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Live symposium featuring Carmel O'Shannessy on Contact Languages and Light Warlpiri, 20 February 2015

Evolution, Processing, Shape

Date: 17 February 2015

Carmel O'Shannessy will be speaking at the CARTA symposium on 'How Language Evolves'. Her presentation will be available via live webcast.

This symposium addresses the question of how human language came to have the kind of structure it has, focusing on three sources of evidence: 1) ways languages get new structure not present in the language of the previous generation(s) of speakers or signers; 2) what contrasts between new and mature languages reveal about how language evolves; and 3) neuroscientific investigations of functional specialization for language in the human brain and its dependence on the linguistic input the language learner gets during cognitive development.

Contact languages represent some of the ways that new languages can be created, as they systematically combine elements from more than one existing language, resulting in novel linguistic systems. When multiple sources provide input to a rapidly emerging new system, elements are likely to be reanalyzed, and new structural categories may be created that differ from those in the source languages. For example, Light Warlpiri, a newly emerged mixed language spoken in north Australia, combines Warlpiri nominal structure with verbal structure from varieties of English and/or Kriol (an English-lexified creole), but with the addition of radical restructuring of the verbal auxiliary system. In this talk, I will give examples of restructuring in contact languages, including Light Warlpiri.


Access to the live webcast for this symposium will be provided on Friday, February 20 starting at 1:00 PM (Pacific Time). Viewers will need to be logged into their user account to gain access, but are not required to register for this symposium. Due to YouTube's restrictions on live streaming the live broadcast will not be available from Germany.


  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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