The 17 languages spoken in the Torres and Banks Islands of northern Vanuatu commonly encode spatial relations by means of geocentric (absolute) systems of directionals. These systems all have in common a single cardinal axis oriented northwestâ€“southeast, and at least a second topographical axis, contrasting inlandâ€“ seawards. While this general profile is typical of Oceanic, a detailed comparison of the 17 languages reveals their internal diversity, with as many as nine distinct geocentric systems represented in this small region. The aim of this study is to describe and analyse these nine systems, by examining the semantic connections between the space directionals that encode them. Adopting a canonical approach to cross-linguistic comparison, I show that each system is a variation between two equally simple canons, namely Gaua and Mwotlap. Finally, I reconstruct the historical development of these systems since Proto Oceanic: this reveals that Gaua is the most conservative of all systems, and Hiw the one which has been most affected by the accumulation of innovations.
|Title of host publication||The languages of Vanuatu: Unity and diversity|
|Editors||A Francois, S Lacrampe, M Franjieh, S Schnell|
|Place of Publication||Canberra|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|