Oceanic Linguistics, vol. 49, no. 1 (2010)

The Grammar of hitting, breaking, and cutting in Kimaragang Dusun
Paul R. Kroeger, 1

The hit, break, and cut classes of verbs are grammatically relevant in Kimaragang, as in English. The relevance of such classes for determining how arguments are expressed suggests that the meaning of a verb is composed of (a) systematic components of meaning (the event template); and (b) idiosyncratic properties of the individual root. Assuming this approach to be essentially correct, I compare grammatical phenomena in Kimaragang that are sensitive to verb class membership with phenomena that are not class-sensitive. The tendency that emerges is that class-sensitive alternations do not seem to be affix-dependent, and are quite restricted in their ability to introduce new arguments into the argument structure.

Irrealis and Indefinites in Unua
Elizabeth Pearce, 21

This paper presents an account of the uses and functions of irrealis morphology on quantificational expressions in noun phrases in Unua, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu. I will show that, when present on such quantificational expressions, the irrealis morphology encodes two distinct semantic functions for the arguments so quantified. In the context of negation and/or of irrealis modality, the irrealis-marked argument identifies a low-scope existential. In contexts in which the irrealis-marked argument is the argument of an individual-level predicate, it identifies a high-scope universal.

The Greater North Borneo Hypothesis
Robert Blust, 44

Blust (1969) recognized a North Sarawak subgroup of Austronesian languages based on a single highly distinctive sound change, namely the split of Proto-Austronesian *b, *d/j, *z, and *g into a “plain” series of voiced obstruents, and another characterized as “phonetically complex.” This second series includes implosives, the first true voiced aspirates ever reported, and unexpected developments such as *b > (*bh) > s. A claim that the North Sarawak languages form part of a larger North Borneo group that includes the indigenous languages of Sabah has been in circulation since Blust (1974b), and was further elaborated in Blust (1998). Despite this claim, both the North Sarawak and North Borneo hypotheses have received scant attention in broader discussions of Austronesian subgrouping, which sometimes stress the absence of well-established large subgroups in western Indonesia (Ross 1995:72). A number of proposed lexical innovations suggest that North Borneo is part of a still larger group that incorporates Malayo-Chamic, Moken, Rejang, Sundanese, and all other languages of Borneo except the Barito family. This wider group, which notably excludes Madurese, Balinese, and Sasak, is called “Greater North Borneo.” Although it is not the primary focus of this paper, there is additional evidence that Greater North Borneo forms part of a more encompassing “Western Indonesian” subgroup that includes all Austronesian languages of mainland Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and the Greater Sunda Islands, but not the languages of Sulawesi.

Endangered Languages in Borneo: A Survey among the Iban and Murut (Lun Bawang) in Temburong, Brunei
Paolo Coluzzi, 119

This paper presents the results of a survey carried out in 2008 on language use and attitudes among the Iban and Murut (Lun Bawang) living in the Temburong district of Brunei Darussalam. The article opens with a brief outline of the research conducted so far, a sociolinguistic sketch of Brunei, and an introduction to Temburong and the Iban and Murut peoples, followed by an analysis of the data gathered. The central part of the article compares the results obtained from the younger and the older age groups in the two communities in order to determine the degree of language shift that is taking place toward Malay, the national language. The article closes with some general considerations, including the possible reasons for the situations observed.

The Fish and the Loom: Toward a United Semantic Reconstruction
Bernd Nothofer, 144

In his foundation-laying study of the early Austronesian lexicon, Dempwolff (1938) proposed the reconstructions *bali[dD]a ‘k.o. fish’ and *balija ‘weaver’s sword’. Although these formally similar lexical reconstructions show no obvious semantic connection, both are assignable to Proto-Austronesian *baRija
‘weaver’s sword’. This etymon became Proto–Malayo-Polynesian *balija, which is reconstructed with the meanings ‘weaver’s sword’ and ‘k.o. fish’, since reflexes of this form refer not only to a part of the loom, but also metaphorically to certain kinds of fish or, less frequently, kinds of plants, landscapes, or parts of constructions (musical instrument, house, etc.). The use of metaphorical extensions taking “cultural” objects as the model for representing “natural” objects is also discussed briefly.

A Preliminary Phonological History of the Sogeram Languages of Papua New Guinea
Don R. Daniels, 163

While scholars agree that Z’graggen’s lexicostatistical subgrouping of the South Adelbert languages is inaccurate in many respects, to date there has been no published subgrouping based on application of the comparative method. In this paper, I examine the history of a subset of eight South Adelbert languages, for which I propose the name Sogeram. I reconstruct the phonological system and 102 lexemes of Proto-Sogeram and argue, primarily on the basis of shared phonological innovations, for a tripartite split into West, Central, and East Sogeram branches, and for subsequent splits and developments within each branch. One innovation of potential theoretical interest is the loss of all word-initial consonants, regardless of place or manner of articulation, from polysyllabic words in West Sogeram.

