maiq raq phaq-siq-tvkai.  
  ʒam²lai² βa² maiʔ raʔ pʰaʔ-siʔ-təkai³  
  what person ag eat-eat-cont.1pl  

‘And what things would we humans eat?’

The Tangsa varieties differ enormously in how they mark the categories of person and TAM on the verb. Some, like Chamchang, mark the actor / subject argument with one of five forms (1sg, 1pl, 2sg, 2pl, 3) and one of several TAM forms (future/irrealis; habitual; negative; past); some, like Champang, do not mark person at all but mark a range of TAM forms, while others, like Hakhun, mark not only actor but also undergoer / objects with different forms when an undergoer is higher on the animacy hierarchy that the actor (hierarchical agreement). In this paper we will examine these phenomena across a range of Tangsa varieties: Chamchang, Moshang, Cholim, Lochhang, Rera, Mungray, Hakhun, Ngaimong, Maitai and Champang, and discuss how this variety may have arisen and what it might add to our knowledge of the processes of historical grammatical change.

2 October

Who’s Your Daddy?: Mockery, Genealogy, and Chinese Modernity
Chris Rea (University of British Columbia and ANU)

Anger has good claim to be the most influential emotion in modern Chinese historiography. Just as the Communists declared that the 1949 Revolution had been propelled by the fury of the labouring classes, so their predecessors, the Nationalists, had executed political prisoners citing the imperative that ‘public indignation must be quelled.’ The ‘angry youth’ of Chinese cyberspace have recently emerged as a powerful force shaping contemporary cultural discourse; the PRC government, meanwhile, has long been well known for stirring up public rage for its own political purposes. Why, some have asked, is China so angry?

This talk will focus on one rhetorical aspect of the anger discourse: namely, its expression in billingsgate and ad hominem attack. What, why, and how have Chinese people cursed in the modern age? To what extent has anger driven the invective—or just been a pretext? And what implications might the case of modern Chinese cursing hold for the study of linguistic taboos in other cultural contexts?

In approaching these questions, this talk will examine the poetics and politics of modern Chinese abusive rhetoric from a literary-historical perspective, focusing on the early twentieth century. Key aspects of invective to be discussed include: cursing tropes and imagery; intellectual debates over the ethics and efficacy of cursing; the market appeal of ‘cursing dictionaries’; the crucial relationship between genealogy and shame; and the abusive license accrued by ‘renowned revilers’—including the writer widely credited as being the ‘father’ of modern Chinese literature, Lu Xun (1881-1936).

16 October

Australian English: What do Adolescents in Queensland think?
Donna Starks, (La Trobe University), Louisa Willoughby (Monash University) and Kerry Taylor-Leech (Griffith University)

Although there is a growing literature on grammatical, lexical and phonological aspects of Australian English, there is comparatively little on attitudes towards this variety of English. What literature there is tends to be either anecdotal or based on findings from the media (reference) or experimental, subjective reaction tests where samples of speech are matched against those produced by speakers of other varieties of English (Bayard 2001, Garrett 2010). This Queensland study aims to add to existing research through an examination of responses of Australian adolescents who were asked to report “When you think about “Australian English, tell me the first three things that come into your mind”. The findings divide into three broad overlapping categories: comments about language features, comments about attitudes towards those features, and comments about culture. All three categories contain responses which suggest that Australians associate Australian English with rural and informal lifestyles. Those who provide attitudinal judgments either describe the variety in neutral terms, or give it evaluations typical of those reported for broad and vernacular varieties of English. Of particular interest is the frequency with which categories overlap and intersect, and the mythscape they provide of Australian language and identity.

Further information