Transfer and applicative constructions in Gunwinyguan languages (non-Pama-Nyungan, Australia)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


This article describes the syntax and semantics of benefactive and comitative constructions in Dalabon, a Gunwinyguan language (Australia, non-Pama-nyungan). First I describe the respective subcategorization operations and meanings of each of these constructions, then I show that a criterion for using benefactive constructions is the animacy of the benefactive participant, whereas a criterion for using comitative constructions is semantic: the Dalabon comitative marker selects arguments with typical “comitative” meaning (accompaniment and instrument). In addition, I show that the comitative construction has developed a cross-linguistically unusual semantic extension towards the notion of transfer. When combined with verbs of attainment (‘get’, ‘pull’, etc.), Dalabon comitative constructions express malefactive transfer (or removal, i.e. the opposite of gift). Comparing Dalabon with neighboring languages of the same family reveals that this extension is not limited to the Dalabon language, but also occurs in Bininj Gun-wok and Rembarrnga, including with comitative markers that are not cognate with the Dalabon marker. In addition, the Dalabon comitative constructions can also express the transfer of contents of communication with verbs meaning ‘tell’ or ‘ask’, and this extension is not attested in either in Bininj Gun-wok or in Rembarrnga.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGive constructions across languages
EditorsMyriam Bouveret
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789027260154
ISBN (Print)9789027208422
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameConstructional Approaches to Language
ISSN (Print)1573-594X


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