Oceanic Linguistics, vol. 38, no. 2 (1999)


Trimoraic Feet in Gilbertese, p. 203-230
Juliette Blevins and Sheldon P. Harrison

In this paper we present evidence for ternary metrical constituents in Gilbertese (Kiribati), a Micronesian language. The terminal elements of stress feet in Gilbertese are moras, not syllables. Further, the typical foot in Gilbertese contains three moras. These trimoraic constituents are units of stress in Gilbertese, and also define minimal prosodic word size, where possible. Ternary metrical constituents of the sort found in Gilbertese are quite rare cross-linguistically, and as far as we know, Gilbertese is the only language in the world reported to have a ternary constraint on prosodic word size. We present a constraint-based analysis of Gilbertese prosody that also makes use of a language-specific template-mapping algorithm.

The Lack of Zero Anaphora and Incipient Person Marking in Tagalog, p. 231-269
Nikolaus P. Himmelmann

It has been widely assumed that Tagalog allows zero anaphora freely for both actors and undergoers in semantically transitive constructions. The data presented here strongly suggest that this assumption is wrong for actors in one of the two basic transitive construction types: undergoer-oriented constructions. In these constructions, the actor argument does not appear to be freely omissible in contexts in which zero anaphora would be pragmatically warranted. This finding has implications for the controversial issue of whether undergoer-oriented constructions in Tagalog are syntactically transitive. Furthermore, it suggests that the most common kind of overt actor expressions found in this construction, pronominal clitics, may be analyzed as an early stage in the grammaticization of person marking

Null Subjects, Switch-reference, and Serialization in Jabêm and Numbami, p. 270-296
Joel Bradshaw

Analysis of null vs. overt subject NPs over successive clauses in texts from Numbami and Jabêm, two Austronesian languages of Papua New Guinea with rich subject-agreement morphology and rich verb serialization, reveals that optional null subjects normally signal subject retention across clauses while optional overt subjects signal switches. Comparison of these discourse-level switch-reference systems with clause-level verb serialization in the same languages, and with morphological switch-reference systems in neighboring Papuan languages and distant Austronesian languages reveals considerable functional overlap between canonical switch-reference systems and canonical verb-serialization systems, but with null subject NPs signaling similar types of continuity in both systems. Optional null subjecthood marks not just subject continuity across successive clauses at the discourse level, but also actor continuity, just as obligatory null subjecthood on noninitial verbs marks continuity of actors, patients, and other thematic roles across successive serialized verbs at the clause level.

Nhanta and Its Position Within Pama-Nyungan, p. 297-320
Juliette Blevins

This paper presents a preliminary attempt at establishing the genetic affiliation of Nhanta, an Aboriginal language of the central coast of Western Australia, by means of the comparative method, with additional notes on unique lexical features and suggestive cognates.

Notes on Pazeh Phonology and Morphology, p. 321-365
Robert Blust

Pazeh, once the heritage of a substantial language community in the Puli basin of central Taiwan, appears to be down to its last fluent speaker. Several linguists have worked on the language in recent years, all drawing on the same resource, but arriving at somewhat different transcriptions and analyses. This paper presents an analysis of the synchronic and historical phonology of Pazeh, and provides the most complete inventory of affixes described to date. Loanwords suggest a period of fairly intensive contact with Taokas, thereby implying that the Pazeh were on the western plain within the relatively recent past. The linguistic position of Pazeh remains obscure, because some apparent exclusively shared innovations point to a closer relationship with Saisiyat, while others point to a closer relationship with Thao and the core group of Western Plains languages (Taokas, Papora, Hoanya, Favorlang/ Babuza). Both in its phonology and its morphology, this little-studied language sheds light on aspects of Proto-Austronesian that are only feebly attested in the language family as a whole.

