Proto-Austronesian (commonly abbreviated as PAN or PAn) is a proto-language. It is the reconstructed ancestor of the Austronesian languages, one of the world's major language families. Lower-level reconstructions have also been made, and include Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, Proto-Oceanic, and Proto-Polynesian. Recently, linguists such as Malcolm Ross and Andrew Pawley have built large lexicons for Proto-Oceanic and Proto-Polynesian.
Proto-Austronesian is reconstructed by constructing sets of correspondences among consonants in the various Austronesian languages, according to the comparative method. Although in theory the result should be unambiguous, in practice given the large number of languages there are numerous disagreements, with various scholars differing significantly on the number and nature of the phonemes in Proto-Austronesian. In the past, some disagreements concerned whether certain correspondence sets were real or represent sporadic developments in particular languages. For the currently remaining disagreements, however, scholars generally accept the validity of the correspondence sets but disagree on the extent to which the distinctions in these sets can be projected back to proto-Austronesian or represent innovations in particular sets of daughter languages.
Below are Proto-Austronesian phonemes reconstructed by Robert Blust, a professor of linguistics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A total of 25 Proto-Austronesian consonants, 4 vowels, and 4 diphthongs were reconstructed. However, Blust acknowledges that some of the reconstructed consonants are still controversial and debated.
The symbols below are frequently used in reconstructed Proto-Austronesian words.
|Unvoiced stop||p /p/||t /t/||k /k/||q /q/|
|Voiced stop||b /b/||d /d/||D /ɖ/||g /ɡ/; j /ɡʲ/|
|Nasal||m /m/||n /n/||ñ /ɲ/||ŋ /ŋ/|
|Fricative||S /s/||s /ç/||h /h/|
|Affricate||C /t͡s/||c /c͡ç/, z /ɟ͡ʝ/|
|Lateral||l /l/||N /lʲ/|
|Tap or trill||r /ɾ/; R /r/ or /ʀ/|
|Approximant||w /w/||y /j/|
*D only appears in final position, *z/*c/*ñ only in initial and medial position, while *j is restricted to medial and final position.
The Proto-Austronesian vowels are a, i, u, and ə.
|Close||i /i/||u /u/|
The diphthongs, which are diachronic sources of individual vowels, are:
In 2010, John Wolff published his Proto-Austronesian reconstruction in Proto-Austronesian phonology with glossary. Wolff reconstructs a total of 19 consonants, 4 vowels (*i, *u, *a, *e, where *e = /ə/), 4 diphthongs (*ay, *aw, *iw, *uy), and syllabic stress.
|Unvoiced stop||p /p/||t /t/||c /c/||k /k/||q /q/|
|Voiced stop||b /b/||d /d/||j /ɟ/||g /ɡ/||ɣ /ɣ/|
|Nasal||m /m/||n /n/||ŋ /ŋ/|
|Fricative||s /s/||h /h/|
|Lateral||l /l/||ɬ /ɬ/|
|Approximant||w /w/||y /j/|
The following table shows how Wolff's Proto-Austronesian phonemic system differs from Blust's system.
|Blust||*p||*t||*C||*c||*k||*q||*b||*‑D||*d‑ *‑d‑||*‑d||*z‑ *‑z‑||*‑j *‑j||*g‑||*‑g *‑g||*R||*m||*n||*N||*ñ||*ŋ||*l||*r||*s||*S||*h||*w||*y|
|Wolff||*p||*t||rejected||*k||*q||*b||*‑d||*d‑ *‑d‑||*‑j||*j‑ *‑j‑||*g||rejected||*ɣ||*m||*n||*ɬ||*ŋ||*l||rejected||*c||*s||*h||*w||*y|
According to Malcolm Ross, the following aspects of Blust's system are uncontroversial: the labials (p b m w); the velars k ŋ; y; R; the vowels; and the above four diphthongs. There is some disagreement about the postvelars (q ʔ h) and the velars g j, and about whether there are any more diphthongs; however, in these respects, Ross and Blust are in agreement. The major disagreement concerns the system of coronal consonants. The following discussion is based on Ross (1992).
Otto Dempwolff's reconstruction of Proto-Malayo-Polynesian from the 1930s included:
Dyen (1963), including data from the Formosan languages, expanded Dempwolff's set of coronal consonants:
Tsuchida (1976), building on Dyen's system:
Dahl reduced Tsuchida's consonants into:
Blust based his system on a combination of Dyen, Tsuchida and Dahl, and attempted to reduce the total number of phonemes. He accepted Dahl's reduction of Dyen's S X x into S but did not accept either Tsuchida's or Dahl's split of Dyen's d; in addition, he reduced Dyen's s1 s2 to a single phoneme s. While accepting Dyen's c, he was hesitant about T and D (more recently, Blust appears to have accepted D but rejected T, and also rejected Z).
