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Australian Languages Reconsidered: A Review of Dixon (2002)

From: Oceanic Linguistics
Volume 44, Number 1, June 2005
pp. 242-286 | 10.1353/ol.2005.0020


Is the Australian linguistic area, because of its unique history, one in which the established methods of historical and comparative linguistics have limited appropriateness? Do neighboring languages in this situation come to share an "equilibrium level" of 50 percent basic vocabulary regardless of their degree of genetic relatedness? Is the Pama-Nyungan grouping totally without foundation and something that must be discarded if any progress is to be made in studying the nature of the linguistic situation in Australia? Are Australian scholars more hesitant than scholars elsewhere to criticize the work of colleagues? These and other "deliberately unorthodox" views of R. M. W. Dixon set forth in Australian Languages (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002) are countered, while conceding that the book brings together an enormous amount of historically and typologically relevant material in one place.