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  • Some Shared Developments in Pronouns in Languages of Southern Oceania
  • John Lynch and Françoise Ozanne-Rivierre

The languages of Vanuatu and New Caledonia manifest a number of innovations in the Proto-Oceanic pronominal system, the most interesting of these-and the most useful for subgrouping purposes-being in the nonsingular focal pronouns. We show that (1) they continue two changes begun in Proto-Eastern Oceanic-*t > *d in the first inclusive pronoun *kita, and the suffixing of the numerals *rua 'two' and *tolu 'three' to form dual and trial pronouns, and (2) they also continue the change *k > *g in the first exclusive and second person pronouns *kamami and *kam(i)u, which has been reconstructed for Proto- North-Central Vanuatu. However, the languages of Southern Vanuatu and New Caledonia apparently uniquely share two other innovations: (3) *kida > *gada (alternating with *gadi?) as the first person inclusive pronoun; and (4) restructuring of the system of number-marking, such that dual and trial are marked by greatly modified forms of the numerals *rua and *tolu, and a plural suffix deriving from an equally modified form of *pat(i) 'four' is added to the system. This paper documents these changes, suggests that they provide strong evidence for grouping Southern Vanuatu and New Caledonian languages into a single subgroup of Oceanic, and also suggests that changes (2) and (3) may have been part of a process-begun in Proto-Eastern Oceanic-by which deictics became fused with pronominal roots.

1. Introduction.

Despite their reputation for being somewhat "aberrant" (e.g., Grace 1981, Lynch 1999), the languages of Southern Vanuatu and New Caledonia are in fact rather more conservative than first appearances would suggest. For example, Proto-Southern Vanuatu (PSV) and Proto-New Caledonian (PNC) both retain Proto-Oceanic (POC) final consonants, and most New Caledonian languages retain POC *q (usually as k): comparisons like *tubuq 'swell up' > Nemi hiŋguk, Pwapwâ chiŋguk or *qenop 'sleep' > Nemi knonap, Kumak kãlãp,1 [End Page 33] illustrate both their aberrancy and their conservatism. Even though they are conservative in some ways, however, they have made numerous changes in both phonology and morphosyntax. In this paper, we investigate one such area of change-the pronominal system. In so doing, we provide evidence for linking the two families into a single subgroup, which we call Proto-Southern Melanesian (PSM), a subgroup first proposed by Lynch (to appear a).

In discussing the languages of this region, we assume the validity of the hypotheses that both Southern Vanuatu and New Caledonian form closed subgroups. The former is clearly established by Lynch (1978a, to appear b), the latter by, inter alia, Haudricourt (1971), Geraghty (1989), and Ozanne-Rivierre (1992). We assume the internal subgrouping of each family as shown in (1):


Each of these subgrouping hypotheses is supported by a number of shared innovations, the more interesting of which we list briefly below:

(2) SOUTHERN VANUATU (Lynch to appear b)
Merger of POC *ñ and *y as PSV *y
Frequent velarization of POC *n as PSV *ŋ adjacent to POC *q
The ordered sequence of the Low Vowel Dissimilation (POC *a >
  PSV *ə before *Ca), Medial Vowel Deletion, Article Reduction,
  and Final Vowel Deletion rules
Development of a PLACE possessive marker marking location
Accreted initial vowel on verbs, and article on common nouns
Development of POC *ma 'and' as an echo-subject proclitic *m=

  1. a. ERROMANGO:

    Apparent merger of PSV *a and *o as Proto-Erromangan *a
    PSV *in replaced by Proto-Erromangan *iyi '3SG focal pronoun'
    Loss of the PSV dual/trial/plural distinction in pronouns
    Loss of the FOOD, DRINK, and PLACE possessive markers
    Development of root modification in verbs

  2. b. TANNA:

    Merger of POC *l, *r, and, where retained, *R as Proto-Tanna *r
    Development of a PLANT possessive marker
    Use of the echo-subject marker *m= to mark a verb whose subject
      is the same as some nonsubject NP in the previous clause

  3. c. ANEJO :

    POC *p is reflected as h nonfinally and zero finally
    Merger of POC *n and *ŋ before *i and *e as ñ
    Palatalization of POC...