The Apicolabial Shift in Nese

Nese is one of a dozen or so languages/dialects spoken in the south Santo—north Malakula area of Vanuatu that reflect original simple bilabials before nonround vowels as apicolabials. In some of these languages, the apicolabials subsequently became dentals/alveolars. Nese is unusual, however, in the inconsistency of its reflexes: the most frequent reflex of Proto-Oceanic *b in this environment is indeed the apicolabial stop b, but the most common reflex of *m is alveolar n, while with *p both apicolabial v and labiodental v occur with roughly equal frequency. This paper attempts to explain this variation, and also attempts to explain why *p behaved far less consistently across a range of languages in this area than did *b and *m.