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Reviewed by:
  • Topics in Oceanic morphosyntax
  • Robert Early
Claire Moyse-Faurie and Joachim Sabel, eds. 2011. Topics in Oceanic morphosyntax. Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 239, vi + 344 pp. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. ISBN 978-3-11-025989-6 (hardbound), e-ISBN 978-3-22-025991-9 (e-book), $140.00 or €99.95 each; or $210.00 or €149.95 for both hardbound and e-book.

This volume contains an introduction and nine papers, providing 340 pages of useful advances in the description and analysis of Oceanic languages, prepared by established Oceanic scholars. Each paper has its own bibliography, and the volume as a whole has two pages of subject index and two pages of language index (113 languages or language subgroups are mentioned). Some papers have their own list of abbreviations, others do not.

The editors arrange the papers into three topic-based sections: sentential syntax and sentence types; nominal morphosyntax; and historical developments. Some papers cover issues in Oceanic (three papers) and Polynesian (two papers), and others deal with specific Polynesian languages (two papers: Niuean and Tahitian) or other non-Polynesian Oceanic languages (two papers: Unua of Vanuatu [Remote Oceanic, North-Central Vanuatu] and Saliba of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea [Western Oceanic, Papuan Tip]). The interaction of language with topic is shown in table 1, which includes the author names and titles of all papers.

This might appear to be a somewhat sporadic, or at least eclectic, collection, but the papers have come together because they mostly represent the research topics that their authors chose to present at COOL7 (Seventh Conference on Oceanic Linguistics) in Nouméa, New Caledonia in July, 2007, and the title of the collection is probably the best that could be found to provide some kind of overarching unity or schema for the compilation. However, since the publication of formal volumes of conference proceedings seems to have fallen from favor with the organizers of the COOL series, or with publishers, or with university authorities who rank the publication outputs of their academic staff, the editors of this volume are to be thanked for providing an opportunity for these authors to present their papers to a wider audience.

The editors are similarly to be congratulated for the comprehensive introduction provided to the volume. All papers are placed in the context of earlier typological overviews and studies of Oceanic languages, and general theoretical frameworks. For each paper, one or two pages of discussion first provides this theoretical and typological orientation, and [End Page 602] then the paper's major claims and findings are summarized. The introduction concludes with a single paragraph summary of each paper ordered by the authors' surnames.

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Table 1.

Interaction of Language with Topic

There is a slight drawback to the comprehensiveness of the introduction, however, as it results in a certain level of repetitiveness. Each paper's key conclusions are detailed at least four times: first, in the context of the introductory theoretical discussion; second, in the paper summaries given at the end of the introduction; and then again in the introductions and conclusions of the papers themselves. The second of these, the summaries, are probably the authors' own paper abstracts, as suggested by the use of a "we" (15) that escaped being edited out.

This organization also results in some apparent contradictions between the editors and the papers they are introducing. For example, Margetts's abstract (15) states that the variation in order of stems (V-N and N-V) found in Saliba noun incorporations is unusual, and "has not been described for other languages of the Papuan Tip cluster or the wider Oceanic language group." However, the editors have already posited a counter to this, by indicating (9) that this possibility "is also attested in Polynesian languages such as Samoan and East Futunan." There are also divergent claims that are reiterated by the editors in the context of discussing different papers, but are not resolved. For example, in the discussion of his own paper, Sabel claims that "Kiribati and Fijian are configurational free word order languages" (5), but on the next page, in discussing another paper, the view that...


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