Papuan-Austronesian language contact: Alorese from an areal perspective

Klamer, Marian
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University of Hawai'i Press
This paper compares the grammar and lexicon of Alorese, an Austronesian language spoken in eastern Indonesia, with its closest genealogical relative, Lamaholot, spoken on east Flores, as well as with its geographical neighbours, the Papuan languages of Pantar. It focusses on the question how Alorese came to have the grammar and lexicon it has today. It is shown that Alorese and Lamaholot share a number of syntactic features which signal Papuan influences that must have been part of Proto-Lamaholot, suggesting (prehistoric) Papuan presence in the Lamaholot homeland in east Flores/Solor/Adonara/ Lembata. The data indicate that Proto-Lamaholot had a rich morphology, which was completely shed by Alorese after it split from Lamaholot. At the same time, lexical congruence between Alorese and its current Papuan neighbours is limited, and syntactic congruence virtually absent. Combining the comparative linguistic data with what little is known about the history of the Alorese, I propose a scenario whereby Lamaholot was acquired as non-native language by spouses from different Papuan clans who were brought into the Lamaholot communities that settled on the coast of Pantar at least 600 years ago. Their morphologically simplified language was transferred to their children. The history of Alorese as reconstructed here suggests that at different time depths, different language contact situations had different outcomes: prehistoric contact between Papuan and Proto-Lamaholot in the Flores area resulted in a complexification of Proto-Lamaholot, while post-migration contact resulted in simplification. In both cases, the contact was intense, but the prehistoric contact with Papuan in the Flores area must have been long-term and involve pre-adolescents, while the post-migration contact was probably of shorter duration and involved post-adolescent learners.
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