[Lingtyp] absolute directionals/terms in Australian languages

Dorothea Hoffmann hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com
Thu Mar 3 22:07:01 UTC 2016

*** apologies for cross-posting***

Dear all

I am currently working on a spatial Frames of Reference paper on Australian languages and was wondering if some of you might be able to help me with a few questions about the use of compass- and/or landmark-based directionals in Australian languages. 

This is the (very general) information I have:

The majority of Australian languages seem to have a compass-based system (usually a  2 or 4-way grid (of east-west-north-south)):
Guugu Yimithirr (Havilland 1993, Levinson 2003)
Warlpiri (Laughren 1978)
Kayardild (Evans 1995)
Bardi (Bowern 2012)
Arrerrnte (Wilkins, 2006)
Garrwa (Mushin 2013)
Warrwa (McGregor 2006) 
Djarru/Jaru (Tsunoda 1995)

Only a few seem to solely rely on a river-based (drainage) system (upstream/upriver/downstream/downriver):
Jaminjung/Ngaliwurru (Schultze-Berndt 2006)
Ngan’gityemerri (Reid 2011)

Again, quite a number of languages employ a combination of a compass- and river-based system:
Gooniyandi (McGregor 1990)
Bunuba (Ramsey 2000)
Ngandi (Heath 1978)
Pilbara languages (including Martuthunira, Panyjima, Yindjibarndi) (Densch 1995)
Yir Yoront (Alpher 1991)
Ngarinyman(Jones 1994)
Gurindji (Meakins 2011)
Bilinarra (Meakins and Nordlinger 2014)
Wardaman (Merlan 1994)

Only few have a wind-based system:
MalakMalak (Hoffmann)
Matngele? (Hoffmann)
Kala Lagaw Ya (Stirling 2011)

And some do not employ any absolute terms:
Murrinh-Paths (Gaby and Singer 2014)

Do you know what systems other Australian languages are employ and do you have any references for those? Do you know of any cross-linguistics (including a world-wide sample of languages) overviews of absolute systems across languages? I have only been able to find Brown, Cecil (1983) “Where do Cardinal Direction Terms come from?” Anthropological Linguistics, 25(2), 121-161

Thank you so much in advance for your help!

Best regards, 


Dorothea Hoffmann
hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com

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