The alignment of prosody and clausal structure in Dalabon

Bella Ross, Janet Fletcher, Rachel Nordlinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Comparisons of prosodically defined units and grammatical structure in typologically diverse languages may reveal insights into how language is processed. This paper presents examples of intonation units comprising two or more verbs in Dalabon, a polysynthetic head-marking language from Australia. The prosody, semantics and grammar of these multi-verb intonational units is examined and it is shown that intonation is used as a delimitative device to signal the higher-level groupings of grammatical constituents in the discourse. What is interesting in these findings is that, despite the multiple grammatical constructions available to signal subordination in Dalabon, grammatical subordination is infrequently used. Instead, Dalabon speakers make use of intonation to group two or more verbs, in order to represent the close temporal relationship of events. The close examination of multi-verbintonational units presented in this paper may reveal more about the interaction between intonation and syntactic organization in a polysynthetic, head-marking language such as Dalabon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-78
Number of pages27
JournalAustralian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • intonation unit
  • prosodic phrasing
  • Dalabon
  • Australian languages
  • polysynthetic languages
  • head-marking languages
  • grammatical structure
  • prosodic structure

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