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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Are the Central Flores languages really typologically unusual?

  • Author(s): Elias, Alexander
  • et al.

The isolating languages of Central Flores (Austronesian) are typologically distinct from their nearby relatives. They have no bound morphology, as well elaborate numeral clas-sifier systems, and quinary-decimal numeral system. McWhorter (2019) proposes that their isolating typology is due to imperfect adult language acquisition of a language of Sulawesi, brought to Flores by settlers from Sulawesi in the relatively recent past. I propose an alternative interpretation, which better accounts for the other typological features found in Central Flores: the Central Flores languages are isolating because they have a strong substrate influence from a now-extinct isolating language belonging to the Mekong-Mamberamo linguistic area (Gil 2015). This explanation better accounts for the typological profile of Central Flores and is a more plausible contact scenario.

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