Rethinking the substrates of Roper River Kriol: The case of Marra

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    The Roper River variety of Kriol is an endogenous creole that has stabilised within the last century while in direct contact with speakers of 6–10 local Indigenous languages. Kriol is well placed to inform creolisation theory because its relationship to substrate languages can be explored more directly and with greater confidence than is possible in the case of many exogenous creoles. Munro (2004, 2011) applied Siegel’s (1999, 2008) Transfer Constraints approach to Roper Kriol and found the theory correctly predicted the transfer of most features examined. Despite this, it is argued here that the survey of potential substrates could be more nuanced and provide a clearer view of the development of Kriol. Drawing on historical research and recent fieldwork with young Kriol speakers, this paper argues that the Marran language family, and in particular, Marra, has more greatly influenced the lexicon of Roper River Kriol than other local languages. Evidence is drawn from four domains:(i) historical evidence,(ii) kin terminology,(iii) non-English based verbs and (iv) ethnobiological nomenclature. The prevalence of Kriol verbs also found in Marra is of particular interest given that substrate derived verbs are typically thought to occur less in creoles than nominals. The argument that Marra wields greater influence than other local language on Roper River Kriol has implications for creolisation theories such as Transfer Constraints approach, suggesting that weighting potential substrate languages variably may improve their ability to predict the features of the resulting Kriol.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLoss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation
    Editors Felicity Meakins and Carmel O'Shannessy
    Place of PublicationBoston/Berlin
    PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
    ISBN (Print)9781614518877
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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