The core of Mangarla grammar
AuthorAgnew, Brigitte Louise
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Brigitte Louise Agnew
Mangarla is a Pama-Nyungan language of the Marrngu subgroup, originally spoken in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. Today, the language is severely endangered with a small number of speakers living in disparate communities outside of traditional lands. This work describes the core grammatical features of Mangarla and examines its linguistic connections to other languages in the region, both related and typologically unrelated, providing insight into the fluidity of individual language varieties in contact. The analysis is based on notes and audio recordings of narratives, elicited data and spontaneous conversations, recorded between 1990 and 1994, in the Kimberley communities of Bidyadanga (formerly La Grange) and Jarlmadangah Burru (formerly Mt. Anderson Station), Derby and Fitzroy Crossing. It is also informed by the work of Kevin McKelson collected between the 1960s and 1980s. All aspects of the language are impacted by its distinctive location, surrounded by three different Nyungic subgroups and the prefixing non-Pama-Nyungan languages in the north. Mangarla’s phonological inventory and lexical classes are similar to those of related suffixing languages, but unlike those further south, Mangarla’s lexicon includes many consonant-final preverbs and particles, which are often monosyllabic. Morphologically, it is a split-ergative system, with nominal arguments (including free pronouns) marked in an ergative-absolutive system while the pronominal clitics in agreement with them are split along nominative-accusative lines. Unlike other members of the Marrngu subgroup where these clitics attach to the verb, Mangarla’s bound pronouns typically encliticise to the first element of the clause or to an optional post-initial catalyst, although pragmatics also impacts on their placement. Other interesting features include the loss of the widespread dative marker and lateral-initial ergative/locative forms, its movement away from complete case-concord to free marking within the NP, and the reduction of verb conjugation classes to three. A large number of complex predicates, formed with a preverbal element and a relatively small number of inflecting verb roots, augment monomorphemic members of the verbal category. Argument structure also displays a degree of flexibility not generally recognised in Australian languages. Clause combining strategies include coordination of full and reduced clauses by parataxis, subordination of both finite and nonfinite clauses, typically employing a small number of case markers as complementisers, and unusually, clause chain cosubordination. The work adds to the knowledge of Pama-Nyungan languages in this remote region and leaves a detailed record of the language for the future use of both the Mangarla and academic communities.
KeywordsMangarla; Mangala; Pama-Nyungan; Nyungic; Marrngu; Kimberley; language documentation; grammatical description; Aboriginal languages; Australian languages; morphosyntax
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