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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The New Guinea region is linguistically the most complex on earth: as many languages as in the Americas are spoken there. The typological diversity of Papuan languages is also great, though underestimated because of a tendency to survey data from languages of the Trans New Guinea family, the largest and most widespread. Its languages have provided a misleading picture of a ‘typical’ Papuan language, including the typological category of polysynthesis. Due to the generally low to moderately agglutinating structure of Trans New Guinea languages, the degree and range of polysynthesis in New Guinea has been under-recognized. By taking four parameters, head marking, verbal pronominal agreement affixes (polypersonalism), incorporation, and clause linkage by parataxis as diagnostic of polysynthesis, this chapter explores its range and degree across several Papuan language families. It argues that polysynthesis is a cluster of features a language can have to a greater or lesser degree.

Keywords: head marking, incorporation, parataxis, New Guinea, Papuan languages, typological diversity

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