Motion Event Segmentation. An analysis of Jaminjung

Dorothea Hoffmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper deals with the notion of event segmentation of motion expressions in Jaminjung,a Non-Pama-Nyungan Australian Aboriginal Language spoken in the Victoria River area in the Northern Territory. It is based on Bohnemeyer et al (2007) who argue that correlations between syntactic or intonational units and semantic/conceptual event representation are language specific. The study focuses on encoding information about the (change of) location of a moving figure with respect to some referential ground (Talmy, 2000a, 2000b) within some frame of reference (Levinson, 2003). The authors propose the Macro Event Property (MEP) to compare how individual languages package information about an event.As such, “a construction has the MEP if it packages event representations such that temporal operators necessarily have scope over all subevents” (Bohnemeyer et al., 2007). The authors propose the existence of three types of languages on the basis of how many and what kinds of subevent representations they can integrate into the denotation of a macro-event construction. Type 1 languages have the MEP in combining one departure, arrival and passing subevent each (e.g. English). Type 2 languages use one ME expression to encode departure/arrival, but typically need another one to integrate a passing subevent (Japanese). Type 3 languages require a separate VP for encoding each subevent of departure, arrival and passing (Jalonke). Preliminary assumptions about Jaminjung suggest that the language belongs to type 2 languages in integrating departure/arrival into one ME, but not passing and in furthermore employing a doublemarking strategy for encoding path functions which distinguishes type 1 and 2 languages. (1) Langin yina-ngunyi=biyang burr-ANTHAM ngiyi-bina wood DIST-ABL=NOW 3pl:3sg-BRING.PRS PROX-ALL ‘from those trees they bring it here' (ES97_A03_01.114) Departure and arrival are here encoded in the same ME expression and path issimultaneously encoded in the VERB ROOT and the ground phrases. Subevents of passing and arrival/departure also seem to be separated intonationally (,), suggesting distinct ME expressions. (2) Thawaya yirra-gb Jalyarri=biyang eat 1PL.EXCL-BE.PST Subsection=now burl ga-ruma-ny, marraj ga-jga-ny emerge 3sg -COME.PST past 3sg-GO.PST ‘we were eating, then Jalyarri appeared, (and) went past’(Schultze-Berndt, 2007) A further characteristic of type 2 languages is the possibility to combine source and goal with a route-denoting verb. (3) Ji ga-rdba-ny warrangan-ngunyi thamirri gulban-bina go.down 3sg-FALL-PST cliff-ABL down ground-ALL ‘he went down from the cliff down to the ground’ (Schultze-Berndt, 2006) This paper intends to investigate these initial observations further based on a 40 hour corpus of Jaminjung compiled by Schultze-Berndt during the last 15 years. REFERENCES Bohnemeyer, Juergen, Enfield, Nicholas J., Essegbey, James, Ibarretxe-Antunano, Iraide,Kita, Sotaro, Luepke, Friederike, and Ameka, Felix Kofi. 2007. Principles of Event Segmentation in Language: The case of Motion Events. Language 83:495-532. Levinson, Stephen C. 2003. Space in Language and Cognition. Explorations in Cognitive Diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schultze-Berndt, Eva. 2006. Sketch of a Jaminjung Grammar of Space. In Grammars of Space, eds. Stephen C. Levinson and David P. Wilkins, 63-113. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schultze-Berndt, Eva. 2007. On manners and paths of refining Talmy's typology of motion events via language documentation. In Proceedings of the Conference on Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory, 7-8 Dec. 2007, eds. P.K. Austin, Bond O. and D. Nathan, 223-233. London: SOAS.Talmy, Leonard. 2000a. Toward a Cognitive Semantics: Concept Structuring Systems vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Talmy, Leonard. 2000b. Toward a cognitive semantics. Typology and Process in Concept Structuring vol. 2. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventStudent Conference on Language Documentation and Description - School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK
Duration: 3 Jul 20093 Jul 2009


ConferenceStudent Conference on Language Documentation and Description
CitySchool of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK


  • Semantics
  • Discourse
  • Motion


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