The Language of Lapita: Vanuatu and an early Papuan Presence in the Pacific

Mark Donohue, Tim Denham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-376
    JournalOceanic Linguistics
    Volume47
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

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