The Oceanic Lexicon Project is producing a seven-volume series reconstructing the lexicon of Proto Oceanic, the language ancestral to most of the Austronesian languages of Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. By paying particular attention to the semantics of terminologies, we are learning much about the material culture, social organisation, and cosmology of Proto Oceanic speakers and about the ways in which they categorised and adapted to the environment. The completed series will form a comprehensive reference for anyone working in Oceanic linguistics or archaeology.
The spread of the Oceanic languages across the Pacific was a remarkable event in prehistory. Beginning in the 2nd millenium BC, speakers of the Oceanic branch of Austronesian spread eastward from north-west Melanesia into previously uninhabited regions, their speech eventually diversifying into some 450 languages. This linguistic spread initially corresponds to the expansion of the Lapita Culture, identified by archaeologists.
The first four volumes of The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic are available, published by Pacific Linguistics. Vol 5 will be entitled Body and mind, vol 6 Society, and vol 7, as currently planned, will include reconstruction of Proto Oceanic grammar, one or more concluding essays, comprehensive indexes, and addenda and corrigenda.