Oceanic Linguistics, vol. 51, no. 1 (2012)


Investigating Motion Events in Austronesian Languages
D. Victoria Rau, Chun-Chieh Wang, and Hui-Huan Ann Chang, 1

S. Huang and M. Tanangkingsing found that six Western Austronesian languages share the common property of giving greater attention to path information than to manner. They proposed that Proto-Austronesian was probably path-salient. In order to ascertain the validity of their hypothesis, this study compares the motion events in a Yami Frog story with six Western Austronesian languages, followed by a research design using VARBRUL (a logistic regression analysis program) to analyze the factors that account for the variation between path and manner verbs in 20 Yami texts. In the process, a clear set of operational definitions is proposed. Our quantitative analysis indicates that Yami is a path-salient language in that (i) path verbs are more frequent than manner verbs, (ii) path verbs favor co-occurrence of figure and ground even more than manner verbs, and (iii) manner is usually not expressed after the path verb. If it is expressed, it is coded as a serial verb construction.

Origins of Palauan Intrusive Velar Nasals
Juliette Blevins and Daniel Kaufman, 18

Recent detailed study of the historical phonology of Palauan reveals a nonetymological velar nasal at the beginning of inherited vowel-initial words, while synchronic studies of the language report final velar nasals in loans from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Blust argues that the initial velar nasal is not due to regular sound change, and also contests a potential morphological origin for the accreted segment. Reid examines Philippine evidence, and suggests that the source of the Palauan initial velar nasal is the linker *ŋa, though little evidence internal to Palauan is discussed. Here we demonstrate that, on the basis of internal evidence, a morphological source for both initial and final velar nasals is evident in Palauan, though internal and comparative evidence points to an ancient formative *ŋa ‘emphatic’ with distinct distribution and semantics from the well-studied Austronesian linker.

Complaints in Kewa Letters
Karl J. Franklin and Karol J. Hardin, 33

In this study, we examine 63 letters written in West Kewa by a Papua New Guinean man (called Yombo throughout) to Karl Franklin and his family over a period of fifteen years. We first discuss the ways complaints have been handled by various authors. We then provide a brief background to the Kewa culture before analyzing the pragmatic context of speech acts that disclose various complaints in a sampling of the letters. The classification and modification of the complaints have benefitted in particular from the theories of A. Trosborg, and also J. House and G. Kasper. We relate the complaints to various cultural scenarios and scripts in order to show how Yombo complains and what he is complaining about. He often avoids direct confrontation and mitigates the offense. The study also demonstrates how a newly literate man uses various styles and features from his language (West Kewa) to discuss the events in his life and to complain about some of them.

The Syntax of the Tahitian Actor Emphatic Construction
Eric Potsdam and Maria Polinsky, 58

This paper presents the actor emphatic construction (AE) in Tahitian and offers an initial investigation of its basic syntactic structure. The AE is a construction found across the Eastern Polynesian languages; it is typically used to focus the agent (subject) of a transitive verb. In Tahitian, the AE appears in three different variants. In all of them, the focused agent occurs clause-initially in a prepositional phrase headed by . The three variants differ in their realization of the theme. In the first two, the theme, with or without the accusative case marker, appears after the transitive verb, which follows the agent phrase. In a third variant, the theme is preverbal, immediately following the focused agent. Our investigation shows the following: (1) the Tahitian AE is a biclausal structure; (2) the initial -phrase serves as the matrix predicate and the focused agent is part of that predicate; (3) the verb following it is part of a dependent clause; and (4) the theme is a direct object when it is postverbal, but it is the matrix subject when it is preverbal. We offer some preliminary considerations concerning the interpretation of the AE in Tahitian and its fine syntactic structure and compare our analysis to analyses of the better-studied Māori AE.

The Historical Relations of the Papuan Languages of Alor and Pantar
Gary Holton, Marian Klamer, František Kratochvíl, Laura C. Robinson, and Antoinette Schapper, 86

The historical relations of the Papuan languages scattered across the islands of the Alor archipelago, Timor, and Kisar in southeast Indonesia have remained largely conjectural. This paper makes a first step toward demonstrating that the languages of Alor and Pantar form a single genealogical group. Applying the comparative method to primary lexical data from twelve languages sampled across the islands of the Alor-Pantar archipelago, we use form-meaning pairings in basic cognate sets to establish regular sound correspondences that support the view that these languages are genetically related. We reconstruct 97 Proto‒Alor-Pantar vocabulary items and propose an internal subgrouping based on shared innovations. Finally, we compare Alor-Pantar with Papuan languages of Timor and with Trans-New Guinea languages, concluding that there is no lexical evidence supporting the inclusion of Alor-Pantar languages in the Trans-New Guinea family.

Malagasy Phonological History and Bantu Influence
Alexander Adelaar, 123

In this paper I give a critical assessment of John Wolff’s interpretation of the phonological history of Malagasy as it appears in his recent book on Proto-Austronesian phonology. The various aspects of Wolff’s approach that I deal with include the development of final open syllables, the spirantization and fricativization of stops and semivowels, the reduction of *-ŋk- clusters, and Wolff’s interpretation of the development of Proto-Austronesian *s (or *c in Wolff’s notation). I also discuss the impact of Bantu languages on the development of Malagasy after the migration of its speakers to East Africa. This impact was a major one, although it is seriously underestimated in Wolff’s perspective.

