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Seminar: The Marvels of Marind, Bruno Olsson, 20 Apr

Australian National University, Evolution

Date: 16 April 2018

Seminar: The Marvels of Marind

Speaker: Bruno Olsson

When: 20 Apr, 2pm-3pm

Where: Engma Room (5019), HC Coombs Building, ANU


In this presentation I describe some of the most interesting characteristics of the Marindic languages, a subgroup of the Anim language family of Southern New Guinea. After a brief overview of the long and fascinating history of ethnographic and linguistic study of Marind, I present four small cases studies that I think will be of interest to most linguists. I show that the Marindic languages, once considered a single variety, are in fact three rather divergent languages, displaying several features that are unusual in both the Trans-New Guinean perspective as well as in the areal context of the South Papuan lowlands. I also show that the pervasive 4-gender system poses a range of challenges in terms of diachronic evolution and synchronic description. Similar issues arise in the study of the intricate verb morphology, and I will show how diachronic reconstruction reveals a proto-language with a more conventional structural profile. Finally, I provide a glimpse of one of the most remarkable inflectional categories of the Marind verb, which is used to track the interlocutor’s attention to the state of affairs described by the verb. My description of this grammatical category serves as an illustration of the diversity of distinctions encoded by grammars, as well as a strong case for the importance of video-recorded face-to-face interaction in language documentation.

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