Ross likewise attempted to reduce the number of phonemes, but in a different way:
As Proto-Austronesian transitioned to Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, Proto-Oceanic, and Proto-Polynesian, the phonemic inventories were continually reduced by merging formerly distinct sounds into one sound. Three mergers were observed in the Proto-Austronesian to Proto-Malayo-Polynesian transition, while nine were observed for the Proto-Oceanic to Proto-Polynesian transition. Thus, Proto-Austronesian has the most elaborate sound system, while Proto-Polynesian has the fewest phonemes. For instance, the Hawaiian language is famous for having only eight consonants, while Māori has only ten consonants. This is a sharp reduction from the 25 consonants of the Proto-Austronesian language that was originally spoken near Taiwan or Kinmen.
Blust also observed the following mergers and sound changes between Proto-Austronesian and Proto-Malayo-Polynesian.
However, according to Wolff (2010:241), Proto-Malayo-Polynesian's development from Proto-Austronesian only included the following three sound changes.
Proto-Oceanic merged even more phonemes. This is why modern-day Polynesian languages have some of the most restricted consonant inventories in the world.
Unusual sound changes that occurred within the Austronesian language family are:
Proto-Austronesian is a verb-initial language (including VSO and VOS word orders), as most Formosan languages, all Philippine languages, some Bornean languages, all Austronesian dialects of Madagascar , and all Polynesian languages are verb-initial. However, most Austronesian (many of which are Oceanic) languages of Indonesia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Micronesia are SVO, or verb-medial, languages. SOV, or verb-final, word order is considered to be typologically unusual for Austronesian languages, and is only found in various Austronesian languages of New Guinea and to a more limited extent, the Solomon Islands. This is because SOV word order is very common in the non-Austronesian Papuan languages.
The Austronesian languages of Taiwan, Borneo, Madagascar and the Philippines are also well known for their unusual morphosyntactic alignment, which is known as the Austronesian alignment. This alignment was also present in the Proto-Austronesian language. Unlike Proto-Austronesian, however, Proto-Oceanic syntax does not make use of the focus morphology present in Austronesian-aligned languages such as the Philippine languages. In the Polynesian languages, verbal morphology is relatively simple, while the main unit in a sentence is the phrase rather than the word.
Below is a table of John Wolff's Proto-Austronesian voice system from Blust (2009:433). Wolff's "four-voice" system was derived from evidence in various Formosan and Philippine languages.
|Direct passive||-en||-in-||r- -en||-a||?|
|Local passive||-an||-in-an||r- -an||-i||-ay|
|Instrumental passive||i-||i- -in- (?)||?||-an (?)||?|
However, Ross (2009) notes that what may be the most divergent languages, Tsou, Rukai, and Puyuma, are not addressed by this reconstruction, which therefore cannot claim to be alignment system of the protolanguage of the entire family. He calls the unit to which this reconstruction applies Nuclear Austronesian.
The following table compares Proto-Austronesian and Proto-Malayo-Polynesian question words.
Currently, the most complete reconstruction of the Proto-Austronesian case marker system is offered by Malcolm Ross. The reconstructed case markers are as follows:
Important Proto-Austronesian grammatical words include the ligature *na and locative *i.
Morphology and syntax are often hard to separate in the Austronesian languages, particularly the Philippine languages. This is because the morphology of the verbs often affects how the rest of the sentence would be constructed (i.e., syntax).
Below are some Proto-Austronesian affixes (including prefixes, infixes, and suffixes) reconstructed by Robert Blust. For instance, *pa- was used for non-stative (i.e., dynamic) causatives, while *pa-ka was used for stative causatives (Blust 2009:282). Blust also noted a p/m pairing phenomenon in which many affixes have both p- and m- forms. This system is especially elaborate in the Thao language of Taiwan.
|*ka-||inchoative (Formosan only), stative, past time, accompanied action/person, abstract noun formative, manner in which an action is carried out, past participle|
|*maki/paki||petitive (petitioning for something)|
|*qali/kali-||sensitive connection with the spirit world|
|*-an||instrumental voice: imperative|
|*ta(ʀ-)||sudden, unexpected, or accidental action|
|*-um-||actor voice: transitivity, etc.|
|*-i||locative voice: imperative|
|*-a||patient voice: imperative|
|*ka- -an||adversative passive, abstract nouns|
CV (consonant + vowel) reduplication is very common among the Austronesian languages. In Proto-Austronesian, Ca-reduplicated (consonant + /a/) numbers were used to count humans, while the non-reduplicated sets were used to count non-human and inanimate objects. CV-reduplication was also used to nominalize verbs in Proto-Austronesian. In Ilocano, CV-reduplication is used to pluralize nouns.
