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Linguistic Society of America

The Fate of Ergativity in Dying Dyirbal Author(s): Annette Schmidt Source: Language, Vol. 61, No. 2 (Jun., 1985), pp. 378-396 Published by: Linguistic Society of America Stable URL: . Accessed: 01/04/2014 23:15
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Australian National University

As the Dyirbal language of Australia nears extinction, its diminishing social function is accompanied by reduction within the linguistic system. If we place semi-speakers on a continuum according to the degree to which their language has been simplified, it is possible to trace changes in the grammar of the dying language. Focusing on morphological and syntactic ergativity demonstrates that decay in terminal Dyirbal involves systematic variation along the continuum. Reduction occurs on various levels, affecting syntactic operations and morphology. However, the data suggest that important formal and functional differences exist between dying Dyirbal and a typical pidgin.*

This paperinvestigates structural change in the Dyirballanguageof Australia as it approaches extinction. Radical changes have occurred in the dying language, affecting both morphologicaland syntactic ergativity. Such reduction in the linguistic system, however, is far from a patchworkof ad-hoc errors. The patternednatureof reductionin languagedeath is apparentin the systematic collapse of ergative allomorphsand in the gradualweakening of the S/O pivot operation (cf. Dixon 1979). In ?1, a sociolinguisticsketch of dying Dyirbalis provided.In ?2, 1 deal with the semi-speakersof the language.In ?3, allomorphicreductionof the ergative affix is described;in ?4, I show changes in syntactic ergativity.In ?5, I present a comparisonof changes in ergative case-markingand in S/O pivot operation along the semi-speakercontinuum.Finally, ?6 investigates the light that these findings shed on general linguistic debate.

1.1. THE SETTING. Dyirbal was originally spoken over more than 8,000

square kilometers in the rain forest of north-eastQueensland;some six contiguous tribes spoke what can be regardedas dialects of a single language.The population of each tribe was approximately500. Because of the impact of European civilization (white expansion began in the 1860's), the traditional tribalunit disintegrated:territorywas invaded, religioussites were desecrated, and the physical environmentwas deeply bruisedby the impactof clearingthe land for pasture and 'progress'. Some Aboriginalpeople were transportedto
* I am most grateful to R. M. W. Dixon, Nancy Dorian, and Jane Hill for helpful suggestions on this paper. I would also like to express my gratitude to George Watson and to the people of the Jambun community for their warm friendship and willingness to share their knowledge of Dyirbal with me. The following abbreviations are used in this paper: A, transitive subject; ACC, accusative; ANTIPASS, antipassive derivational affix; ASP, aspectual; DAr, dative; DU, dual; ERG, ergative; INTR, intransitive; LOC, locative; NOM, nominative; NONFUT, non-future; NP, noun phrase; 0, transitive object; PL, plural; PURP, purposive; REDUP, reduplicated; REL, relative clause marker; S, intransitive subject; TD, Traditional Dyirbal; TR, transitive; YD, Young Dyirbal. Individual speakers are also referred to by initials; e.g., LN, EM. The following orthographical differences to Dixon 1972 should be noted: j = Dixon's /l/ (lamino-palatal stop), r = // (retroflex), rr = Irl (trill), ny = /j/ (laminopalatal nasal). 378

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settlements off the Queensland coast, such as Palm Island. Others avoided transportationby fleeing to the hills overlooking the plains on which the Europeans had settled. With the population seriously depleted and the rules of the kinship system weakened, returnto the originalway of life was impossible. Gradually,surviving members of the tribes came to live on scattered banana and cattle propertiesowned by whites. In 1977, the survivingmembersof the Jirrbaland Girramaytribes formed a single community on Girramayland at Jambun (MurrayUpper), bought for them by the Federal Government'sAboriginalLand Fund Commission. This community, with a population of approximately 100, is the last area where Dyirbal is spoken by a sizeable group. Unfortunately,even here, the demise of the languageappears imminent. At the time of my investigation(January-June1982),the Jambuncommunity was undergoingthe process of 'languageshift'; i.e., a variety of English was graduallyreplacingDyirbalover its entire functionalrange. Stages of the process were evidenced by older people who spoke fluent TraditionalDyirbal (TD),' younger ones who spoke 'imperfect'Young Dyirbal(YD), and children in the 0-15 age group who 'couldn't talk language'; this is exemplified in Figure 1 (overleaf). As the shadingin the figure indicates, speakers of TD rangedin age from 35 to 80+ years. YD speakers were between 15 and 39 years. No individualin the 0-15 age group could construct a Dyirbalsentence. Othermembersof the communityconfirmedthis, stating:'These youngerkids, they talkjus' all English'. Fig. 1 confirms the impressionthat Dyirbalis on the path to extinction. As time passes, the numberof Dyirbalspeakerswill decrease until, on the loss of the youngest YD speaker,the populationwill become entirelyEnglish-speaking. 1.2. DIMINISHED LANGUAGE LOYALTY. Contemporary Dyirbal is a stigma-

tized language,with diminishingsocial function;it is limitedto fixed networks of interactionwithinthe community.Traditional speakersuse TD amongthemselves and to youngerspeakerswhose Dyirbalcomprehensionis good. Younger speakers tend to reserve their YD only for those with whom they share close personal ties, namely the family and the peer group. To people outside these close links, a variety of English is spoken. Several factors are conducive to diminishedlanguageloyalty and the replacementof Dyirbalby English: (a) Many of the houses at Jambunhave stereo sets, color TV, and radios. Watching TV is the main pastime for the family at night and for those not workingduringthe day. (b) There is no written Dyirbal literature.Not only does English literature confirmEnglishas a prestigiouslanguage,but glossy magazinesand books also create desires, images, and expectations that conflict with traditionalculture. of the tribes, re(c) Increased contact with white men, after fragmentation sulted in the introductionof Englishas a code for communication in interaction
1972. 'Young' Dyirbalinvolves departurefrom traditional linguisticnorms.
By 'traditional' speech, I mean speech consistent with traditional norms as detailed by Dixon

