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Borrowing contextual inflection: evidence from northern Australia


Gurindji Kriol is a north Australian mixed language which combines lexical and structural elements from Gurindji (Pama-Nyungan), and Kriol (English-lexifier). One of the more striking features of the grammar of Gurindji Kriol is the presence of the Gurindji case paradigm including ergative and dative case-markers within a Kriol verbal frame. Given the fragility of inflectional morphology in other language contact situations, particularly contextual inflections such as structural case markers, this situation bears closer scrunity. This paper argues that the presence of Gurindji case morphology is the result of pervasive code-switching practices which immediately preceded the genesis of the mixed language. As the code-switching stabilised into a mixed language, case-marking was integrated into predicate argument structure of Gurindji Kriol via nominal adjunct structures. Yet, these case markers were not absorbed unscathed. Although the Gurindji Kriol case paradigm bears a close resemblance to its Gurindji source in form, these case markers have not been perfectly replicated in function and distribution. Contact with Kriol functional equivalents such as prepositions and word order have altered the function and distribution of these case markers. The last part of this paper examines the shift that has occurred in Gurindji-derived case morphology in Gurindji Kriol.

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Kinship pair
































Question nominal






Tag question






First person


Second person


Third person


Morpheme break


Clitic break


Acting on


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Correspondence to Felicity Meakins.

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Meakins, F. Borrowing contextual inflection: evidence from northern Australia. Morphology 21, 57–87 (2011).

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  • Borrowing
  • Code-switching
  • Mixed language
  • Gurindji Kriol
  • Inflectional morphology
  • Contextual inflection
  • Case marker