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  • Reconstructing Proto-Oceanic Stress
  • John Lynch
Abstract

Proto-Oceanic (POC) probably did not have a vowel length contrast. Little work has been done on stress in POC, "but phonologically conservative languages generally agree in displaying primary stress on the penultimate syllable and secondary stress on every second syllable preceding the penultimate, and this was probably the POC pattern" (Ross 1998:18), a view held by most Oceanists. Recent research within Oceanic, however, suggests that patterns of regular penultimate-syllable stress are not as widespread throughout the family as was initially thought, and that certain interstage protolanguages need to be reconstructed with something other than regular penultimate-syllable stress and something other than the pattern exhibited by their daughter languages. By investigating stress patterns in a wide range of Oceanic languages, I show (i) that POC stress was probably assigned on the basis of moraic rather than syllabic trochees, with word-final closed syllables being treated as "heavy" and thus receiving primary stress, and (ii) that other modern patterns developed quite independently in a number of languages.

1. Introduction.

Gallons of ink have been expended on reconstructing the phonemic system of Proto-Oceanic (POC) and tracing the development of that system from Proto-Austronesian (PAN), on whose phonemic system even more gallons have been used. But hardly a drop has there been on the accent or stress system of POC. Indeed, Ross (1998:18) states that "POC stress ... remains uninvestigated."1

This paper represents a preliminary investigation into the POC stress assignment regime and developments in some of its daughter languages. I will show that the fact that many Oceanic languages exhibit a penultimate-syllable stress system is not due to inheritance from a similar POC system, but rather to changes from an original system in which final closed syllables received primary stress. I will also try to explain how the different stress systems found in Oceanic languages may have developed from this proto-system. [End Page 53]

2. Background.

Here I briefly outline the internal subgrouping of the Oceanic subgroup that I assume for this paper, and also summarize what has been said about Proto-Austronesian and Proto-Oceanic stress/accent.2

2.1 Oceanic Subgrouping.

The internal subgrouping of Oceanic is still under investigation. It is possible that there are as few as three first-order subgroups (see Lynch, Ross, and Crowley forthcoming):

  1. 1. Admiralties, a relatively small grouping of about thirty languages spoken on the island of Manus and adjacent offshore islands in the Admiralty Archipelago (Papua New Guinea). There are two subgroups:

    1. a. Western Admiralty, with just four languages (one now extinct).

    2. b. Eastern Admiralty, comprising the remaining languages.

  2. 2. Western Oceanic, about 200 languages in all, belonging to a number of subgroups located on the New Guinea mainland, New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, and the western part of Solomon Islands. Its first-order subgroups are:

    1. a. Sarmi/Jayapura, whose member languages are spoken in northeast Irian Jaya near the border with Papua New Guinea. (This subgroup may in fact turn out to be a member of the North New Guinea subgroup.)

    2. b. North New Guinea, located mainly along the north coast of Papua New Guinea and neighboring offshore islands.

    3. c. Papuan Tip, in the east and south of mainland Papua New Guinea and offshore islands.

    4. d. Meso-Melanesian, in New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville, and the western Solomons.

  3. 3. Central-Eastern Oceanic. This is the least well defined of the subgroups, and it may in fact turn out that one or more of the five groups listed below is actually a first-order subgroup of Oceanic. The current view is that this subgroup has about 220 languages in all, covering the remainder of the Oceanic territory in the central and eastern Pacific, as follows:

    1. a. Southeast Solomons.

    2. b. Utupua-Vanikoro, located on the islands of Utupua and Vanikoro in the far southeast of Solomon Islands.

    3. c. Southern Oceanic, comprising the languages of Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

    4. d. Central Pacific, consisting of the languages of Fiji, Rotuma, and Polynesia (including Polynesian Outliers spoken in Melanesia and Micronesia).

    5. e. Micronesian. [End Page 54]

In addition, one or both...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9421
Print ISSN
0029-8115
Pages
pp. 53-82
Launched on MUSE
2000-06-01
Open Access
No
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