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LANGUAGE, VOLUME61, NUMBER 2 (1985) 4 30-


200 0/


E =






40 Age






age groups where Traditional Dyirbalis spoken. age groupswhere Young Dyirbalis spoken.

W ///////

Shaded areas indicate age groups whece Dyirbal is spoken. They do not indicate how many individualswithin each group speak Dyirbal.At an estimate, all individualsin the heavy-shaded area speak TD. About 15 people in the light-shaded area speak YD. The 35-39 age group includes YD and TD speakers.

with Europeans. In the initial stages of contact between Aboriginaland European culture at MurrayUpper, domains were clearly defined: Dyirbal was spoken amongtribalmembers,while Englishwas used for communication with, and often in the presence of, white people. In time, Englishgraduallyreplaced Dyirbal over its functional range. The domains of the two languages became less well defined. Today, within Jambun, English is the victorious code; it is the languageof primarysocialization. (d) Compulsoryeducation in English schools is recognizedby older people at Jambun as the main reason for the death of Dyirbal. One fluent speaker complainedthus:
'They [youngpeople] won't think[in Dyirbal].They sortacan't get roundtheirown language, wrong sorta talk altogether.Yeah, school buggeredeverythingup. [I don't know] why they don't learn their own language.'(NM, 39 years, female)

The school acts as a destructive force for Dyirbal on various levels. First, English education instills a negative impressionof the utilityand value of Dyir-

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bal; second, it provides another context for communicationin English; third, the all-English curriculumdenies the Jambunstudents the option of learning the Dyirballanguage,which is the basic manifestationof theirculturalidentity. The present curriculumis oriented only toward white society and its values. In other words, ratherthan enhancingor enrichingculturalidentity, education replaces Dyirbal with English and an impressionthat Dyirbal is unimportant. Such lack of institutional support affects the role of Dyirbal in the Jambun Bauan community.Such a phenomenonis not unusual;thus in Fiji, the standard dialect-which is the medium of instructionin schools-is graduallyeroding the original domains of various non-standarddialects (Schiitz 1963:28).Aramaic, the languagespokenby Christ,is aboutto die in Syria;it is beingreplaced by Arabic, the nationallanguage,which is taughtin State-runschools (Sydney MorningHerald, January2, 1984).

2. As a language heads toward extinction, a group of imperfect speakers characteristicallyappears who have not had sufficient exposure to the indigenous language, or who have been more intensively exposed to another language. The speech of such individualsis markedlydifferentin form from the fluent speaker norms. The semi-speakerphenomenonis quite common in language death situations.2Dorian 1981has made a thoroughinvestigationof imperfect speakers' Gaelic in the East Sutherlandarea of mainland Scotland. Semi-speakers have also been found among AustralianAboriginalcommunities-e.g. Nakkara(BronwynEather,p.c.), Ngiyambaa(Donaldson1980),and Gamilaraay(Austin 1980)-and in American Indian communities, e.g. Menomini (Bloomfield 1927). Jambun. As mentioned above, they fall in the 15-39 age group. During the course of investigation, I was able to work with twelve of them. The Dyirbal proficiency of the semi-speakers varies: two older YD speakers could communicatequite fluently in Dyirbal, but others were much less proficient.They could make themselves understoodin Dyirbalon some topics, but were much more at home in English. At first, my impressionof 'imperfect'Dyirbalwas of a dismal patchworkof inconsistencies and (from the point of view of TD) mistakes, haphazardlydistributedover speakersand situations.It was easy to suppose that such a picture reflected a sporadicallydisruptedstage in the decay of TD. However, I gradually became aware that the apparent'mistakes' of the YD speakers were not random errors: rather, each individualhad his own grammaticalsystem for of the traditional Dyirbalcommunication,involving simplification grammatical norm to a greater or lesser degree. YD speakers may be placed on a continuumaccordingto the degree to which theirDyirbalhas been simplified.The availabilityof such a continuumprovides an outstandingopportunityto identify and follow changes in the grammarof
2 The term 'semi-speaker' was, I believe, coined by Dorian 1973.

2.1. JAMBUN'S SEMI-SPEAKERS. There are some 15 to 20 semi-speakers at

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Dyirbal as it moves toward extinction.3 Note that the placement of YD speakers on the continuum correlates roughly with age.4 This is illustrated in Figure 2.
AGE: TRADITIONAL DYIRBAL SPEAKER: 31 30 33 23 I 30 I I 19 18 23 I I 19 15 I I 17 26 I I years ENGLISH


OFELICITATION.5 2.2. METHOD TO gauge structural change, a standard set of stimulus sentences was presented to each consultant for translation into Dyirbal. The sentences were designed to include, when translated, many of the significant morphological and syntactic features of Dyirbal, e.g. ergative casemarking and S/O pivot operation (Dixon 1979:120-30). Such data enable us to identify and observe linguistic change without complications triggered by social variables such as setting, interlocutor, or topic. (Spontaneous texts were also recorded during the fieldwork period.)

