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Spearing the Emu Drinking: Subordination and the Adjoined Relative Clause in Wambaya*

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Studies of subordination in Australian Aboriginal languages have been heavily influenced by Hale's foundational paper on the ‘adjoined relative clause'—a non-embedded, multifunctional subordinate clause type found in Warlpiri and a ‘large number of Australian languages' [Hale K 1976 ‘The adjoined relative clause in Australia' in RMW Dixon (ed.) Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages AIAS Canberra: 78–105 at 78]. Since this paper, almost every Australian grammar makes some reference to this clause type, presenting a general picture of structural homogeneity across subordination structures in Australian languages, and leading to the general perception that Australian languages typically don't have syntactic embedding. In this paper I present an analysis of subordinate clauses in Wambaya, arguing that these share many features of Hale's ‘adjoined relative clause' while still being clearly subordinate. The differences between subordinate clauses in Warlpiri and Wambaya show that complex constructions in Australian languages can be structurally dissimilar while sharing many of the properties of the ‘adjoined relative clause' type. I argue, therefore, that clause-combining in Australian languages may be more structurally heterogeneous than is traditionally assumed, and that a single analysis for complex sentences across a majority of Australian languages is quite likely inappropriate. This has implications for both the analysis and description of subordination in Australian Aboriginal languages, and for their relationship to the typological literature on subordination more generally.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, University of Melbourne

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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