Oceanic Linguistics, vol. 47, no. 2 (2008)


Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family
Juliette Blevins, 253

In a recent article, Blust (2007) presents a comprehensive summary of the etymology of Proto-Oceanic *mana ‘potent, effectual; supernatural power’, highlighting an ancient association between this word and the powerful forces of nature. Here I present new lexical data from Oceanic, Central Malayo-Polynesian, and South Halmahera–West New Guinea languages that support the reconstruction of Proto–Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian *mana ‘supernatural power, associated with spirits of the ancestors and the forces of nature’. Lexical comparisons from non-Austronesian languages of New Guinea suggest significant prehistoric contact between Austronesian and non-Austronesian speakers, and may support a connection between the
meaning of Proto–Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian *mana, and the
semantics of Proto–Western Malayo-Polynesian *mana(q) ‘inherit(ance)’.

A Reanalysis of Wuvulu Phonology
Robert Blust, 275

Wuvulu, a member of the Admiralty branch of the Oceanic subgroup of
Austronesian languages, has been reported in earlier publications as having as many as four allophones of the velar stop /k/, all of which appeared to be
in free variation. It is now clear that the allophony of /k/ involves both complementation and free variation. Surprisingly, the complementation of
velar obstruent allophones is phonetically conditioned, but follows no obvious phonetic principle. Wuvulu thus presents on the level of the allophone a challenge to phonological theory similar to that presented by sound changes that do not appear to be linguistically motivated.

Liquid Vocalization and Loss in Central Vanuatu
John Lynch, 294

A number of languages in central Vanuatu show merger of Proto-Oceanic *l
and *r, but also show a split in the merged phoneme. Although reflected as a
liquid in certain environments, especially before or adjacent to a high vowel
and also word-initially, *l and *r are also reflected as i, zero, or zero accompanied by fronting and raising of one of the adjacent vowels in the neighborhood of nonhigh vowels. The languages that show this context-sensitive vocalization and loss are geographically fairly contiguous, being spoken in southeast Malakula, Paama, and Epi, but belong to different genetic subgroups of Central Vanuatu. This paper attempts to explain these facts in their historical context.

Whence the Austronesian Indirect Possession Construction?
Mark Donohue and Antoinette Schapper, 316

Possession in some Austronesian languages shows levels of elaboration far in excess of cross-linguistic norms, while in others it is strikingly unelaborated. The appearance of alienable/inalienable contrasts has been assumed to result from contact with Papuan languages, and the existence of a paradigm of indirect possessive classifiers is cited as one of the pieces of evidence for the Oceanic subgroup, while acknowledging that indirect possession constructions can be found in Malayo-Polynesian languages further west. We argue that the appearance of possessive classifiers in these languages is also the result of contact with Papuan languages west of New Guinea.

The Interaction of Syntactic Structure and Postlexical Prosody in Saisiyat of Taiwan
Wen-yu Chiang and Fang-mei Chiang, 328

Postlexical prosodic phenomena in Austronesian languages have received relatively little attention, and consequently their patterns remain unknown. This paper aims to bridge this gap by investigating how syntactic structure interacts with postlexical prosodic phenomena in Saisiyat, an endangered language spoken in Taiwan. Several significant findings are made. First, Saisiyat sentential fundamental frequency (F0) patterns are based largely on its original lexical-level word F0 contour. The accent of a content word in sentences usually falls on its ultimate syllable, while trisyllabic or quadrisyllabic content words may sometimes undergo postlexical accentual modifications such as accent spreading, accent fronting, and accent adding. Function words, in contrast, play a role of interpolation as an intermediate site in bridging the F0 of their preceding and following syllables. Second, a yes-no question exhibits substantial prosodic modification by influencing its word preceding sentence-final interrogative particle aj, as compared with its counterpart in a declarative sentence. Third, agents in agent-focus sentences and patients in patient-focus sentences demonstrate higher values with respect to F0 peak, mean F0, and mean intensity. We provide typological explanations for these findings and explore the theoretical implications of postlexical prosodic patterns of Formosan languages in Taiwan.

Daniel Macdonald and the “Compromise Literary Dialect” in Efate, Central Vanuatu
Nick Thieberger and Chris Ballard, 365

Daniel Macdonald, a Presbyterian Church of Victoria missionary to the New
Hebrides from 1872 to 1905, developed a particularly strong interest in language. A prodigious author, he published widely and at length on the languages of Efate, and especially those of the Havannah Harbour area where he was stationed. But if his work is recalled today, it is as something of a curio, both for his insistence—archaic even for the times—on a link between ancient Semitic and Efate, and for his vigorous promotion of the use by the mission and its converts of a single, hybrid Efate language. This paper addresses and seeks to analyze what Macdonald himself called this “compromise literary dialect.” By identifying distinctive features of the three main varieties of Efate languages known today (Nguna or Nakanamanga, South Efate, and Lelepa), we aim to move beyond the lexical comparisons that have been the sole means of gauging relationships among these languages thus far. This enables us to begin the process of investigating the claim of Captain Rason, British Deputy Commissioner for the New Hebrides during Macdonald’s last years on Efate, that the “compromise literary dialect” was in fact a spoken dialect particular to the area of Havannah Harbour. We hope to reconsider and perhaps recuperate some of Macdonald’s writing as a rare if often distorted window on indigenous life and language at a pivotal moment in the transformation of Efate communities.