3. TD has ergative marking for transitive subject (A), and absolutive marking (with zero realization) for intransitive subject (S) and transitive object (O). Word order is free, since syntactic function is indicated by case affixes, attached to every word of an NP. Features of TD are described in detail in Dixon 1972. The Dyirbal ergative case provides an excellent opportunity to observe morphophonological change in the terminal phase of a language. In TD, the ergative is marked by an inflectional suffix, which is rich in allomorphic variation: there are, in all, six phonologically conditioned allomorphs, as shown in Table 1. In YD, ergative case-marking undergoes allomorphic reduction before the category is lost to an English-type system where syntactic function is shown by word order. (YD is, like English, nominative/accusative in type, with A and S NP's appearing before the verb, and O NP's after it.) This is illustrated in Table 1, which shows how twelve YD speakers marked core cases in responding to the set of stimulus sentences. Each individual was highly consistent in his/ her response over the set of sentences. (I did detect some variation in casual YD, but this was minimal; e.g., MJ occasionally pronounced the TD allomorph -ru, rather than the -du which she used in formal elicitation. The forms shown on Table 1 are those used by YD speakers when teaching me to 'say it properly', and were rechecked thrice.) As the table indicates, the reduction is systematic.
3 For ease of reference, I will label poles of the YD continuum as 'TD' and 'English'; the rationale is that YD speakers who are closest to the TD pole deviate least from the TD norm. In contrast, YD speakers who are ranked toward the 'English' end of the continuum are less proficient, and rely increasingly on the English language system. 4 Note that age does not always correlate with continuum placement. The least-fluent YD speaker, DH, was 26 years old. Her younger sister, EH, aged 23, was much more proficient. Possible factors here are attitude and language use: in contrast to EH, DH was 'ashamed to talk language' and did not actively speak Dyirbal. 5 This method of testing change in a dying language was first developed by Dorian 1973.

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ALLOMORPHSStage I ENVIRONMENT (3 + syl) V y r rr

Stages 2-3 -()gu

Stage 4 -(U)gu

Stage 5

(2 syl)V -VU)g

-gu ) -ju -ru* -ru* -jit -ru -ru

-dau -bu -du -jli



m n ny

-bu -du -Jl

-bu -du -Jl -du


I I I II I I I I I I I YD continuum: BM EJ EB LN MM EH PG AMTM DH EM MJ TABLE 1. Ergative case-marking in YD. In the cases marked with an asterisk, stem-final r rr I is lost, and -ru is added.

Following changes along the YD continuum, certain allomorphs are generalized to cover a greater range of environments. 3.1. STAGES OF CHANGE. The YD data show five stages of change in the morphophonological rules which determine ergative allomorphs of TD: STAGE 1: The separate TD allomorphs -ygu following a disyllabic stem ending in a vowel, and -gu following a trisyllabic or longer stem ending in a vowel, are collapsed. YD speakers use -gu, -ygu, or both in free variation, neutralizing the TD conditioning environment: TD YD CVC1V / (1) -ggu -g-g V }g -g -gu /CVCVCVj The examples below show -ygu - -gu in free variation following vowel-final stems in EM's speech: ( girimu-gu } jugumbil baja-n. (2) glrlmu-gu d snake-ERG woman bite-NONFUT 'The snake bit the woman.' guda-ngu \ guda-gu nyalUga baja-n. (3) 3 guda-gu
dog-ERG child bite-NONFUT

'The dog bit the child.' STAGE 2: The allomorph -(y)gu is extended from vowel-final stems to those ending in -y, as shown in 4, and exemplified in 5 (MJ's speech): TD YD y 1 (4) -ju --ygu /CVCIV / -gu - -rgu -gu /CVCIVCIV (5) TO: walguy-ju ) walguy-ju} jugumbil baja-n. TD:walguy-ygu YD:
taipan-ERG woman bite-NONFUT

'The taipan [venomous snake] bit the woman.'

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Because the semivowel y and vowel-final stems take the same allomorph, it could be hypothesized that the y has been re-analysedas a vowel at this stage of YD.6 (Since Dyirbal has no words ending in -w, it is impossible to test this hypothesis further.) STAGE 3: The ergative allomorphattached to liquid-finalstems is changed from -ru to -du. In TD, the liquid is deleted before the -ru addition;but in YD, ergative is marked simply by the additionof -du to stems ending in -I -rr -r: TD YD
(6) -ru I {r\ I rrJ

> -0

-du /


SI ) trrr


The examples given below illustratethe Stage 3 innovationof the -du affix:
(7) TD: gubu-ru baja-n jugumbil. YD: guburr-du bee-ERG bite-NONFUT woman

'The bee bit the woman.' TD: (8) guga-ru }ba jugumbil. , baja-n jugumbil. YD: gugar-du gugar-du YD:
woman goanna-ERGbite-NONFUT

'The goanna [lizardsp.] bit the woman.'

