Enemish (master post), with an etymology for *enem ‘six’.

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Enemish is defined by two innnovations:

1. *enem ‘six’, displacing earlier additive and multiplicative forms. The reflexes are very variable: the reconstruction ‘PAN’ *enem, projected back from MP,  only works for a subset of available Formosan forms, those listed in Wolff (2010) and Blust’s ACD. Here is the supporting evidence for Blust’s ‘PAN’ *enem ‘6’:

Papora ne-nom six
Tsou nomə six
Kanakanabu u-nə’mə six
Saaroa ənəmə six
Proto-Rukai *eneme six
Puyuma (Tamalakaw) enem six
Paiwan enem six

Unexplained I:  forms with with a non-nasal initial or medial consonant:

Tsou #38a lomu ‘6’
Saaroa #47a rumu, urumu, #48 urumu ‘6’
Rukai #63 ulum ‘6’
Paiwan #59a, 62a urum ‘6’
Kavalan #108, 108 arum ‘6’
Basay #106-107-108 arum, rarum ‘6’
Papora #129b rum ‘6’
Hoanya #138 alim, ilim, #142b.2 rom ‘6’
(Source: Li & Toyoshima 2006)

These forms cannot reflect PAN *enem.

Unexplained II: forms with a geminated initial or medial consonant:

Siraya #143 annim, annum, nnum, ninnum, ninnim ‘6’
Paiwan #71, 72 unnum ‘6’
Amis #82c1, 82d, 83cd, 83k.2 nnum ‘6’
Kavalan #88b, 92a, 92b nnum; #92c unnum, innim; #101 innoom ‘6’
Basay #102b nnum ‘6’

Remarkably, only -n- is ever geminated: there are no forms with -ll- or -rr-.

Ishbukun Bunun (Li 1988:753) has the remarkable form ʔabnum ‘six’, which suggests that the geminate -nn- forms go back to an earlier -mn-, with nasal dissimilation in Ishbukun: that is, *emnem. This will explain the lack or forms with -ll- or -rr-. Based on ʔabnum and forms with lateral medial, I hypothesize that this *emnem is the left-truncated outcome of an earlier reduplicative *Nem-Nem (or *Num-Num), structurally similar to Thao makalh-turu-turu ‘six’ or makalh-shpa-shpat ‘eight’. There may have been a prefixed morpheme, as in Thao.

My *Nem-Nem ‘3+3, 6’ is based on a bound root *-Nem ‘3’, occurring in that meaning in:

  • Basai #112, 113 (Li and Toyoshima 2006) pinum, peinum (Ino) ‘3’
  • Siraya (Li 1993) kulom ‘3’, kulom-taʔ ‘4’ (taʔ ‘1’)
  • Makatao M3 (Tsuchida and Yamada 1991) ra-rum-a ‘3’
  • Makatao M7 (Tsuchida and Yamada 1991) nunta ‘4’ (num ‘3’, ta ‘1’)
  • Taivoan T13 (Tsuchida and Yamada 1991) nometa 4

Perusal of Tsuchida and Yamada (1991) shows that the evolutions of *N to Makatao M3 r, M7 n, and Taivoan T13 n, are regular. M3 ra-rum-a ‘3’ has Ca-reduplication (here).

PS (April 10, 2022): the interpretation of ‘six’ owes much to Benedict (1995:400) where that word is reconstructed as *ʔəmləm (Benedict’s *l is equivalent to *N in my usage).  I had cited Benedict’s idea in my 2004 paper and forgotten about it  in the intervening 18 years. Benedict was not aware of root *Nem ‘three’, however.

2. *CawiN ‘year’ (Siraya, Bunun, Rukai-Tsouic and Paiwan). This word neatly displaces PAN *kawaS, the main word for ‘year’ north of Siraya on the west coast of Taiwan (Pazeh, Atayal, Sediq, Thao). In PAN *kawaS cumulated the meanings of ‘year’ and ‘sky’. The underlying notion was perhaps that of ‘open space’, in both the temporal and spatial domains. Thus Pazeh babaw kawas ‘the space above; the sky’. After Proto-Enemish, *kawaS survives in secondary meanings, as in Amis kawas ‘god, deity, spirit’. Both PMP and Kra-Dai replace *CawiN, the former with *taqun, of uncertain etymology, the latter with an AA word: PMK (Shorto #588) *p[ɗ]aŋ ‘dry season’, Chrau praŋ, Sre praŋ ‘dry weather’, Proto-Kra *m-(p)ɣiŋA ‘year’.


Benedict, Paul K. 1995. Extra-Austronesian evidence for Formosan etyma, in Paul J.-K. Li, C.H Tsang, Y.-K. Huang, D.-A. Ho and C.Y. Tseng (eds) Austronesian studies relating to Taiwan, 399-454. Symposium series of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica 3. Taipei: Academia Sinica.

Ino, Yoshinori 伊能嘉矩. 1998. 巡臺日程 Xún Tái Rì Chéng [A Formosan itinerary]. In 伊能嘉矩番語調查手冊 Ino Yoshinori fānyǔ diàochá shǒucè [Ino Yoshinori’s field records], ed. by : T. Moriguchi, pp. 13-201. Taipei: Southern Materials Center.

Li, P. J.-K. 1988. A c omparative study of Bunun dialects. BIHP 59,2: 479-508.

Li, Jen-kuei and Masayuki Toyoshima (eds). 2006. Comparative vocabulary of Formosan languages and dialects, by Naoyoshi Ogawa. Asian and African lexicon series 49. Institute for Languages and cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Sagart, L. 2004. The higher phylogeny of Austronesian and the position of Tai-Kadai. Oceanic Linguistics 43,2: 411-444.

Tsuchida, Shigeru and Yukihiro Yamada (1991) Ogawa’s Siraya/Makatao/Taivoan (comparative vocabulary). Linguistic materials of the Formosan sinicized populations I: Siraya and Basai, ed. by Shigeru Tsuchida, Yukihiro Yamada and Tsukenazu Moriguchi, 1-194. Tokyo: The University of Tokyo, Linguistics Department.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Enemish (master post), with an etymology for *enem ‘six’.," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 24/05/2020, https://stan.hypotheses.org/905.

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