3. East Nusantara as a linguistic area

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In this paper we consider how Eastern Indonesia may be treated as a linguistic area. We propose five defining linguistic features and we discuss their occurrence in some 40 Austronesian (AN) and non-Austronesian (NAN) languages of South Sulawesi, Flores, Sumba, Timor, Alor and Pantar, the Moluccas, Halmahera, the Bird’s Head, and the Cenderawasih Bay. We propose that of these five areal features, three are Papuan features that have diffused into the Austronesian languages, while two Austronesian features have diffused into the Papuan languages. These Papuan features are: (1) possessor-possessum order in adnominal possession, (2) overt marking of the distinction alienable vs. inalienable possession, and (3) clause-final negation. While these features are not generally found in Austronesian, we will demonstrate that they occur in many Austronesian languages in East Nusantara and around the Bird’s Head, as well as in the Papuan languages of this area. The Austronesian features are: (4) SVO as primary constituent order, and (5) an inclusive/exclusive opposition in the pronominal paradigm. These features are not found in Papuan languages in general, yet they are attested in both the Papuan and the Austronesian languages of East Nusantara, as we will demonstrate. Although the features do not all converge on the same isoglosses, together they define a linguistic area: East Nusantara. This area has Halmahera and the Bird’s Head as its core, and radiates outwards to include the Moluccas and Alor/Pantar first, followed by the island Timor.


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