(9) TD: jugumbi-ru \ YD: jugumbil-duJ nyalga woman-ERG child bura-n. see-NONFUT

'The woman saw the child.' This exemplifies the loss of morphophonemic rules operatingover morpheme boundaries. The YD morphologicalstructurehas become more agglutinative, with each morphemeretainingits own form. Suffixationof the ergative affix no longer alters the form of the stem. STAGE 4: Phonologicallyconditionedallomorphsof nasal-finalstems are colhomorganic stop followed by -u. At Stage 4 of YD, this assimilationto the preceding nasal is lost, and -du becomes the unvaryingform of the ergative suffix on nasal-finalstems: YD (10) TD
-bu I m -cu n -> -du / Nasal lapsed. In TD, if a stem ends in a nasal or y, the ergative allomorph is a

-ju / ny (There are no y-final words in TD or YD.) The following YD examples show that the unvarying-du affix does not as6 This is plausible in light of the fact that English, the replacing language, has diphthongs ending in [i], e.g. [oi] as in 'choice', [ai] as in 'price' (see Wells 1982:596).

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similate to stem-finalnasal:
(11) a. mugiyam-du guda bura-n. (name)-ERG dog see-NONFUT

'Mugiyamsaw the dog.'

b. midin-du guda bura-n.

c. binyjirriny-du guda bura-n.

lizard STAGE 5: In the final stage of allomorphicreduction(short of total loss), -gu is the single variant for ergative case on all stems. LN's speech exemplifies this stage of the reductionproces, i.e. -gu / {V,C} . (Only one example of a -ygu allomorphwas found in LN's speech.) The examples below show the unvaryingaffix -gu in LN's response to the stimulus sentences: ' snake (12) a. girimu
b. c. d. e. f. g. walguy taipan (name) mugiyam -ERGsaw dog. binyjirriny >-gu buran guda < lizard woman jugumbil guburr bee gugar goanna,

It may be hypothesized that allomorphicreductionin YD reveals underlying forms. TD shows no evidence of such forms: each allomorphoccurs in just one environment. However, related languages show strikingsimilarityto the generalized YD allomorphs. In Yidiji, Dyirbal's northernneighbor, the basic ergative allomorphsare -ygu after a vowel, -du after a consonant; the -d of -du assimilates in point of articulationto a stem-finalnasal or y, but remains -du after I rr r n (Dixon 1977:42). This suggests that -du is the underlying postconsonantal form. The importantpoint is that the two underlyingforms posited for Yidiji are identical to the generalizedYD allomorphsfor BM, EJ, and EB, as shown in Table 1.

observing reductionin the range of ergative allomorphsin YD, it is interesting to note other dying Australianlanguageswhere allomorphicreductionhas been reported. Black 1980reports that, in Koko-Beraand Kurtjar(Cape York Peninsula, North Australia), the last speakers tend to collapse the traditionalallomorphicvariationby generalizingthe suffix -ayamp(or -nyampafter liquids) to mark ERG/LOCof any non-humannoun. Similarly,Donaldson notes that, in Ngiyambaa, speakers in the 50-60 age range reduce the allomorphicrange of ergative, locative, and circumstantive affixes.7 TraditionalNgiyambaa, like TD, has a numberof phonologicallyconditionedallomorphsdeterminedby the final consonant of the stem to which they are attached. In Young Ngiyambaa, ergative case allomorphyis greatly simplified,as shown in Table 2 (overleaf).
The Ngiyambaacircumstativeaffix covers various functions, includingablative, inessive, illative, and elative meanings.For more detail, see Donaldson(91, 96).

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V(V) V(V)N y yN n l/rr

-gu -rgu -dhu with y deletion -ndhui with y deletion -du -u


The similarityin the patternof allomorphiccollapse between YD and Young Ngiyambaais strikingon two counts: (a) Speakers of YD (such as LN) and of Young Ngiyambaageneralize the same ergative allomorph-gu as the unvaryingsuffix form. There is a similar Ngipatternof allomorphicreductionfor the locative affix. In both Traditional has allomorphyparallelto that of the ergative, except yambaaand in TD, LOC
that the final -u of the ergative corresponds to -a in the locative; e.g., ERG . In their allomorphic reduction of LOC,speakers of YD -gu, LOC-ga / V _

and of Young Ngiyambaa generalize the same allomorph-ga. A possible exallomorph(V-final)is generalized; planationfor Dyirbalis thata high-frequency approximately50%of Dyirbal words end in a vowel. (b) Like YD speakers, Young Ngiyambaa speakers eliminate the morphoi.e., both groups of young phonemic rule of final y deletion with ERGand LOC; speakers maintainthe stem-finalconsonant, in contrastto traditionalspeakers who delete it. It will be interestingto see if othertypologicallysimilarAustralian languages follow this direction of allomorphiccollapse in the extinction process.
YD speakers who follow LN on the conCATEGORY. 3.3. Loss OF ERGATIVE

tinuumlose the ergativeinflection, and marksyntacticfunctionby word order; i.e., these speakers replace ergative/absolutivemarkingby strict word order, as in English-a nominative/accusative pattern. There is no evidence that the ergative distinction is indicated by other linguistic devices, such as cross-referencingon the verb. (In Samoan, Ochs 1982 reports that, although children's speech is characterizedby absence of the morphologicalergative markingof formal adult speech, childrendo make the ergative distinction by word-orderstrategy.) Because Dyirbal has no crossreferencingdevice, it can be stated that, at the point of the continuumwhere morphological ergativity is lost, a nominative/accusative type system is adopted. The following examples illustratethe word-ordergroupingused by YD speakers towardthe Englishend of the continuum.Note that the examples look almost like relexified English:
(13) gugar S buga-bin. V

'The goanna is dead.'

