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Some preliminary observations on prosody and information structure in Austronesian languages of Indonesia and East Timor

Nikolaus P. Himmelmann

This chapter provides a brief overview of what is known about prosody and information
structure in the Austronesian languages of Indonesia and East Timor. It emphasizes the fact
that the prosodic systems found in these languages appear to differ substantially from the
better known systems found in languages such as English and German and finds that to date
there is little evidence that prosody plays a major role in conveying information-structural
distinctions. Of major import in this regard appears to be the fact that many Austronesian
languages in the area appear to lack lexical stress as well as lexical tone. Consequently,
intonational phrases lack (postlexical) pitch accents, the tonal inventory being restricted to
a smallish number of edge tone combinations on the intonational phrase level plus a single
boundary tone on the level of intermediate phrases. The chapter concludes with a brief
discussion of a major exception to these generalisations, i.e. the group of (Austronesian)
West New Guinea languages that show a bewildering variety of tonal and stress-related
distinctions.

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