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The Palawa (Tasmanian aboriginal) languages : a preliminary discussion


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Taylor, JA 2006 , 'The Palawa (Tasmanian aboriginal) languages : a preliminary discussion', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis provides a preliminary discussion of the Palawa ('Tasmanian Aboriginal') languages. Tasmania as an island has been physically separated from the Australian mainland for over ten millennia, and as one might expect one consequence has been that there have been a number of divergences in the development of its languages from those of the mainland in terms of the pronunciation and range of its segments, its phonology, the semantic content of its lexemes, its word and sentence construction, and its syntax. To adequately cover all these topics, and as well the genetic connections between Palawa and the mainland languages would be a vast enterprise running into many hundreds of pages.

In consequence the thesis has been limited to a number of matters which are basic to an adequate discussion of the topics referred to. The thesis thus provides a description of Tasmania as a geophysical land mass which differs in important respects from most of mainland Australia, and of the important changes which have taken place since its human colonisation in terms of its climate, fauna, and flora. An outline of the languages and dialects spoken at the beginning of the nineteenth century follows, together with a description of Palawa socio-economic organization. As then discussed, the rapid collapse of Palawa culture after Tasmania's invasion by the British, led to the loss and very imperfect preservation of the Palawa languages.

Chapter 6 details the sources of the extant materials with respect to the languages, and provides an overview of studies undertaken to date. Chapter 7 then proceeds to an in depth study of the Palawa lexicons with a view to identifying and determining the segments regularly articulated by Palawa speakers, and the contexts in which those segments were contrastive. This study will incorporate all extant information with respect to the various spelling conventions used in European transcriptions of Palawa words. It will also compare the transcriptions with a view to resolving a number of both latent and patent ambiguities. The principles of historical linguistics will be used to elucidate many such matters.

The thesis will not embark upon a description of Palawa phonology, morphology, the semantic development and content of Palawa lexemes, nor Palawa syntax. Accordingly a discussion of Palawa place names, clan names, and personal names will also not form part of the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Taylor, JA
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 2006 the author

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