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(14) gugar


ban jugumbil.

her woman goanna bite-NONFUT

S V O 'The goanna bit the woman.'

TD is well known for its syntactic ergativity. 4.1. CLAUSE COORDINATION.8

The S/0 pivot is a common clause-linkagedevice, requiringthat a coordinate construction must show a common NP which is in S or O function in both clauses. If the common referentof two clauses is in S/O function in clause 1, but in A function in clause 2, then the latterundergoesan antipassiveoperation which places the common referentNP in S function(see Dixon 1972, 1979:1279). The antipassivederivationis used in TD clause linkageas follows. Suppose that we have these two clauses:
(15) a. buliman bani-nyu. policeman come-NONFUT

'The policeman came.'

b. buliman-du Lillian-nya budi-n. take-NONFUT policeman-ERG L.-ACC

'The policeman took Lillian.' These can be conjoined since they share the NP buliman. But in order to coordinatethe clauses, 15bundergoesan antipassivederivationthat places the deep A NP bulimanin derived S function(andputs the deep 0 in dative case):9
(16) buliman bani-nyu Lillian-nyangu budi-lya-nyu. L.-DAT take-ANTIPASS-NONFUT policeman come-NONFUT 'The policeman came and took Lillian.' YD speakers were tested for the S/0 pivot device in 20 stimulus structures: ten in purposive clause conjunctions,10 and ten in non-purposives. The per-

centage are presented in Figure 3 (overleaf). The figure shows the following: (a) The antipassive affix occurs predominantlyin purposive clause con8 Coordination refers to linking of conjoined clauses. In contrast, subordination describes an

embedded clause structure,in which the verb is formallymarkedby the relative clause-marker -yu. See Dixon (1972:99ff.) for more detaileddescription. 9 In this paper, -lyay is treatedas a single affix. This differsfrom Dixon 1972, where the form is segmentedinto -l (conjugation marker)+ -UayANTIPASS. Similarly,I have analysed -lay (Girramaydialect)as a singleaffix, whereasDixon dividesit as -l (conjugation marker)+ -ay ANTIPASS. Note also that the final y of the antipassive affix is droppedwhen followed by the non-future (-nyu), future (-ny), aspectual(-njay),or relativeclause marker(-yu). '0 A purposiveclause conjunction joins two clauses which are semanticallylinkedin an action chain. The semanticformulaof the constructionis: 'X does Y in orderthat X can do Z', e.g. 'The policemancame in orderto take Lillianaway.' The verbin the second clauseof such a construction is formallymarkedby the morphemesequence VERB-ANTIPASS-PURP: yaja bani-nyu bura-lay-gu.

'I came to see [it].'

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388 EM I 100 100 10

LANGUAGE, VOLUME 61, NUMBER 2 (1985) MJ I 100 100 BM I 100 100 0 EJ I 100 100 0 EB I 100 90 0 FIGURE 3. LN I 100 100 0 MM I 100 90 0 EH I 100 100 0 PG I 100 70 0 AM I 80 0 0 TM I 90 0 0 DH I 100 50 0

< Purposive Clause Conjunction Demotion of 0 NP to dative in P.C.C. Non-Purposive Clause Conjunction

junctions (most YD speakers scored 100%): (17) buliman bani-nyu Lillian-nyangu budi-lay-gu.

'The policeman came in order to take Lillian.' (b) Non-purposive clause conjunctions are rarely joined by the S/O pivot device. (Only once in all the responses is the antipassive affix used in such conjunctions. EM, the most fluent YD speaker, gave this single occurrence.) In all other instances, YD speakers link these clauses by a single conjunction word-(English) an' or then - den, or bayum 'then'-or by simple juxtaposition:

(18) buliman


then - den bayum





L. take-NONFUT

'The policeman came and took Lillian.' (c) YD speakers high on the continuum have an intact antipassive derivational process in purposive clause conjunctions: O NP's are demoted to dative case with 100% success. (d) Less-fluent YD speakers have less success with the antipassive derivation: the rate of dative demotion falls (DH has 50%; TM, AM have 0%). There is also evidence that the antipassive affix -lay and purposive affix -gu become fossilized as a single affix form for these less-fluent YD speakers. This fossilization of -laygu is discussed later in this section. 4.2. USE OFANTIPASSIVE INTEXTS.The above data from stimulus senAFFIX tences indicate a YD decline in the use of the antipassive derivation in nonpurposive clause conjunction environments. However, it is possible that such figures are misleading, since YD speakers may have modeled their responses on English stimulus sentences; thus it is necessary to observe the antipassive derivation in a more natural speech context. The spontaneous texts of eight YD speakers were therefore quantified for the use of the antipassive affix in purposive clause conjunctions, as opposed to its use in other environments. The results are shown in Table 3. These findings indicate the following: (a) The antipassive affix occurs far more frequently in YD purposive clause conjunctions than in other environments. The YD use of S/O pivot in purposive clause conjunctions is illustrated here:

