Finite verbs in Ngarla (Pama-Nyungan, Ngayarta)

University dissertation from Uppsala : Uppsala universitet

Abstract: This thesis provides a description of finite verbs in the moribund Australian language Ngarla (Pama-Nyungan, Ngayarta). Ngarla has previously been spoken in the Pilbara region of northwestern Western Australia, and all the linguistic material used in the thesis has the late Ngarla elder Alexander (Nyapiri) Brown as its source. No study with the scope and detail of the current work has previously been presented for this language.Verbal finiteness is defined as a discrete binary phenomenon, with finite verbs occurring in main clauses and taking TAM (tense/aspect/mood) and person marking, and infinite verbs occurring in subordinate clauses. The Ngarla finite verbs are placed in a larger grammatical context, in that word classes of the language are described, as are the noun phrase, predicate types and word order. The 65 known simple verb roots are listed, and the phonology and prosody of Ngarla are introduced briefly.Twelve TAM categories occuring in Ngarla main clauses are discussed. They are described as marking four different tenses; present, past, remote past and future tense. In the past, three different aspectual distinctions are also made. There are three modal categories, one epistemic and two deontic. In three categories, temporal and modal information are also combined. However, person markers exist for some persons only.Complex verbs, consisting of a non-verbal root, most frequently a nominal, and a verbalising affix, are described as presenting a complicated picture. Not only are no less than ten verbalisers employed to create complex verbs, some of which mark the domain of telicity, there is also, with most verbalisers, a mismatch between the phonological and the grammatical word. Quite a large number of verbs also appear to be complex verbs, although the non-verbal root is not a known Ngarla nominal. Discussed in the thesis are also a smaller number of zero verbalised verbs and verbs that at the time of writing lack a clear analysis.Ngarla finite verbs are shown to take two valency decreasing derivations, the reflexive and the antipassive, the latter of which is restricted in use. The very restricted valency increasing derivation is of the causative type.

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