A study in the Thaayorre language of the Edward River tribe, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland: Being a description of the grammar

Hall, Allen Harry (1973). A study in the Thaayorre language of the Edward River tribe, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland: Being a description of the grammar PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Hall, Allen Harry
Thesis Title A study in the Thaayorre language of the Edward River tribe, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland: Being a description of the grammar
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1973
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 645 (2v)
Language eng
Subjects 420103 Aboriginal Languages
Formatted abstract       A sketch of grammar formed a portion my M.A. thesis (1968), the Phonology. This analysis is tagmemic. I concentrate on the grammatical hierarchy beginning with the clause through phrase and word to morpheme.

      The people speaking Thaayorre stem from their original clan through Jimmy Foot with their characteristic story of the Brolga, Minh Puntil. About 300 people live at Edward River, founded and managed by the Anglican Board of Missions since the early
1930s. The Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs took over the management in May, 1967.

      Speech and oral tradition are being passed to the younger generation but desert life has all but gone. Adults speak over one dozen languages but all know Thaayorre, especially 150 inhabitants on the south side. Edward River is remote from civilisation between Mitchell River and Aurakun. The present village was rebuilt a mile from the shoreline after the great cyclone in the early sixties.

      This analysis has attempted to reveal pattern and then to explain its form and function. Although the morphology and syntax were kept apart in the first draft, the arrangement of chapters in Part II is intentional in this revision. The Overview chapter gives initiation rather than a cross-section. Tagmemic equations summarise both form and function of tagmemes and have been simplified. Some categories were combined in equations, for example in chapters X and XII, subclasses are reduced to adverb, directional and dimensional as the basic distinction is (non-)movement. But this difference is overlooked in clause tagmemes when locative/allative/elative may be fillers of the L(ocation) slot.

      Four field trips have supplemented the materials gained for the Phonology volume. The visit to Darwin to attend the Translator's Institute organised by the British and Foreign Bible Society opened up the language with the result that Mr Tom Foot's oral translation after discussion produced a 50 page foolscap booklet of vernacular text.

      The tagmemic model has proved satisfactory for giving this initial statement and with Pike and others, I value the dimension of distribution in external constructions. Every item in the same slot manifests the same tagmeme and is therefore a member of the same class. Three basic principles have been followed: to explain symbols before using them, to give the formal as well as the semantic basis for emic units posited and to give sufficient examples. Divided chapters include the Clause, the Adverb and the Verb. The need for a minimal inventory of abbreviations arose for unambiguous reference to fillers and slots and I have had resort to the asterisk in pointing out any filler broken down again in the next layer.

      The language operates with ten vowels, five short and five long, and sixteen consonants together with phonemic stress. The orthography used is phonemic though a practical orthography has been used in the booklet of translations without hyphenation. Thaayorre words do not change their form class. Derivatives and compounds are common and supply the abstract dimension. Some lexemes differ from their counterparts in some other languages. /Pul/ means 'they two ' while /kuthirr/ means 'two'. /Ngal/ means 'you and I' but /ngali/ is first person dual exclusive.

      Word classes may be defined grammatically according to the inflections taken, but fillers fall into different classes yielding distribution classes, subclasses and hyperclasses, uninflected particles comprising several parts of speech. The hyperclass draws any separate classes together for specific reasons: e.g. the noun clause plus the noun phrase both filling noun slots. /Kar/ acts as a relater in phrases and also as subordinator in clauses, compelling a decision for both as relater-axis or not. Verbs, auxiliaries and directionals all belong to one hyperclass, while nouns, pronouns, adjectives, numerals and demonstratives belong to another.

      This is an ergative type language having case markers on nominals and modifiers, phrase-finally. Some overlap occurs between some pairs of cases, the locative/ergative, the locative/allative, and the objective/possessive in pronouns. Pronouns are well preserved and no breakdown seems imminent. Possessive pronouns can have a double suffixation yielding a form like /poln-antam-antum/'from their… '. Interrogation is clearly marked by a closed class of markers and /wuump/ for yes/no distinction, disjunctively. The comitative/privative suffix on nouns has been interpreted in three ways but is probably best treated us filler of the predicate attribute slot, adjectivally. Thus its suffix is nonpredicative as interpreted initially and its inflection an adjectiviser. The /-k-/ is called stativiser in one and declarativiser in a second interpretation.

      Verbs are complex for tense and aspect and mood and some aspect markers overlap with temporal adverbs as elements that modify meaning of sentences. Though the verbs arc fairly regular, classes may not be simply defined as active/passive or transitive/intransitive. The causative suffix has been exemplified under aspect, mood and derivations but, basically, is a transitiviser. Two different verbaliser morphemes /-m/ and /-p/ may not exclusively be called intransitive und transitive.

      Word order is not important in the clause, nor is the order of modifiers in the phrase. But idiomatic word order is strict as also root order in compounds. Thaayorre lacks any separate affix-bearing particles going with the verb, for tense/mood/aspect. Fused phrases are often better treated as compounds. Conjunctions are few and correlatives virtually lacking, but phrases and clauses are embedded commonly at any level.

      Special features are the compass/river directionals and dimensionals, a much-used system of specialised adverbs. The wide variety of orgative suffixes was bewildering at first sight, but on assuming that the lexeme would be posited as root plus ergative for nominals, by ergative deletion the apokopated forms may be freely referred to in transitive object and intransitive subject as zero-inflected. Many 'prefixes' on verbs comprise CVC bodyparts reduced to CV-; pseudo-suffixes on verbs comprise reduced pronouns which are unstable. The passive clause type is posited as valid.

      Specific distinctions include the difference between prefixes, classifiers and preclitics, between phonological and morphological binding in phrases and compounds and the juxtaposition of clauses in subtle affinities with (zero-/) connectors.

      Thaayorre is one of the 200 separate languages Wurm specified in 1965 and O'Grady in 1966 as generally related. Signs of drift are perhaps the limited object on some nouns followed by a case-marked pronominalisation with its initial consonant lost by elision:/paanth-unh/'woman-her'. Many generic lexical classifiers have already become fused to their head as potential gender prefixes.

      One wonders what Malay influence has come from the north to replace the demonstratives of the dream time and whether the influence of Torres is greatly felt. Phrases fuse into compounds und compounds into derivatives. Only vernacular literacy and translation can ever preserve the 'old payton’ for the children of the present dualistic society.
Keyword Thaayorr language
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