A preliminary archaeology of tone in Raja Ampat

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At least three Austronesian languages spoken in the Raja Ampat archipelago have lexicaltone: Maˈya, Matbat, and Ambel. The objective of this paper is to examine data from these three languages, in order to determine how tone originated and developed. Using comparative data from monosyllabic cognates, I will show that, in the case of Maˈya and Matbat, tone was inherited from a single common ancestor; but that tone developed separately in Ambel. Possible scenarios for tonogenesis in proto-Maˈya-Matbat and protoAmbel will then be explored. I will conclude that, in the absence of evidence for spontaneous, independent tonogenesis, the most likely scenario was that proto-MaˈyaMatbat developed tone through contact with a now-extinct tonal Papuan substrate. ProtoAmbel also likely developed tone through contact; however, it is at present unclear whether this contact was also with a Papuan substrate, or with tonal proto-Maˈya-Matbat or one of its descendants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-37
JournalNUSA: linguistic studiesof languages in and around Indonesia
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2018


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