• Aspects of number in the Papuan outliers of East Nusantara

      Holton, Gary (2012-10-26)
      The East Nusantara region is home to two distinct groups of Papuan languages spoken far from the New Guinea mainland and surrounded by genetically unrelated Austronesian languages. While some have proposed a genetic relationship between the North Halmaheran (NH) languages and the Alor-Pantar (AP) languages (Capell 1944, Cowan 1957), most of the apparent similarities between these groups can be seen to be general typological features of the area (cf. Holton 2012). In this paper I compare the treatment of number in NH and AP languages. Examples are drawn primarily from my own field work with Tobelo (NH) and Western Pantar (AP), though related languages are cited where those two languages do not well-represent their respective families. Some aspects of number are indeed treated similarly in the two groups. For example, both NH and AP languages make extensive use of numeral classifiers, though the number of semantic categories delineated by these classifiers is much more restricted in AP languages. However, the two families carve up semantic space quite differently. WP bina (from a verb meaning ‘detached’) is used to classify fish, animals, and other non-human living things; while in Tobelo fish are counted with ngai and non-fish animals are counted with gahumu, a generic numeral classifier for three-dimensional objects (living and non-living). Other aspects of number are quite different in the two families. In AP languages number can be indicated on nouns with a plural word following the noun. The plural word designates a multitude, more than a few, rather than a non-singular referent. In WP plural words may co-occur with a co-referential pronoun indexing the number of the referent aname marung ging gateranang dia wang pidding gallang person people 3PL:AGT all go exist sebar look_for ‘all the people spread out to look for them’ In contrast, in NH languages nominal plural is not indicated except via pronominal indexing on the verb.
    • Reassessing the wider genetic affiliations of the Timor-Alor-Pantar languages

      Robinson, Laura C.; Holton, Gary (2012)
      The wider genealogical affiliations of the Timor-Alor-Pantar languages have been the subject of much speculation. These languages are surrounded by unrelated Austronesian languages, and attempts to locate related languages have focused on Papuan languages 800 km or more distant. In this paper we examine three hypotheses for genealogical relatedness, drawing on both pronominal and especially lexical evidence. We rely in particular on recent reconstructions of proto-Alor-Pantar vocabulary. Of the hypotheses evaluated here, we find the most striking similarities between TAP and the West Bomberai family. However, we conclude that the evidence currently available is insufficient to confirm a genealogical relationship with West Bomberai or any other family, and hence, TAP must be considered a family-level isolate.