Post by Jack Campin Post by Ross Post by Peter Moylan
All of our knowledge of this language, as Blake says, is based on
19th century manuscripts. He does not find any evidence for a
voiceless labial (which might be written 'wh') or for a strange
rhotic which might be written 'whr'; and neither of these would be
expected in an Australian phonology. (As Blake points out, sound
systems are typologically pretty uniform throughout the continent.)
This is way OT for this group but I'm curious. With peoples from at
least three completely different founding populations spread over a
few million square miles for more than 50,000 years, how come they
all developed languages that were unreasonably fond of "ng" sounds
and left out a planetful of consonants everybody else had no trouble
Every language is missing sounds that speakers of some other language
find easy. For example, native English speakers find the two kinds of
"th" easy to pronounce, but learners of English often find out "th" an
almost insurmountable barrier. Naturally, we can also find sounds in
other languages that are difficult for English speakers.
Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article on "Australian Aboriginal
"Some languages also have three rhotics, typically a flap, a trill, and
an approximant; that is, like the combined rhotics of English and Spanish.
Besides the lack of fricatives, the most striking feature of Australian
speech sounds is the large number of places of articulation. "
Without going into too much detail, what that means is that those
languages use sounds that English speakers would have trouble duplicating.
A technicality: Australian languages are conventionally divided into two
groups: the Pama-Nyungan languages, which cover most of the continent,
and the non-Pama-Nyungan languages of the northern regions. The
Pama-Nyungan languages have many features in common (to the same extent
that Western European languages have a lot in common) and can probably
be called a family. The second group is not a family, but more of a
grab-box of "every language that can't be neatly categorised". Whether
that division represents separate waves of migration seems to be unknown.
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia