Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 215–268

Non-configurationality in Australian aboriginal languages

  • Peter Austin
  • Joan Bresnan

DOI: 10.1007/BF00133684

Cite this article as:
Austin, P. & Bresnan, J. Nat Lang Linguist Theory (1996) 14: 215. doi:10.1007/BF00133684


The syntax of the Australian Aboriginal language Warlpiri has led to two opposing models of non-configurationality: a dual structure hypothesis, which abandons the projection principle for a grammatical architecture that separates constituency and functional representations (Simpson 1983, 1991, Hale 1983, Kroeger 1993), and a pronominal argument hypothesis, which hypothesizes that bound or zero pronominals satisfy the projection principle in such languages, with free nominals analysed as adjuncts (Jelinek 1984, Baker 1991, Hale 1993). Although the pronominal argument hypothesis is widely accepted in the syntactic literature, we show that available evidence from Warlpiri, new evidence from the related language Jiwarli, and a survey of six other Australian languages actually support the dual structure hypothesis. The non-configurationality characteristics of free word order, null anaphora, and split NPs are in fact independent of each other and of the distribution of bound pronouns. Additionally, the clitic pronouns that Jelinek (1984) and others take to be the source of non-configurationality in Warlpiri are simply an areal feature of Australian languages that is independent of the syntactic properties that are supposed to derive from it.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Austin
    • 1
  • Joan Bresnan
    • 2
  1. 1.School of LinguisticsLaTrobe UniversityBundooraAustralia
  2. 2.Linguistics DepartmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA