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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Historical linguistics is a key witness in reconstructing the prehistory of Oceania. The extraordinary number of Papuan (non-Austronesian) language families in Near Oceania is consistent with archaeological evidence that this region was settled over 40,000 years ago. One family, Trans New Guinea, is exceptional in its wide distribution, suggesting that its expansion was underpinned by technological advances. Most Austronesian languages of Oceania fall into a single branch of the family, Oceanic, indicating that they stem from a bottleneck in the Austronesian expansion into the southwest Pacific, associated with the formation of Proto Oceanic (POc). The final stages of this formative period almost certainly took place in the Bismarck Archipelago and the subsequent rapid dispersal of Oceanic languages across the southwest Pacific can be connected with the region's colonization by bearers of the Lapita archaeological culture. The reconstructed lexicon of POc provides information about early Lapita material culture and social organization.

Keywords: Austronesian, Papuan language, Oceanic languages, dispersal, Lapita, historical linguistics

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