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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.


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.

Course objectives

  1. To become familiar with the evidence used for the genealogical classification of Austronesian and Papuan languages.
    1. To be able to evaluate how various types of evidence can be used to study language history.
    2. To understand how historical reconstruction is done either by carrying out a basic reconstruction task using primary data from the area, or by studying (an) article(s) reporting on such work.
    3. To understand the typological variety found in the Austronesian family and Papuan language groups.
    4. To present a historical and typological comparison of one or more features found in languages of the area.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load: 10 ec, 280 hours.

  • 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 grade consists of weighted average of the above components

Resit: students who fail the course may resit the exam and/or course paper.


Course materials will be distributed using Blackboard

Reading list

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


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch

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. All other students should contact the “coordinator of studies”:

Students other than MA Linguistics need permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Please contact Student administration van Eyckhof for questions.