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In our project we investigated the verb stem reduplication in Mavea, a language spoken by a small speaker community in the island of Vanuatu. According to the current state of the research on Melanesian languages, verb stem reduplication may have several functions, including but not limited to modification of the verb’s valence, telicization, as well as marking of plurality of events, patients and actors. Some functions may be really not related to the others – plurality cannot probably be thought to be related to detransitivation, for example. Nevertheless, is there an overarching function which can explain and unify at least some of the data? In our project, we tried a semantic approach to the problem. We identified all cases of verb stem reduplication in the corpus and, based on their English translation, tried to verify whether we could find a common semantic core. Over 60% of the reduplications occurred in verbs of motion or change of state. Interestingly, we also found some verbs of state, which may deserve a separate analysis. Our data points out that motion and change of state may play a role in the capability of a verb to have a reduplicated form and we suggest that including a morphosyntactic analysis of the TAM properties of the reduplicated entries may be a key to a better understanding of verb stem reduplication in Mavea.

Example of verb stem reduplication in Mavea.

ro moval sopsop kamarua.
then 3sg.go follow 1pl.excl.dl
"He followed us." (Mavea corpus ref 06045.012)