Polysemy and Complementarity: Core Verbs and Their Uses in Numbami
Recent lexicographical works on Papuan languages on the New Guinea mainland have noted that a small number of core verbs combine with other elements to play a large role in verbal predicates. Verb-medial Oceanic languages in the Huon Gulf subfamily also display similar phenomena, relying heavily on a small core of multifunctional verbs. Moreover, cognates of some of the core manner-of-action verbs (such as ‘hit’, ‘chop’, ‘hold’, ‘put’) show up as derivational and classificatory prefixes in verb-final Oceanic languages elsewhere along the north coast. Close examination of Numbami, an Oceanic language in the Huon Gulf, reveals two main types of core verbs: (A) highly polysemous manner-of-action verbs that often serve as light verbs combining with nouns or adjectives to derive verbal predicates; and (B) positional verbs (‘stay’, ‘dwell’) that locate other event types, and path verbs (‘go’, ‘ascend’, ‘reach’) that describe complementary aspects of complex motion events.