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From Austronesian Voice to Oceanic Transitivity: Äiwoo as the “Missing Link”

From: Oceanic Linguistics
Volume 52, Number 1, June 2013
pp. 106-124 | 10.1353/ol.2013.0005



This paper examines three properties of the Reefs-Santa Cruz language Äiwoo that are unusual for an Oceanic language—a distinction between prefixal marking of subjects for intransitive verbs and suffixal marking for transitive verbs, OVA word order in clauses that are morphologically and syntactically transitive, and an ergatively structured verb phrase in OVA clauses—and one that is frequent in Oceanic languages, namely the existence of clauses that appear to be morphologically intransitive but syntactically transitive (socalled “transitive discord” in the terminology of Margetts). I argue that all these properties are straightforwardly explained by the assumption that the Äiwoo system derives from a western Austronesian-style symmetrical voice system where two basic changes have taken place: the loss of the contrast between an actor voice and an undergoer voice, and the accretion of subject pronouns as bound person markers on verbs. Given that Äiwoo is an Oceanic language, this suggests that a voice system must have persisted later into the development of Oceanic than has previously been assumed.

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