Reciprocals in Yélî Dnye, the Papuan language of Rossel Island

Levinson, S. C. (2011). Reciprocals in Yélî Dnye, the Papuan language of Rossel Island. In N. Evans, A. Gaby, S. C. Levinson, & A. Majid (Eds.), Reciprocals and semantic typology (pp. 177-194). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Yélî Dnye has two discernable dedicated constructions for reciprocal marking. The first and main construction uses a dedicated reciprocal pronoun numo, somewhat like English each other. We can recognise two subconstructions. First, the ‘numo-construction’, where the reciprocal pronoun is a patient of the verb, and where the invariant pronoun numo is obligatorily incorporated, triggering intransitivisation (e.g. A-NPs become absolutive). This subconstruction has complexities, for example in the punctual aspect only, the verb is inflected like a transitive, but with enclitics mismatching actual person/number. In the second variant or subconstruction, the ‘noko-construction’, the same reciprocal pronoun (sometimes case-marked as noko) occurs but now in oblique positions with either transitive or intransitive verbs. The reciprocal element here has some peculiar binding properties. Finally, the second independent construction is a dedicated periphrastic (or woni…woni) construction, glossing ‘the one did X to the other, and the other did X to the one’. It is one of the rare cross-serial dependencies that show that natural languages cannot be modelled by context-free phrase-structure grammars. Finally, the usage of these two distinct constructions is discussed.
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