Linguistic Evidence for Primogeniture and Ranking in Proto-Oceanic Society, p. 366-375
Per Hage

The presence of a seniority distinction in Proto-Oceanic sibling terminology has been used as evidence for primogeniture and ranking in Proto-Oceanic society. Cross-culturally, however, sibling terminologies with the seniority distinction are very common, found in egalitarian as well as ranked societies. A stronger argument can be made. If Proto-Oceanic society was based on primogeniture and ranking, the term for elder sibling should be marked in Oceanic terminologies. There is both diachronic and synchronic evidence in support of this hypothesis.

Untangling Leti Infixation, p. 383-403
Juliette Blevins

Leti(nese) is an Austronesian language spoken on the island of Leti, just east of Timor. Descriptions of Leti include Jonker (1932) and van Engelenhoven (1995a, 1996). In this paper, I focus on Leti infixation, a little-studied aspect of Leti morphology. In Leti, infixation yields nouns from verb roots. There are eight distinct phonological forms of the nominalizing affix: the three infixes -ni-, -n-, -i-; the three prefixes ni-, i-, nia-; the parafix i- + -i-; and a zero allomorph. Leti nominalizing infixation poses two serious problems of analysis. The first challenge is to properly predict the distribution and shape of the eight allomorphs. A second problem is accounting for the fact that some of the sound patterns that result from infixation are exactly the opposite of those predicted by Optimality approaches like those of Prince and Smolensky (1993). In this paper I demonstrate how the eight allomorphs of the nominalizing affix can be derived from two basic allomorphs via phonological rules, with allomorph selection related to verb class. There appears to be no phonological motivation for the treatment of /ni-/ as a prefix that has been shifted to infixal position due to dominant phonological constraints. The positioning of /-ni-/ must be morphologically specified, either in terms of an infixation rule or some constraint-based equivalent.

Irregularity and Pronominal Markedness: Where Favoritism Sets In, p. 409-420
Mark Donohue

The principles associated with the ordering of two agreement markers on one verb are discussed in detail for Asmat. An argument is presented that some languages have agreement ordering systems that are simply irregular and cannot be modeled, short of being totally stipulative.


Wanderings of a Polynesian Root, p. 376-382
John Lynch

This paper traces a chain of borrowing between languages of the Loyalty Islands, mainland New Caledonia, and Southern Vanuatu. The words involved refer variously to the lesser yam or to the sweet potato. The original term involved is probably Polynesian in origin, though the Iaai language of the Loyalties appears to have added an indigenous initial morpheme to a compound term, which was then borrowed into other languages of the area (including its Polynesian neighbor Fagauvea). In each step of the chain we find either morphological reanalysis or semantic change, or sometimes both.


Occam and the Proto-Austronesian “Diphthongs,”, p. 404-408
Adrian Clynes

In Clynes 1997 (“On the Proto-Austronesian ‘diphthongs’,” Oceanic Linguistics 36:347-362), I presented arguments against the reconstruction of the sequences *-aw, *-ay, *-iw, *-uy as phonological diphthongs in Proto-Austronesian. Blust’s (1998) response (“In defense of Dempwolff: Austronesian diphthongs once again,” Oceanic Linguistics 37:354-362) confirms the fundamental weaknesses of the contrary view. In this reply, I confine myself to making two points: (1) Blust’s extended “defense of Dempwolff” at best fails to address the real issue, and (2) his proposed diphthong analysis has no explanatory power–in fact, it opens a can of worms.


Gunter Senft, ed. 1997. Referring to space: Studies in Austronesian and Papuan languages, p. 421-429
Reviewed by David Gil

Ger P. Reesink, ed. 1993. Topics in descriptive Austronesian linguistics, p. 429-433
Reviewed by Sander Adelaar

K. J. Hollyman. 1999. Études sur les langues du nord de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, p. 434-436
Reviewed by John Lynch

Josephs, Lewis S. 1997. Handbook of Palauan grammar, vol. 1, and Teacher’s manual, p. 436-440
Reviewed by Robert E. Gibson

Alessandro Duranti. 1994. From grammar to politics: Linguistic anthropology in a Western Samoan village, p. 440-445
Reviewed by Michael L. Forman


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