The Yale Pama-Nyungan Lab’s Dr. Claire Bowern and the University of Auckland’s Dr. Quentin Atkinson published this paper in Language in late 2012. In it, they examine the internal structure of the Pama-Nyungan language family using certain phylogenetic methods.
The Pama-Nyungan family of Australian languages reaches across Australia to cover nearly ninety percent of the continent’s mainland. While twenty-five subgroups of the Pama-Nyungan family have been identified, there remains no consensus among linguists as to the relationships between those subgroups. Some argue that a reconstruction of the internal relationships between Pama-Nyungan languages is impossible due to centuries of diffusion that might obfuscate similarities.
Bowern and Atkinson, however, propose in this paper a detailed internal subgrouping and higher-order structure of the Pama-Nyungan family. Four major divisions within the family have been identified, and the paper addresses the concerns made by fellow linguists regarding the feasibility of such a structuring.