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Two ways of being exotic: Yélî Dnye and Rotokas

Ian Maddieson (University of California, Berkeley)

This paper will briefly describe the phonetic/phonological patterns of two so-called 'East Papuan' languages, Yélî Dnye and Rotokas, which the author is working on in collaboration with Steven Levinson and Stuart Robinson respectively. Both languages can be considered exotic in that they exemplify rare properties, but these rarities are of quite different types. Yélî Dnye employs elaborated inventories of both consonants and vowels, and includes complex consonants of types not known to occur in any other language. Rotokas has an unusually small segmental inventory which includes only sounds which commonly occur in other languages. Although there are differences in word-level phonotactics, the languages have similar canonical syllable structures, disallowing coda consonants or consonant clusters. The slighter greater average word-length in Rotokas seems more related to a difference in morphological typology (cliticization/affixing in Rotokas, suppletion/inflection in Yélî Dnye) than to their phonological typology.