This book builds on R. M. W. Dixon's most influential work on the indigenous languages of Australia over the past forty years, from his trailblazing grammar of Dyirbal published in 1972 to later grammars of Yidin (1971) and Warrgamay (1981). Edible Gender, Mother-in-Law Style, and Other Grammatical Wonders includes further studies on these languages, and the interrelations between them. Following an account of the anthropological and linguistic background, part I provides a thorough examination of, and comparison between, the gender system in Dyirbal (one of whose members refers to 'edible vegetables') and the set of nominal classifiers in Yidin. The chapters in part II describe Dyirbal's unusual kinship system and the 'mother-in-law' language style, and examines the origins of 'mother-in-law' vocabulary in Dyirbal and in Yidin. There are four grammatical studies in part III, dealing with syntactic orientation, serial verb constructions, complementation strategies, and grammatical reanalysis. Part IV covers grammatical and lexical variation across the dialects of Dyirbal, compensatory phonological changes, and a study of language contact across the Cairns rainforest region.
The two final chapters, in Part V, recount the sad stories of how the Yidin and Dyirbal languages slowly slipped into oblivion.
R. M. W. Dixon is Adjunct Professor and Deputy Director of the Language and Culture Research Centre at James Cook University. He has published grammars of a number of Australian languages (including Dyirbal and Yidin), in addition to A Grammar of Boumaa Fijian (University of Chicago Press, 1988), The Jarawara Language of Southern Amazonia (OUP, 2004; paperback 2011), and A Semantic Approach to English Grammar (OUP, 2005). His theoretical works include Where have All the Adjectives Gone? And other Essays on Semantics and Syntax (De Gruyter, 1982), Ergativity (CUP, 1994), the three volume work Basic Linguistic Theory (OUP, 2010-12) and most recently Making New Words: Morphological Derivation in English (OUP 2014).
PART I: GENDERS AND CLASSIFIERS; PART II: KIN RELATIONS AND HOW TO TALK WITH THEM; PART III: GRAMMATICAL STUDIES; PART IV: VARIATION, CONTACT, AND CHANGE; PART V: LANGUAGES FADING AWAY