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Austronesian and Papuan Linguistics


Admission requirements

While the course is open for students without linguistic background, knowledge of basic linguistic terminology is assumed, and some background in historical linguistics and linguistic typology is advantageous. If you have no linguistic background, please contact the lecturer for prerequisite readings.


Course subject: Overview of recent developments in Austronesian and Papuan linguistics.
Together, the Austronesian (~1200 languages) and Papuan (~800 languages) represent about a third of the world’s languages. While the Austronesian family is an established genealogical unit, the term Papuan is generally used as a cover term for numerous language groups spoken on New Guinea and surroundings that are not Austronesian.
We consider the Austronesian and Papuan languages from two distinct angles:
(a) Genealogical: What is the evidence for family classifications? What are the assumptions and procedures used for genetic classification in general, and how do they apply to the languages of this region?
(b) Typological: What are typical structural features of Austronesian languages? How do they compare to typical features of Papuan languages, if such exist?
By relating the genealogical and typological observations we can observe that structural characteristics of languages have diffused across language family boundaries. The study of such areal distributions of structural characteristics helps to reconstruct possible scenario’s of ancient and more recent contact between groups of speakers. The area we focus on is Eastern Indonesia, a linguistically rich zone where Austronesian and Papuan languages have been in contact for millennia.
Teaching materials used: Articles from journals and chapters from volumes (to be distributed)

Course objectives

  1. To become aware of the vast number and variety of Austronesian and Papuan languages

  2. To understand the typological and genetic variety found in the Austronesian family and in Papuan language groups.

  3. To evaluate various types of evidence for the typological characterisation and historical reconstruction of particular groups of Austronesian and Papuan languagaes.

  4. To present a historical and/or typological comparison of one or more features found in languages of the area.


The timetable will be available on Blackboard at least one week before the course starts.

Mode of instruction

The course combines lectures and student presentations about selected topics.

Course Load

Time spent on attending lectures: 28 hours
Time for studying the compulsory literature: 90 hours
Time to prepare the two presentations: 40 hours
Time to write a paper (including reading/research): 122 hours

Assessment method

Oral presentations of 2 research assignments during the course: each 25%
A written paper, which may be based on one of the oral presentations: 50%
The final mark is established by determining the weighted average of the oral presentations and the written paper.
Resit: students who fail the course may resit the written paper. The oral presentations cannot be re-taken.


Blackboard will be used to distribute the readings, to provide them with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

To be announced at the beginning of the course. Readings will be made available through Blackboard.


Students should register through uSis. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15 (first semester) or January 15 (second semester). All other students should contact the coordinator of studies

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:


Master Linguistics student administration, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;


All other information.