Structure and meaning in three Australian Languages (2011-2013)

Professor Janet Fletcher, Dr Marija Tabain (La Trobe) and Dr Ruth Singer
ARC Discovery grant

The tone or melody of a sentence can communicate different kinds of meaning, yet this important aspect of spoken language is still poorly understood for Australian Indigenous languages. In fact most of our linguistic models of speech communication are based on a handful of the world's languages. This project redressed this imbalance by showing how the Australian languages Mawng, Bininj Gun-wok and Pitjantjatjara use intonation in different contexts and situations. A second outcome of the project was a revision of current intonational typology to take into account the unique pronunciation features of Australian languages. This project also found out more about how intonation is used to express information structure in Mawng, in combination with word order and other strategies.