The Rate of Lexical Change in Australia: Evidence from Larrakia

Paul Black

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A paper by Barry Alpher compared earlier and later attestations of Australian languages in ways that may seem to suggest that lexical change in Australia could be unusually rapid, despite Alpher's own disclaimers about the problematic nature of such evidence. The present paper first relates this possibility to recent work in lexically-based language classification and dating. It then proceeds to show that comparing earlier and later attestations of the Larrakia language, of the Darwin area, could also suggest rapid change if the attestations are considered individually, but that all evidence considered together suggests that the Larrakia lexicon was actually quite stable during this period. This casts doubts on what we might hope to learn about the rate of lexical change from comparisons of attestations of languages more poorly attested than Larrakia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)112-130
    Number of pages19
    JournalAustralian Journal of Linguistics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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