A grammar of Yélî Dnye : The Papuan language of Rossel Island

Levinson, S. C. (2022). A grammar of Yélî Dnye: The Papuan language of Rossel Island. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. doi:10.1515/9783110733853.
This is a comprehensive description of a language spoken some 450 km offshore from the mainland of Papua New Guinea. The language is remarkable for its phonological, morphological and syntactic complexity. As the sole surviving member of its language family, and with little historical contact with surrounding languages, the language provides evidence of the kind of languages spoken in this part of the world before the Austronesian expansion.

The grammar provides detailed information on the phoneme inventory, morphology, syntax and select semantic fields. Remarkable features include a 90 phoneme inventory including unique sounds, a morphology with thousands of non-compositional portmanteau elements, complex rules for negation, and extensive ergative syntax. Unusual patterns are also found in the organization of semantic fields, for example in partonymies of the body, taxonomies of the natural world, verbal semantics and kinship terms. The combination of linguistic ‘rara’ suggest that linguistic evolution under low contact can yield baroque and unusual patterns. The volume should be of special interest to linguists, typologists, sociolinguists, anthropologists and researchers in Oceania and Melanesia.
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