This paper argues that the Äiwoo language of the Reef Islands shows what could be characterized as a symmetrical voice system with three voices: an actor voice, an undergoer voice, and a circumstantial voice. Although it differs from better-described symmetrical voice systems in lacking a syntactic pivot, the overall pattern of morphosyntactic alternations, as well as the discourse-pragmatic function, is essentially that of a symmetrical voice system. Moreover, the Äiwoo system combines the syntactic characteristics of a “Philippine-type” symmetrical voice system with the morphological characteristics of an “Indonesian-type” system in a way that appears to be unusual.
This analysis, while confirming the status of the Reefs-Santa Cruz language group to which Äiwoo belongs as Austronesian, raises doubts about their current classification as Oceanic, since the symmetrical voice system of Proto-Austronesian is usually assumed to have been lost by the time of Proto-Oceanic. Alternatively, the analysis may be taken to imply that current reconstructions of Proto-Oceanic morphosyntax must be revised. Overall, it adds to the complex picture of voice and transitivity-related systems in Austronesian languages, and to the challenges involved in understanding their historical relationships.