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Total occurrences Occurrencesof Percentageof antipassive of antipassive in purposiveclause antipassivein constructions purposiveclause conjunctions 211 57% TD 120 66 94% YD 62 clause conjunctionsin the texts were approximately TABLE 3. Purposiveand non-purposive equal in number.

ban wawu-lay-gu. (19) guyggun banaga-nyu return-NONFUT she fetch-ANTIPASS-PuRP female.ghost

'The female ghost returnedin order to fetch [the male ghost].' Clause linkage in non-purposiveclause conjunctionsis shown in 20. The S/O pivot does not apply, but instead the clauses are juxtaposed:
(20) bayi-mbawal bayi nyina-nyu bura-n yanajina. see-NONFUT lpl.ACC he-long.way he sit-NONFUT 'He is sitting over there looking at us.' (b) Comparison also reveals that the relative frequency of the antipassive in

purposive clause conjunctionsis much greater in YD than in TD. As Table 3 shows, TD texts showed only a slight tendency for the antipassive affix to be followed by purposive -gu. Thus the slight tendency in TD for the antipassive affix to be followed by the purposive affix has developed in YD to the use of purposive clause conjunctionas an almost exclusive environment. In summary, both YD texts and response sentences indicate that the antipassive derivationas a clause-linkagedevice is avoided in YD; except for two fluent YD speakers (MJ, EM), it survives only in the favored syntactic environment of purposive clause conjunction. of the TD antipassive affix forms. TD has two forms varyingby dialect (Dixon
1 Mamu -lya-y, Jirrbal -lya-y - -la-y, and Girramay -la-y. In YD, both 1972:67): 4.3. THEFORM OFTHEANTIPASSIVE AFFIX.YD shows a split in the function

affix forms occur, but with separatefunctions. For YD speakers, -lyay is used as an intransitivizing device within the clause:
(21) yaja bura-lya-nyu. I See-ANTIPASS-NONFUT

'I'm watching.'
The form -lay, by contrast, is used in clause linkage; it is usually followed by

the purposive affix -gu, in the form -laygu, as described above:12

(22) yaja bani-nyu bura-lay-gu. I come-NONFUT See-ANTIPASS-PURP 'I came to see.'

l The forms -lay, -lyay are attachedto most I-classverbs (84%).Anotherantipassiveallomorph -nay is added to the remainingtransitiveverbs of the y-class. The -nay allomorphbehaves in a parallelfashion, but will not be dealt with here. 12 It and Girramay dialect appearsthat TD had an earliertendency in this direction.In Jirrbal texts recordedat MurrayUpper by Dixon (p.c.), the -lay allomorphwas used more often before purposiveinflection, and the -lyay allomorphwas used more frequentlybefore other inflections.

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YD speakers appear to recognize -lyay and -lay(+-gu) as different affixes with separate functions; quantification showed that they rarely used the -lay and -lyay forms interchangeably. In only two instances of YD data (from EH) was the -lyay affix used in purposive clause conjunctions, e.g. bura-lyay-gu There were no examples of the -lay form in non-purposive 'see-ANTIPASS-PURP'. clause conjunctions. Toward the bottom of the YD continuum, -laygu becomes a fossilized purposive affix. The two separate morphemes of TD are re-analysed as a single morpheme by less-fluent YD speakers. Two types of evidence show this: (a) -lay does not occur outside the -laygu affix. Thus it cannot be analysed as a separate affix for the less-fluent speakers. (b) the -laygu affix is extended to intransitive verbs as a marker of purposive action. (In TD, because of the very nature of the -lyay derivation, the antipassive affix can only follow transitive verbs.) Speakers of YD use -laygu with INTRANSITIVE verbs, thus replacing TD purposive forms -li, -gu: (23) yaja yanu-laygu bulaji-gu. (EH)

'I will go to the two of them.' (Cf. TD yanu-li.) ban jugumbil yana-laygu. (PG) (24) yaja barba-n I ask-NONFUT she woman gO-PURP 'I asked the woman to go.' (Cf. TD yanu-li.) It is important to note that fossilization of laygu does not occur in the speech of all YD speakers. Fluent speakers, toward the TD pole, frequently interrupt the -lay + gu sequence by inserting other affixes: (25) yanaji bani-nyu
we come-NONFUT




'We came to watch the food.' Thus -laygu fossilization appears to occur only among less-fluent YD speakers, toward the English end of the continuum. It is interesting that Dyirbal's southern neighbor, Warrgamay, has a similar purposive affix. Like TD -laygu, the Warrgamay form is a fossilization of antipassive and purposive affixes:
'The diachronic hypothesis explains the modern intransitive allomorph -lagu as being derived from the conjugation marker -/- plus -a- as a residue of an original antipassive derivational affix, plus the original intransitive allomorph of purposive -gu.' (Dixon 1981:109)

Thus both Warrgamay and YD have independently re-analysed antipassive and purposive forms as a single purposive affix, YD -laygu, Warrgamay -lagu. 4.4. CLAUSE SUBORDINATION. In TD, clause subordination also operates on an S/O pivot: a clause can be embedded as a relative clause if it contains an S/O NP which is coreferential with an NP of the matrix clause. Suppose, for example, that we wish to embed 26b into 26a: (26) a. Lillian bani-nyu. L. come-NONFUT 'Lillian came.'

