Lexical semantics in language shift. Comparing emotion lexica in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol (northern Australia)

Maia Ponsonnet

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    This article analyzes some of the lexical semantic features of Barunga Kriol, an Australian creole language (Northern Territory, Australia), in comparison with Dalabon, one of the Australian Aboriginal languages replaced by Barunga Kriol. Focusing on the semantic domain of emotions, this study offers insights into how creole languages select and organize semantic meanings, and to what extent this results in lexical loss or retention. I spell out the exact nature of the lexical resemblances between the two languages, and highlight major differences as well. The conclusions of the study are two-fold. Firstly, I show that the Barunga Kriol emotion lexicon shares a great many properties with the Dalabon emotion lexicon. As a result, speakers in Barunga Kriol and Dalabon respectively are often able to package meaning in very similar ways: the two languages offer comparable means of describing events in the world. From that point of view, language shift can be considered to have a lesser impact. Secondly, I show that the lexical resemblances between Barunga Kriol and Dalabon are not limited to simple cases where the lexemes in each language share the same forms and/or meanings. Instead, lexical resemblances relate to a number of other properties in semantics and combinatorics, and I devise a preliminary typology of these lexical resemblances. Beyond the comparison between Barunga Kriol and Dalabon, this typology may tentatively serve as a grid to evaluate lexical resemblances between languages more generally.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)92-135
    JournalJournal of Pidgin and Creole Languages
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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