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Linguistic Typology

Ed. by Plank, Frans

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A typological overview of Mwotlap, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu

Alexandre François1


Correspondence address: Laboratoire des Langues et Civilisations à Tradition Orale, CNRS, 7 rue Guy Môquet, 94801 Villejuif, France; e-mail:

Citation Information: Linguistic Typology. Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages 115–146, ISSN (Online) 1613-415X, ISSN (Print) 1430-0532, DOI: 10.1515/lity.2005.9.1.115, July 2005

Publication History

2 February 2004
9 June 2004
Published Online:


The typologist reader is presented here with an overview of the most interesting characteristics of Mwotlap, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu. After a short presentation of its phonology, its main morphosyntactic categories are described and explored from a functional angle. The construal of noun phrases reveals a cognitive asymmetry between human individuals and other referents. Nouns, just like verbs or adjectives, are predicative, and are even sensitive to tense-aspect-mood markers and actionality properties. The argument structure of a verb can regularly be affected by its modifiers. Finally, deictics can be shown to play a major role in the structuring of discourse and complex sentences. Whenever relevant, the grammar of Mwotlap is briefly compared to other languages, and assessed in the light of existing typological generalisations.

Keywords: actionality; animacy; aspect; clause combining; deixis; Mwotlap; negation; number; incorporation; Oceanic; possession; predication; pronoun; referentiality; serial verbs; valency change; vowel harmony

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Linguistic Typology, 2007, Volume 11, Number 1
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Linguistic Typology, 2008, Volume 12, Number 1, Page 1
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Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2009, Volume 32, Number 05, Page 429

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