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b. Lillian-du walguy bura-n.

L.-ERG taipan see-NONFUT

'Lillian saw the taipan.' The S/O pivot constraint stipulatesthat the coreferentialNP of the embedded clause must be in S/O function. The applicationof the antipassive transformation to 26b is thus necessary in order to shift the NP Lillian from ergative to absolutive case:
(27) Lillian walguy-gu bura-lya-gu.
L. taipan-DAT see-ANTIPASS-REL

'Lillian saw the taipan.' Now 27 can be embedded into 26a:

(28) Lillian bani-nyu

walguy-gu bura-lya-yu.


'Lillian came in order to see the taipan.' YD speakers were tested with ten embeddedsentences where S/O pivot would apply in TD. The percentages are given in Figure 4.
TD < I 100

I 70

I 0

I 0

I 0

I 0

I 20 I 0

I 0 I 0 I 0 I 0



in relative clause formation. YD speakers who scored 0% simply did one of two things: (a)juxtaposed the two clauses,13or (b) markedthe relative clause by the verb marker-yu and a pause (shown by a comma); e.g.,
(29) Lillian bani-nyu,

The figure shows that the S/O pivot device was not used by most YD speakers

(Lillian-du) walguy bura-yu.

taipan see-REL


'Lillian, who saw the taipan, came.' This shows that, in YD, subordination,coordination,and the associated S/O pivot operation are affected by simplification,and by the English interference processes in terminalDyirbal. Similarreductionat interclauselevel has been reported in other language death situations. Thus Hill (1973:34)points to the diminishingfrequency of subordinationin dying Cupefioand Luisefio:
'There has been a dramatic reduction in the frequencies of subordinate clauses of all kinds: complements, relative clauses, gerunds, conditional clauses ... modern speakers use them at extremely low frequencies in actual speech.'

The phenomenon of low frequency of complex sentences has also been reported

in Yokuts by Newman ([1940] 1964:376),in Tonga by Jones & Carter 1967, and in Yanomamaby Migliazza 1972 (cf. Hill, 46-7). It is possible that such
13 Clause juxtaposition was also common in the casual speech of the YD speakers. A survey of YD texts revealed an extremely low frequency of subordination for the less-fluent speakers: 1.5% (for PG), 1% (for EH), and 0% (for TM, MM, AM) of all clauses were subordinate clauses, as compared with 7.5% in TD.

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cases exemplify the reduction of the relativization process associated with language attrition.

5. To sum up the situation with regard to YD ergativity, there is evidence of weakening of both the ergative case affix and the S/O pivot operation, but to different degrees along the continuum. As Table 4 illustrates, ergative casemarking survives about halfway along the continuum. For syntactic ergativity, the S/O pivot in non-purposive clause conjunctions and relativization is lost at a much earlier point. In contrast, the purposive clause conjunction is the favored syntactic environment for the antipassive affix for all YD speakers, extendingall the way alongthe continuumas -lay + gu (ANTIPASS + PURP). Toward the bottom of the continuum, these two affixes merge, becoming fossilized as a single suffix, -laygu. There has also been a split: another form of the antipassive affix, -lyay, survives with the function of an intransitivizing device within the clause. All twelve YD speakers retain the -lyay affix. Thus reduction has occurred on various levels of the Dyirbal language system, affecting both syntax and morphology. Rather than showing a disrupted stage in language decay, the reduction in terminal Dyirbal involves quite systematic variation along the YD continuum.

ergativity: Syntactic ergativity: Non-purposive clause conjunction elicited response texts Relative clause: Purposiveclause conjunction: -lay as intransitivizing device: < I EM
I ( MJ BM I I I I I)








6.1. PIDGINIZATION.Language death is often equated with 'pidginization', in that both may involve reduced social use and reduction in linguistic form, e.g. limited vocabulary and morphological simplicity. On this basis, many scholars appear to regard death and pidginization as different aspects of the

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same phenomenon:
'Languagedeath thereforecan be looked at as a sort of pidginization: obligatoryrules change
to variable ones, the polystylism of a normal language ... moves to monostylism ...' (Dressier

& Wodak-Leodolter1977:37)

However, we shouldbe cautiousin equatinglanguagedeathwith otherlanguage contact phenomena involving reduction and simplification;we have, as yet, insufficient empirical description of language death situations. Furthermore, the very term 'pidginization'and its defining characteristicsare not widely agreed upon. For example, some linguists limit the term to apply to language contact situations. According to Miihlhausler(1980:21), 'pidginizationrefers to the reductionin structureand languagemixingwhich occurs when a language becomes a functionally-restricted second language.' In contrast, other linguists use the term synonymouslywith 'simplification' or 'reduction'. Thus Samarin'sgeneral use of the term (1971:132)covers language loss throughlack of use and restricted codes, and he goes so far as to link the Dyirbal mother-in-lawlanguagewith pidginization.According to Samarin (126), 'Pidginizationshould be seen as any consistent reduction of the function of languageboth in its grammarand its use.' However, languagecontact phenomenawhich involve reductionin linguistic form and social function cover a wide range of socio-culturaland linguistic situations.Because of such diversityalone, the stereotypingof a languagedeath process as 'pidginization'is unwise. Just as languagedeath is sometimes equated with pidginization,a dying language is often referredto as a 'pidgin', as in Hall's 1962 notion of 'linguistic life-cycle': first there is a pidgin,then evolutionto a creole language,andfinally reduction to a pidgin (i.e. a dying language).There has been little agreement the definitionof pidgins.In this paper,I adoptDe Camp's by linguistsregarding (1971:15):
'A pidginis a contact vernacular,normallynot the native languageof any of its speakers.It is used in tradingor in any situationrequiringcommunication between persons who do not speakeach other'snativelanguages.It is characterized by a limitedvocabulary,an elimination of manygrammatical devices such as numberandgender,anda drasticreductionof redundant features.'