Reduplication patterns include (Blust 2009):
Other less common patterns are (Blust 2009):
The Proto-Austronesian and Proto-Malayo-Polynesian personal pronouns below were reconstructed by Robert Blust.
|Type of Pronoun||English||Proto-Austronesian||Proto-Malayo-Polynesian|
|1p. (inclusive)||"we (and you)"||*i-(k)ita||*i-(k)ita|
|1p. (exclusive)||"we (but not you)"||*i-(k)ami||*i-(k)ami|
|2p.||"you all"||*i-kamu||*i-kamu, ihu|
In 2006, Malcolm Ross also proposed seven different pronominal categories for persons. The categories are listed below, with the Proto-Austronesian first person singular ("I") given as examples.
The following is from Ross' 2002 proposal of the Proto-Austronesian pronominal system, which contains five categories, including the free (i.e., independent or unattached), free polite, and three genitive categories.
|Free||Free polite||Genitive 1||Genitive 2||Genitive 3|
Proto-Austronesian vocabulary relating to agriculture and other technological innovations include:
Proto-Malayo-Polynesian innovations include:
Proto-Malayo-Polynesian also has several words for house:
|hair||*bukeS||*buhek||*raun ni qulu||*lau-qulu|
|tooth||*nipen||*ipen, *nipen||*nipon, *lipon||*nifo|
|person, human being||*Cau||*tau||*taumataq||*taŋata|
|man, male||*ma-Ruqanay||*laki, *ma-Ruqanay||*mwaRuqane||*taqane|
|woman, female||*bahi||*bahi||*pine, *papine||*fafine|
|house||*Rumaq||*Rumaq, *balay, *banua||*Rumwaq||*fale|
|No.||Common name||Scientific name||Proto-Austronesian|
|6845||the Formosan rock monkey||Macaca cyclopis||*luCuŋ|
|7228||deer sp.||Cervus sp., either the sika deer or sambar deer||*benan|
|7187||Formosan blind mole||Talpa insularis||*mumu|
|709||a dove||Ducula spp.?||*baRuj|
|7127||omen bird||Alcippe spp.||*SiSiN|
|234||termite, white ant||Isoptera||*aNay|
|6861||jungle leech||Haemadipsa spp.||*-matek|
|6862||jungle leech||Haemadipsa spp.||*qaNi-matek|
|No.||Common name||Scientific name||Proto-Austronesian|
|8465||bracket fungus||Polyporus spp.||*kulaC|
|8795||broomcorn millet||Panicum miliaceum||*baCaR|
|10249||castor bean||Ricinus communis||*katawa|
|10710||elephant grass, miscanthus grass||Themeda gigantea||*Caŋelaj|
|6569||Formosan maple||Liquidambar formosana||*daRa₁|
|6629||loquat tree and fruit||Eriobotrya deflexa||*Ritu|
|7254||mulberry tree and fruit||Morus formosensis||*taNiud|
|6568||soapberry||Sapindus mukorossi, Sapindus saponaria||*daqu₂|
|7166||stinging nettle||Laportea spp.||*laCeŋ|
|4900||sword grass||Imperata cylindrica||*Riaq|
|6689||sword grass||Imperata cylindrica||*Rimeja|
|7070||a hairy vine||Pueraria hirsuta||*baSay|
|484||a lily-like plant||Crinum asiaticum||*bakuŋ₁|
|4039||a plant||Urena lobata||*puluC|
|6560||a plant||Rhus semialata||*beRuS|
|6587||a plant||Litsea cubeba||*maqaw|
|6630||a plant||Lactuca indica and Sonchus oleraceus||*Samaq|
|6697||a plant||Aralia decaisneana||*tanaq|
|6818||a plant||Solanum nigrum||*SameCi|
|7082||a plant||Phragmites spp.||*qaReNu|
|7084||a plant||Begonia aptera||*qanus₁|
|7418||a plant||Erechtites spp.||*Sina|
|12731||a plant||Sambucus formosana||*Nayad|
|8455||a plant with roots that are pounded and put in rivers to stun fish||Derris elliptica||*tuba|
|7191||a plant, sesame||Sesamum indicum||*Samud|
|12683||a small tree bearing round, green fruit||Ehretia spp.||*kaNawaS|
|611||a thorny vine||Smilax spp.||*baNaR|
|619||a thorny vine||Smilax spp.||*baNaw|
|4243||a tree||Cordia dichotoma||*qaNuNaŋ|
|7114||a tree||Melia azedarach||*baŋaS|
|12726||a tree||Bischofia javanica||*CuquR|
|12811||a tree||Zelkova formosana||*teRebeS|
|12773||a tree, the Chinese mahogany or Philippine mahogany||Shorea albus||*buleS|
|6682||a tree: the camphor laurel||Cinnamomum spp.||*dakeS|
|7233||an evergreen tree||Acacia confusa?||*tuquN|
|1046||bamboo of very large diameter||Dendrocalamus sp.?||*betuŋ₁|
|6693||betel nut||nut of Areca catechu||*Sawiki|
|1223||cane grass||Miscanthus sp.||*biRaSu|
|6621||cultivated taro||Colocasia esculenta||*Cali|
|8750||millet sp.||Setaria italica (?)||*zawa₂|
|811||millet sp., probably foxtail millet||Setaria italica||*beCeŋ|
|3089||plant sp.||Diospyros discolor||*kamaya|
|7304||the Japanese cypress||Chamaecyparis obtusa||*baŋun₁|
|12687||the Japanese raspberry||Rubus parvifolius, Rubus taiwanianus||*RiNuk|
|4722||tree with sticky fruits||Cordia spp.||*quNuNaŋ|
|1601||type of slender bamboo||Schizostachyum spp.||*buluq₂|
|1218||wild taro, elephant's ear or itching taro||Alocasia spp.||*biRaq₁|
Below are colors in reconstructed Proto-Austronesian, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, Proto-Oceanic, and Proto-Polynesian. The first three have been reconstructed by Robert Blust, while the Proto-Polynesian words given below were reconstructed by Andrew Pawley. Proto-Polynesian displays many innovations not found in the other proto-languages.
