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  • Article Accretion and Article Creation in Southern Oceanic
  • John Lynch

Very few Southern Oceanic languages retain the Proto-Oceanic articles as articles per se. Some have lost them altogether. In many others, they seem to have developed as proclitics or prefixes that are today only marginally productive. On the other hand, some of the languages in this subgroup have created new articles or article-like prefixes. I will argue that the loss of the articles, or the marginalizing of an erstwhile productive system of prefixes, may have been a quite recent phenomenon, and may thus represent parallel developments rather than shared innovations.

1. Introduction.

Proto-Oceanic seems to have had a number of articles. The following are mentioned in Lynch, Ross, and Crowley (to appear, chap. 4), apart from *dri, which is discussed in 2.2.2:

(1) *e, *i   personal (*e phrase-initial? *i phrase-internal?)
*qa     personal
*dri     feminine
*na, *a common nonhuman (no definitive allomorphic statement)
*ta      common nonhuman

Following Crowley (1985), I assume that other nouns-generally those with human nonpersonal or animate reference-were zero-marked in Proto-Oceanic.

Very few languages in Southern Oceania (Vanuatu and New Caledonia) retain these articles as free-standing articles. Many New Caledonian languages have a number of articles, but most of them seem to be innovations and are not inherited from POC. However, many of the other languages in this area-particularly in Vanuatu-have accreted one or more of these articles onto some nouns, with greater or lesser degrees of morphological fusion with the noun. Some examples are given in table 1.1 [End Page 224]

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Table 1.

Examples of Articles Accreted to Nouns

The languages of Southern (but apparently not North-Central) Vanuatu have a number of other initial accretions that occur with some regularity and seem to have some common semantic reference. These are discussed in some detail in section 3, but a few examples are given in table 2 with the Proto-Southern Vanuatu (PSV), Proto-Erromangan (PER), or Proto-Tanna (PTN) accretion and its meaning/function. (Data in the POC column include Proto-North-Central Vanuatu [PNCV] or PSV reconstructions.)

In this paper, I will suggest that the POC articles were inherited by Proto- Southern Oceanic (PSOC) as articles, but that they were either cliticized to the noun root in many languages, through a three-stage process discussed in section 5, or else were totally lost. A tentative family tree for the Southern Oceanic (SOC) subgroup, following Lynch (2000a), is given in figure 1, where broken lines indicate dialect networks and solid horizontal lines indicate language splits.

2. North and Central Vanuatu.

Very few languages of North and Central Vanuatu (NCV) have articles per se. In certain parts of the area, however, there is clear evidence of many nouns taking prefixes or initial accretions that are reflexes of the POC articles, but at the same time there seem to be a number of NCV languages that have no such noun-marking system, even residually: Crowley (1985:149) mentions V'ënen Taut (Big Nambas), Raga, and the languages of North and Southeast Ambrym as belonging in this category-and the languages of Epi probably do as well.

2.1 POC *na, *a.

Two languages that apparently do have free-standing articles are Tamambo (Malo) and Northeast Ambae. In Northeast Ambae (Hyslop 1998:119ff.), the definite article has the form a with nominative case (though this is falling into disuse, being replaced by zero) and na with accusative, as in (2).

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Table 2.

Other Initial Accretions

[End Page 225]

(2) NE AMBAE: A      langi mo here.
ART.NOM wind   REAL blow
'The wind blew.'
Da=mo      bulu na       vale-da.
1INCL.PL=REAL build  ART.ACC   house-our.INCL
'We build our house.'

In Tamambo, "the article na functions only as the portmanteau marker of a definite direct object. It precedes only common nouns" (Jauncey, to appear). There is no corresponding definite article used with subjects.

(3) TAMAMBO: Tamalohi na   lai   na   maji.
man       3PL take ART fish
'The men...


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