By presentingindependentdata from YD, I now wish to supportDorian's 1978 suggestion that it is oversimplistic and erroneous to equate a dying language with a pidgin.
First, it is necessary to note formal

terminal Dyirbal

and a pidgin. At first glance, YD casual speech bears strikingresemblanceto a pidgin. For example, the following sample would probably be classed as 'pidgin':
(30) dubala bin see lion, dubala bin minban. 3du. PAST 3du. PAST shoot-NONFUT

'The two of them saw the lion; they shot it.' Formal similaritiesbetween YD and 'pidgin'include limited vocabulary;morphological simplicity; little clause subordination; emergence of simpler, more

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regular, surface structures;and similarword forms, e.g. bin as past tense indicator, nomo as negative, and pidgin pronoun forms-mindubala 'ldu.', yun-

dubala '2du.', wifela 'lpl.', yufela 2pl. (cf. Schmidt 1983). However, there are also striking formal differences. In terminal Dyirbal, areas of morphologicalcomplexity still remain. The following speech sample illustrates the noticeable resistance of bound aspectual affixes (see Dixon 1972:248-50) in speech otherwise characterizedby morphologicalsimplicity and English intrusion:
(31) she bin lilbit wuygi-bin,

ban bungi-gani-nyu oh she baji-baji-yarra nyu down.



'She was a little bit sick; she lay down, (then)got up; oh, she started to fall down!' Thus aspectual affixes provide areas of morphologicalcomplexity in an otherwise simplifiedYD utterance. Dorian (1978:606-7) also reports that dying Gaelic has clear formal differences from a pidgin:
'Radicalmorphological as foundin manypidgins,is not characteristic of E[ast] simplification, S[utherland] G[aelic], even amongits most haltingspeakers,and even very nearthe point of extinction ... Not only is the quantityof morphological complexity much greaterthan one would expect to find in "classical" pidginization, but the varietyof allomorphs the PROVIDING quantityis fairly astonishing.'

Thus the terminal stages of both Dyirbal and Gaelic show areas of resistance to morphologicalsimplification,which is not typical of a pidgin. Essential functionaldifferences also exist between a pidginand a dying language: (a) A pidgin is the first stage of a new language, which grows throughthe needs of two or more groups to communicate;i.e., a pidgin is the embryonic stage of languageevolution. In contrast, languagedeath involves an extinction process that results when one of the two contact languages dominates and graduallyreplaces the less prestigiouslanguageover its entirefunctionalrange. Thus, althoughboth a dyinglanguageand a pidginresultfromlanguagecontact, each involves a distinct network of political, socio-cultural,and psychological factors. (b) Pidgins typically begin in formal situations between strangers,for purposes that often relate to commerce and trade. In contrast, dying Dyirbal is spoken in informalsituations, between people sharingclose personal ties. (c) It is likely that few people feel a sense of loyalty to an emergingpidgin; but certain speakers have such feelings for dying languages which are associated with pride in culturalheritageand with nostalgiafor a pre-contactway of life. (d) The main utility of a pidgin is its communicativefunction. Pidgins tend to spring up ratherquickly to suit the communicativeneeds of two mutuallyexclusive groups. In contrast, speakers of dying Dyirbal use the language

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mainly for its identity function. Within two peer groups at Jambun, YD has an 'integrative' rather than an 'instrumental' role. For members, YD is an important mark of group membership. The communicative function is secondary for these less-fluent YD speakers: they can communicate much better in English. In short, there are important formal and functional differences between a pidgin and a dying language. It is not enough to say, because both involve social function and reduction in linguistic form, that they are the same thing, or even closely related. IN REVERSE? 6.2. CREOLIZATION Trudgill 1976 describes the process of landeath in as 'creolization reverse': he claims that language death is charguage acterized by 'reduction'-i.e. actual loss of some part of a language, without resulting complication of another component to make up for that loss-whereas creolization involves only 'simplification', i.e. change which does not result in the impoverishment of the language system. The Dyirbal data presented here suggest that such a claim is oversimplistic. Although terminal Dyirbal does evidence 'reduction' through the LOSSof-such morphemes as -bila 'lest' and of -muya 'participial' (Schmidt 1983), there is also evidence of the CREATION new affixes, as in the merging of -lay ANTIPASS + -gu PURP to -laygu, a marker of purposive clause conjunction. This indicates that dying language systems can develop new affixes with specific grammatical functions, just as emerging creoles do. Such change is parallel to, not the reverse of, creolization. This highlights the need for many more studies of language extinction before we can speculate on the relationship between language death and other forms of linguistic reduction and simplification. REFERENCES
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