The Proto-Austronesians used two types of directions, which are the land-sea axis and the monsoon axis. The cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west developed among the Austronesian languages only after contact with the Europeans. For the land-sea axis, upstream/uphill and inland, as well as downstream/downhill and seaward, are synonym pairs. This has been proposed as evidence that Proto-Austronesians used to live on a mainland, since the sea would be visible from all angles on small islands.
In Kavalan, Amis, and Tagalog, the reflexes of *timuR mean "south" or "south wind," while in the languages of the southern Philippines and Indonesia it means "east" or "east wind."
In Ilocano, dáya and láud respectively mean "east" and "west," while in Puyuma, ɖaya and ɭauɖ respectively mean "west" and "east." This is because the Ilocano homeland is the west coast of northern Luzon, while the Puyuma homeland is located on the eastern coast of southern Taiwan. Among the Bontok, Kankanaey, and Ifugaw languages of northern Luzon, the reflexes of *daya mean "sky" due to the fact that they already live in some of the highest elevations in the Philippines (Blust 2009:301).
Also, the Malay reflex of *lahud is laut, which means "sea", used as directions timur laut (means "northeast", timur = "east") and barat laut (means "northwest", barat = "west"). Meanwhile, *daya only performs in barat daya, which means "southwest".
On the other hand, the Javanese reflex of *lahud, lor, means "north" since the Java Sea is located to the north of the island of Java.
Below are reconstructed Proto-Austronesian, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, Proto-Oceanic, and Proto-Polynesian numbers from the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database.
|one||*esa, *isa||*esa, *isa||*sa-kai, *ta-sa, *tai, *kai||*taha|
|four||*Sepat||*epat||*pat, *pati, *pani||*faa|
The Proto-Austronesian language had different sets of numerals for non-humans ("set A") and humans ("set B") (Blust 2009:279). Cardinal numerals for counting humans are derived from the non-human numerals through Ca-reduplication. This bipartite numeral system is found in Thao, Puyuma, Yami, Chamorro, and various other languages (however, Paiwan uses ma- and manə- to derive human numerals). In many Philippine languages such as Tagalog, the two numeral systems are merged (Blust 2009:280-281).
|Number||Set A||Set B||Tagalog|
Proto-Austronesian also used *Sika- to derive ordinal numerals (Blust 2009:281).
Below are reconstructed Proto-Austronesian, Proto-Malayo-Polynesian, Proto-Oceanic, and Proto-Polynesian verbs from the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database.
|to walk||*Nakaw||*lakaw, paNaw||*lako, pano||*fano|
|to stand||*diRi||*diRi, *tuqud||*tuqur||*tuqu|
|to sew||*taSiq||*tahiq, *zaqit||*saqit, *turi||*tui|
|to die, be dead||*m-aCay||*m-atay||*mate||*mate|
|to fly||*layap||*layap, Rebek||*Ropok||*lele|
The following are monosyllabic Proto-Austronesian roots reconstructed by John Wolff (Wolff 1999).
Forms which can be reconstructed as monosyllables with a great deal of certainty
Sequences which are likely (or may have been) monosyllabic roots, but cannot be unequivocally reconstructed
Reconstructed doubled monosyllables phonologically but which cannot be proven to be monosyllabic roots
Sequences which occur as final syllables over a wide area but which cannot be reconstructed as a monosyllabic root