Is Puyuma a Primary Branch of Austronesian?
Laurent Sagart, 194

Malcom Ross’s new theory of early Austronesian phylogeny is examined. I describe evidence that *-en served to mark verbs in undergoer voice, patient subject, in a language ancestral to Puyuma, as well as evidence that *<in> occurs in some verbs in undergoer voice, patient subject perfective, in one sociolect of Nanwang Puyuma. This evidence falsifies the claim that Puyuma reflects an early Austronesian stage at which *-en and *<in> had not yet been reinterpreted from nominalizers into voice markers. It also falsifies the phylogeny that takes that putative innovation as its central event. A hypothetical scenario is offered to account for the replacement of the *-en, *-an, and *Si- (or *Sa-) series of voice markers by the series now found in Puyuma independent verbs.

The Semantics, Pragmatics, and Evolution of Two Verbless Negative Constructions in Nyulnyul
William B. McGregor, 205

This investigation is a contribution to understudied areas of Australian Aboriginal linguistics and linguistic typology: the negation of existential and possessive clauses. It focuses on two structurally unusual negative verbless constructions in Nyulnyul (Nyulnyulan, Kimberley, Western Australia): a negative possessive indicating that a possessor lacks possessions of a specified type; and a negative existential indicating the absence of entities of the specified type at a particular location. Formal and semantic evidence is presented showing that these represent two distinct constructions. It is suggested that the negative existential emerged via reanalysis of a subtype of the negative possessive construction through a diachronic process that was not motivated by metaphorical or metonymic transfer, but by purely formal and pragmatic reinterpretations.

Passives and Resultatives in Marshallese
Heather Willson, 233

In the literature, Marshallese verbs are often categorized as perfective or as passive. However, sentences containing perfectives and passives share numerous morphological, syntactic, and semantic similarities. As a result, it is difficult to tell whether these sentences are perfective or passive. In this paper, I examine perfective and passive verbs and sentences and provide semantic and syntactic evidence supporting the existence of two verb categories. First, I show that while passive verbs denote events, so-called perfective verbs denote the resulting state of events and are thus resultatives rather than perfectives. Second, I show that passive verbs are syntactically different from resultatives in that they may cooccur with an agent phrase preceded by in. Lastly, I make a case for the existence of a passive construction in Marshallese and argue that in is the head of a Voice projection.

Southeast Solomonic: A View from Possessive Constructions
Frantisek Lichtenberk, 259

Investigation of possessive constructions in Southeast Solomonic languages offers additional evidence for the validity of the group and one of its primary subgroups, as argued by Pawley (1972). Evidence for Southeast Solomonic is counterevidence to Blust’s (1984) claim that the Cristobal-Malaitan and the Nuclear Micronesian languages form a group. The investigation also reveals a gradual reduction in the number of contrasts originally expressed by three subtypes of indirect possessive constructions in Proto-Oceanic, with complete neutralization of the contrasts in some languages.


Maranao and Madurese Revisited: A Follow-up
Jason William Lobel, 278

This squib briefly compares relevant portions of the phonology of Maranao, as described by Lobel and Riwarung (2009), with that of Madurese, as described by Cohn (1993), pointing out the striking similarities between these two languages, and the implications thereof.

A Note on the Higher Phylogeny of Austronesian
Bodo Winter, 282

This paper presents a critique of Sagart’s (2004) classification of the Formosan languages. Sagart proposes a subgrouping based on a set of innovations in the numeral systems of the Formosan languages. These innovations entail that the higher phylogeny of Austronesian is much more hierarchical than in other subgrouping accounts (e.g., Blust 1999, Ross 2009). According to Sagart, the innovated numeral forms can be derived from the complex numerals of the Formosan language Pazeh. A number of arguments are presented that call this subgrouping account into question. There are reasons to assume that the proposed numeral derivations are highly unlikely, and that similarities between the complex numerals of Pazeh and the innovated forms in other Formosan languages are due to chance. Furthermore, language contact might account for the pattern of numeral innovation. Finally, the migration pattern that is entailed by Sagart’s numeral innovations does not take into account possible back and forth migrations of the Formosan tribes.


Roger Green, 1932–2009: Linguistic Archaeologist
Andrew Pawley, 288


John and Marjo Brownie. 2007. Mussau grammar essentials.
Reviewed by Juliette Blevins, 298

Alexander Adelaar and Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, eds. 2005. The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar.
Reviewed by Robert Blust, 302

Robert Blust. 2009. The Austronesian languages.
Reviewed by Angela Terrill, 313

Neil Broad, with Eastern and Central Arrernte speakers (compilers). 2008. Eastern and Central Arrernte picture dictionary.
Reviewed by Nick Thieberger, 316