Subject Agreement in Marovo: Diachronic Explanations of Synchronic Conditions
Bethwyn Evans, 383

In many Oceanic languages, subject arguments are indexed by preverbal markers within the verb complex. In Marovo, an Oceanic language of the Solomon Islands, such subject markers show unusual synchronic behavior, in that their presence is conditioned by both morphosyntactic and pragmatic characteristics of the clause. Thus, in Marovo preverbal subject markers occur obligatorily with certain clause-initial discourse connective particles and with the negative particle. Subject markers also occur outside of these morphosyntactic environments, where their use contrasts with that of other expressions of the subject argument, including lexical or pronominal noun phrases or the lack of overt expression. Within this context of subject expression more generally, the occurrence of Marovo subject markers can be seen to be determined by the discourse role of the subject argument. It is argued here, through comparison of Marovo subject marking with that in closely related languages, that these synchronic conditions have diachronic explanations.

A Conservative Vowel Phoneme Inventory of Sumatra: The Case of Besemah
Bradley McDonnell, 409

In general, the Malayic languages of Sumatra show a vowel phoneme inventory that is either equal to or greater than that of the five phonemes in Standard Malay/Indonesian (not including the so-called pepet vowel); dialects of Jambi Malay, Palembang Malay, and Minangkabau all show five phonemes. However, from recent fieldwork in Besemah, a Malayic language in the highlands of southwest Sumatra, I shall describe an inventory that evinces the smallest number of vowel phonemes in any Malayic language of Sumatra described to date. That is, Besemah has three vowel phonemes. Nevertheless, the analysis of Besemah vowel phonemes is not straightforward; vowel lowering in closed syllables, vowel harmony, and raising of the word-final low central vowel all cloud the analysis of a three-vowel system. Furthermore, Besemah currently is experiencing intense pressure from other standard and nonstandard varieties of Malay/Indonesian, which demonstrates how intense contact involving diglossia and increasing bilingualism in these other varieties of Malay/Indonesian appear to be leading to an emergence of mid vowels in Besemah.


The Language of Lapita: Vanuatu and an Early Papuan Presence in the Pacific
Mark Donohue and Tim Denham, 433

The languages of Vanuatu are uniformly Austronesian, but have long been
described as “aberrant.” Blust (2005) points out a number of morphosyntactic features of the Vanuatu languages that might provide evidence for a Papuan element in their history. We add to that argument, presenting phonological evidence that links the languages of Vanuatu and New Caledonia with the non-Austronesian languages of New Guinea. Accepting that the earliest archaeological sites in Vanuatu are Lapita sites, we suggest that this implicates non-Austronesian speaking Melanesians in the earliest occupancy of the islands, calling into question assumptions that the Lapita expansion in the Pacific can be unproblematically associated with the expansion of Austronesian languages of the Oceanic subgroup.

Remote Melanesia: One History or Two? An Addendum to Donohue and Denham
Robert Blust, 445

Blust (2005) proposed that certain typological traits in the Austronesian languages of Vanuatu and New Caledonia—here called “Remote Melanesia”—
suggest Papuan contact influence in situ. Given the absence of any pre-Lapita archaeological tradition in this area, it now seems best to frame this hypothesis in terms of two closely spaced migrations that appear to be archaeologically indistinguishable. The first wave brought Austronesian speakers of southern Mongoloid physical type into Remote Oceania. The second wave brought Papuan speakers who had acquired the outrigger canoe complex, pottery, and some other elements of material culture from the incoming Austronesians in Near Oceania, but who remained biologically and culturally distinct from them in other ways. In time, the Papuan languages of Remote Melanesia were abandoned in favor of the more uniform and widely dispersed speech of late Proto-Oceanic speakers, but not before leaving traces of their former presence in the form of typological divergence toward a pattern that is more typical of Papuan languages than of Austronesian languages outside Melanesia.


Ruben Stoel. 2005. Focus in Manado Malay: Grammar, particles, and intonation.
Reviewed by Anastasia K. Riehl, 460

Fritz Schulze and Holger Warnk, eds. 2006. Insular Southeast Asia: Linguistic and cultural studies in honour of Bernd Nothofer.
Reviewed by Franz Mueller, 468

Elizabeth Zeitoun, ed. 2004. Fait de langues: Revue de linguistique no 23–24: Les langues austronésiennes.
Reviewed by Paul Geraghty, 470


Index of Languages in Volume 47, 474

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