[Lingtyp] absolute directionals/terms in Australian languages: update

Dorothea Hoffmann hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com
Tue Mar 15 16:52:35 UTC 2016

Dear all, 

I’ve had great responses from many of you regarding my inquiry about directional systems in Australian languages and was able to considerably expand my list of languages and references. Thank you very much everyone who got in touch with me!

I attach a summary of the current state of the research with tables indicating what absolute frames languages employ and a detailed list of references. 

Here is a short summary: 

the list includes a total of 48 languages: 27 Pama-Nyungan and 21 non-Pama-Nyungan
21 languages have a sun/compass-based system: 16 are Pama-Nyungan (e.g. Kayardild and Wik Mugkan) and 5 are non-Pama-Nyungan, e.g. Warrwa and Iwaidja
5 have a river-drainage-based system: all of these are non-Pama-Nyungan and include, e.g. Jaminjung and Wagiman
12 have a river-drainage- and sun/compass-based system: five are Pama-Nyungan (e.g. Yir Yoront and Gurindji), six are non-Pama-Nyungan (e.g. Gooniyandi and Dalabon) and one are certain varieties of Kriol 
nine have wind-based systems: five are Pama-Nyungan (e.g. Djinang and Lardil) and four are non-Pama-Nyungan (e.g. Matngele and Iwaidja)
three languages have an ocean-based system (all in addition to wind-based systems): Pama-Nyungan Kala Lagaw Ya , and non-Pama-Nyungan Maung and Iwaidja 
Bardi has a tide-based system which changes every six hours in addition to a compass/sun-based system
and only Murrinhpatha appears to have no absolute system

Please feel free to comment and add to the list and references!

All the best,


Dorothea Hoffmann
Website: 	http://dorotheahoffmannblog.wordpress.com
Blog: 	http://hoffmanndorothea.wordpress.com
Email: 	hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com

> On Mar 3, 2016, at 4:07 PM, Dorothea Hoffmann <hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com> wrote:
> *** 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
> Dorothea Hoffmann
> hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com <mailto:hoffmann.dorothea at gmail.com>

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