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The unfamiliar demonstrative in Dalabon

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Cutfield, S. (2010). The unfamiliar demonstrative in Dalabon. Talk presented at the Australian Linguistics Society Annual Conference. University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. 2010.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-65D8-8
In this paper I describe the semantics and functions of the ‘unfamiliar’ demonstrative in Dalabon (Gunwinyguan, non-Pama-Nyungan). Demonstratives function to assist the addressee to identify a referent, prototypically by ‘pointing’ to the referent in the speech situation, discourse or the shared knowledge of the interlocutors. Australian languages are remarkable for their reliance on the ‘recognitional’ or ‘identifiable’ demonstrative to appeal to the addressee’s ability to identify a referent (Himmelmann 1996, Evans 2003, Stirling and Baker 2007, Nicholls Submitted, Cutfield Forthcoming). Dalabon has a pair of non-spatial demonstratives: the identifiable kanh and the ‘unfamiliar’ nunh. Dalabon speakers use nunh to signal to the addressee that the referent will be somewhat problematic for them to identify (e.g. it is non-visible or is not easily distinguished in the physical space of the speech situation). In contrast with traditional expectations that demonstratives should point to their referent, the ‘unfamiliar’ demonstrative in Dalabon points to the potential co-ordination problem (Clark 1996:62) of referent identifi- cation. Demonstratives with these semantics are not described for Australian languages (or cross-linguistically), though I suggest that ‘immediate’ demonstratives in other non-Pama-Nyungan languages (e.g. Heath (1984) for Nunggubuyu, Merlan (1994) for Wardaman) may have similar semantics to the Dalabon unfamiliar demonstrative. Demonstratives which do not have spatial semantics are commonly understood to be on a grammaticalisation path towards becoming definite articles (Diessel 1999:128). In the case of the ‘unfamiliar’ demonstrative however, a different question must be asked: ‘Is this demonstrative grammaticalising into an indefinite article?’. I attempt to address this question in my paper. References Clark, Herbert H. 1996. Using language. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. Cutfield, Sarah. Forthcoming. Demonstratives in Dalabon: a language of south-western Arnhem Land. PhD Thesis, Linguistics Program, Monash University, Melbourne. Diessel, Holger. 1999. Demonstratives: form, function and grammaticalization. Edited by M Noonan. Vol. 42, Typological Studies in Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Evans, Nicholas. 2003. Bininj Gun-Wok: A pan-dialectal grammar of Mayali, Kunwinjku and Kune. 2 vols. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Heath, Jeffrey. 1984. Functional Grammar of Nunggubuyu. Canberra: AIAS. Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1996. Demonstratives in Narrative Discourse: A Taxonomy of Universal Uses. In Studies in Anaphora, edited by Barbara Fox. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Merlan, Francesca. 1994. A Grammar of Wardaman: A Language of the Northern Territory of Australia. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Nicholls, Sophie. Submitted. Referring Expressions and Referential Practice in Roper Kriol (Northern Territory, Australia). PhD Thesis, Linguistics, University of New England. Stirling, Lesley, and Brett Baker. 2007. Pronominal apposition and the status of ‘determiner’ in Australian languages. Paper read at Australian Linguistics Society Annual Conference