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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.
Austronesian languages are spoken in Taiwan, Island SE Asia, and Oceania. Papuan languages are spoken in New Guinea and surroundings. 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 families that are not Austronesian.
We consider the Austronesian and Papuan languages from three 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? (c) Contact: In regions where speakers of Austronesian and Papuan languages are in contact, how do/did their languages influence each other? How can we use the linguistic traces left by earlier contacts to reconstruct elements of the history of speaker groups?
By relating observations on genealogy, typology and contact we can study areal distributions of lexical and structural characteristics to reconstruct possible migrations and scenario’s of ancient and more recent contact between groups of speakers. The area we focus on in this course is Eastern Indonesia, a linguistically very diverse 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.
  2. To be able to evaluate how various types of evidence can be used to study language history.
  3. 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.
  4. To understand the typological variety found in the Austronesian family and Papuan language groups.
  5. To present a historical and typological comparison of one or more features found in languages of the area in oral and/or written form.


The timetable is available on the MA Linguistics website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Total course load: 10 ec, 280 hours

  • Lectures: 28 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 90 hours

  • Assignment(s) (presentations): 40 hours

  • Paper (including reading and research): 122 hours

Assessment method

Oral presentations of 2 research assignments during the course: each 25%
A course paper, to be handed in after the end of the course, 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 course paper.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Course programme

  • Distribution of course materials and readings

  • Distribution of assignments

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 on the website.

**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