Conjunctive Reduction Revisited: Evidence from Mayrinax Atayal and Southern Paiwan
Wei-Tien Dylan Tsai and Chun-Ming Wu, 160

This paper is a follow-up investigation of conjunctive reduction in two Formosan languages, Mayrinax Atayal and Southern Paiwan. We examine phenomena surrounding the two-way grammaticalization of linkers—that is, adverbialization and complementation—and show how it works to shape the sentence structure of the two languages. More specifically, it is argued that the Mayrinax linker ‘i’ licenses modal/evaluative construals on the complementizer layer, and control/middle construals on the lexical layer. In addition, Southern Paiwan evidences a third type of linker construals on the inflectional layer, where frequency/repetitive/locative expressions are introduced, and permutation around the linker a is allowed. All in all, our comparative study of Mayrinax and Squliq Atayal confirms that even in a language without overtly grammaticalized linkers, conjunctive reduction can still be in action, albeit in its final stage of development.

Interrogative Verbs in Kavalan and Amis
Dong-Yi Lin, 182

The present paper investigates the grammatical properties of interrogative verbs in Kavalan and Amis, two Formosan languages. The interrogative words that denote ‘do what’, ‘what happen’, ‘do how’, ‘(put/take) where’, and ‘(do) how many/much’ in the two languages share the same morphosyntactic distribution as verbs. Their transitivity is correlated with the voice markers affixed to them. The affixation of the agent voice marker to an interrogative root forms an intransitive verb, whereas an interrogative root with the patient voice marker is interpreted as a transitive verb. Some interrogative verbs can occur in a verb sequencing construction where they precede a lexical verb. It is argued that the two verbs in this construction do not form a coordinate structure, but exhibit properties of subordination with the interrogative verb as the main verb. Finally, there are semantic restrictions on the use of interrogative verbs. Kavalan tanian and Amis icuwa ‘(put) where’ show verbal properties only when they question the location of a theme argument in a ditransitive event, but not the location where an event takes place. When Kavalan tani and Amis pina/hakuwa ‘(do) how many/much’ are used as verbs, the question always implies that the quantity of the questioned argument will or might change eventually.

Hawu Vowel Metathesis
Robert Blust, 207

Hawu, an Austronesian language spoken in the Lesser Sunda islands of Indonesia, shows a historical change in which the vowels of adjacent syllables appear to have metathesized. So far as is known, this is the first case of regular vowel metathesis ever reported. Apart from its regularity, what is most striking about this innovation is that it occurred only if V1 was higher (less sonorous) than V2, and if the vowels were separated by a consonant. A fourth noteworthy feature is that the left-dislocated vowel invariably weakened to schwa, whereas similar vowels that remain in situ in either syllable were unaffected. No clear motivation for this change is apparent, and attempts to explain it as something other than direct segmental transposition have so far not met with success.

The Concept ‘Return’ as a Source of Different Developments in Oceanic Languages
Claire Moyse-Faurie, 234

Based on earlier work by Frank Lichtenberk and Bernhard Wälchli, where different paths of grammaticalization are identified in a small sample of Oceanic languages (Lichtenberk) and a general sample of 100 languages (Wälchli), taking the verb ‘return’ as a starting point and leading to targets like reditive directionals (‘back’), repetition markers (‘again’), prohibitive markers, additive markers (‘also’, ‘too’, ‘as well’), and reflexive markers, this article aims to make some further contributions to this topic. Looking at a larger set of Oceanic languages, I found several other paths of grammaticalization for ‘return’/‘again’; that is, paths leading to nominal determiners (‘another’), to contrastive or emphatic particles (‘indeed’, ‘exactly’), to inclusive adverbial intensifiers (‘-self’), to reciprocal markers, to prepositions (‘until’) or conjunctions (‘then’), to exclamative markers, and even to tense-aspect markers. I first give various examples illustrating these developments, and then propose a diagram—as a first step toward developing a semantic map—summarizing and motivating these connections. Finally, I examine the distribution of the relevant uses in Oceanic languages, as well as possible and impossible coexistence of specific meanings in these languages.


The Marsupials Strike Back: A Reply to Schapper (2011)
Robert Blust, 261

In a recent contribution to this journal, Antoinette Schapper has questioned the validity of two reconstructed marsupial terms that have been used as key pieces of evidence for a Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of Austronesian languages. While she is correct in stating that reflexes of *mans(aə)r have been glossed erroneously as ‘bandicoot’ rather than ‘cuscus’ in a number of languages in eastern Indonesia, her corrections leave the subgrouping argument intact. Schapper’s dismissal of Central Malayo-Polynesian evidence for *kandoRa is arbitrary, and her gloss of *mans(aə)r as ‘cuscus’ is no less problematic than the gloss ‘bandicoot’ proposed by Blust. These cognate sets for marsupials that span much of eastern Indonesia and the western Pacific thus remain as powerful evidence that the Austronesian languages of this region shared a period of common development apart from all other members of this family.


Loren Billings and Nelleke Goudswaard, eds. 2010. Piakandatu ami Dr. Howard P. McKaughan.
R. David Zorc, 278

Thomas John Hudak. 2010. William J. Gedney’s Concise Saek‒English, English‒Saek lexicon.
Jerold A. Edmondson, 284


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