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Population Genetics, Linguistics, and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific$
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Jonathan S. Friedlaender

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195300307

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300307.001.0001

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Recent Research on the Historical Relationships of the Papuan Languages, or, What Does Linguistics Say about the Prehistory of Melanesia?

Recent Research on the Historical Relationships of the Papuan Languages, or, What Does Linguistics Say about the Prehistory of Melanesia?

Chapter:
(p.36) 3 Recent Research on the Historical Relationships of the Papuan Languages, or, What Does Linguistics Say about the Prehistory of Melanesia?
Source:
Population Genetics, Linguistics, and Culture History in the Southwest Pacific
Author(s):

Andrew Pawley

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195300307.003.0003

There are over twenty separate language families within the more than 700 “Papuan” languages of New Guinea, East Nusa Tenggara, and Island Melanesia, none of which can be convincingly shown to be related. This degree of linguistic diversity is unsurpassed in any other region of comparable size in the world, and exceeds that of the whole of Africa. The classical Comparative Method does confirm the existence of a large Trans New Guinea language family within Papuan. It occupies the central mountain cordillera of New Guinea and some regions to the north and south. The creation of this large family is suggested to be associated with a farming-based population expansion there during the last 10,000 years. The major concentrations of unrelated Papuan language families occur in the Sepik/Ramu river regions, along the north coast to the west of the Sepik as far as the Bird's Head, and in Northern Island Melanesia. These concentrations of diverse families appear to be relics of ancient linguistic strata, the product of in situ diversification that began in each region in the late Pleistocene.

Keywords:   historical linguistics, Comparative Method, Trans New Guinea languages, Papuan languages, Northern Island Melanesia, Sepik/Ramu

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