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Anindilyakwa phonology: umbakumba communilect

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:18 authored by Velma J. Leeding
Aim and outline of the contents: The aim of this paper is to present the phonemes of the Umbakumba communilect of Anindilyakwa, with some comparisons made regarding the Angurugu communilect. The phonological word and the syllable have been described in the paper to show how the phonemes function within the larger units. Word stress is only briefly mentioned. As native reaction (Pike) or native intuition (Chomsky) is considered relevant to linguistic analysis, details of the reactions of the Umbakumba literates have been included throughout the paper. The characteristics of Anindilyakwa are: long words, fluid vowels, very few minimal pairs for either consonants or vowels, and an extensive morphophonemic system. The distinguishing of six points of articulation for the consonants is typical of the system throughout Australia. Anindilyakwa, however, has a dichotomy between unrounded and rounded consonants which is not typical in Australian languages but is found in some languages of Papua New Guinea (see Lithgow 1977: 4; Pike 1964: 129; Lloyd and Healey 1970: 36; Laycock 1965: 34). The three-vowel system (high versus mid versus low) is also atypical for Australian languages but is found in Papua New Guinea languages (see Staalsen 1966: 69; Bruce 1977: 1 re "typical Sepik vowel system"; Laycock 1965: 32; Pike 1964: 131). Though the Barua vowel phonemes are different from those in Anindilyakwa the allophones of /a/ and /a/ which parallel /i/ and /a/ are very similar (Lloyd and Healey 1970: 36, 39). Only a few adverbs and exclamations are monomorphemic. The complex affixation linked with the noun classification system results in numerous morpheme boundaries within each word. The morphophonemic and allophonic changes at the morpheme boundaries have been listed separately in each section for clarity. It was essential to conduct morphological research simultaneously with the phonemic analysis. This fact is highlighted in "Grammatical Prerequisites to Phonemic Analysis" (Brend 1972: 32) in which Pike states: "when phonological and grammatical facts are mutually dependent, the treatment of phonology without reference to grammar is a concealment of part of a most important set of structural facts pertinent to phonology." Pike (1947: 116 - 7) states that: "Sound systems have a tendency toward phonetic symmetry... It should be emphasized, however, that a language does not have to be symmetrical. Very frequently a sound system is not symmetrical and there are defective series of sounds, or what might be called in this instance 'holes in the pattern'." The lack of symmetry in Anindilyakwa is seen in the difference in the functional load of the dental series (see Section 4) where dental /g/ is now rare and alveolar /n/ common in prefixes and suffixes. With the loss of /pw/ and /mw/ preceding /a/, and the development of the alveolar series, the vowel allophones of the high vowel are seen to be unsymmetrical (see Section 8, Chart 9). The lack of symmetry, therefore, is accounted for in terms of language change through interaction with Nunggubuyu, Macassan and English. It would seem possible that Anindilyakwa was originally a language from the northeast. The older Aboriginal men at Angurugu have told Mr. Lance Tremlett (Town Administrator, church Missionary Society) that their ancestors came from the northeast (personal communication). The present analysis is an attempt to resolve continuing phonological problems evident in the failure of Aboriginal literates to spell the vowels consistently. The main problem in the early recording of the phonetic data arose because the feature of rounding was not identified correctly in the bilabial consonants, or where rounding was simultaneous, not sequential. Lithgow (1977: 3) faced the same type of problem and says: "a series of labialised velar and/or bilabial consonants is found throughout the Austronesian languages of Milne Bay... The kw and gw sounds can be heard quite well by Europeans, but we often have difficulty in hearing the labialisation of pw, bw and mw...". Once the rounded consonants were identified as phonemic, the allophones of the high and low vowels were seen to pattern in accordance with the rounded or unrounded consonants. Previous analyses (Moody 1954; Stokes 1972) divided the high vowel into two phonemes, /i/ and /u/, with phonemic variation. This analysis adds two rounded consonants to the consonant inventory, and reduces the high vowel allophones to one phoneme /i/, with allophonic variation. The tagmemics model (Pike 1967) is used in this paper in order to make the analysis available to local linguists, literacy workers and non-aboriginal teachers who are either familiar only with the tagmemics model or who have only an elementary knowledge of linguistics. As Aboriginal teachers are also currently being trained in linguistics during teacher-training, it is hoped that the presentation will be understood by some of the local Aboriginal teachers. A larger number of examples than is usually found in a paper of this type has been included for local interest. Some of the morphophonemic and allophonic rules are written in transformational-generative formulae but an explanation is given below each one.


Table of Contents

0. Introduction -- 1. The phonological word -- 2. The syllable -- 3. Interpretation -- 4. The consonants -- 5. The vowels -- 6. The low vowel /a/ -- 7. The mid vowel /e/ -- 8. The high vowel /i/ -- 9. Conclusion.


"A Special Topic submitted for the degree of Master of Arts". Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis masters research


MA, Macquarie University, School of English and Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

School of English and Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Colin Yallop


Copyright Velma J. Leeding 1979. This thesis was digitised for the purposes of Document Delivery. Macquarie University ResearchOnline attempted to locate the author but where this has not been possible; we are making available, open access, the thesis which may be used for the purposes of private research and study. If you have any enquiries or issues regarding this work being made available please contact Macquarie University ResearchOnline - If you wish to access the complete thesis, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Document Supply, please contact Copyright disclaimer:




Northern Territory


1 online resource (v, 204 leaves) illustrations, map

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