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 and seemingly irregular: the reconstruction ‘PAN’ *enem, is projected back from MP, and only works for a subset of available Formosan forms. It fails to explain forms with a geminated initial or medial consonabt, or with a non-nasal initial. The following data are drawn from Ogawa’s comparative vocabulary (Li & Toyoshima 2006).

      • Non-nasal initial: PAN medial *n is universally reflected as [n] in Formosan languages. Yet instead of medial -n-, some words for ‘six’ have a liquid—lateral or rhotic—which can only reflect  *N or *l: Tsou #38a lomu; Saaroa #47a rumu, urumu, #48 urumu; Rukai #63 ulum; Paiwan #59a, 62a urum; Kavalan #108, 108 arum; Basay #106-107-108 arum, rarum;  Papora #129b rum; Hoanya #138 alim, ilim, #142b.2 rom. It is not immediately clear which, of *n or a liquid, was innovated. Forms with liquids are quite common on the west coast (Siraya, Makatao, Hoanya, Papora), suggesting a non-nasal consonant is the more ancient.
      • Some forms exhibit a geminate consonant: Siraya #143 annim, annum, nnum, ninnum, ninnim; Paiwan #71, 72 unnum; Amis #82c1, 82d, 83cd, 83k.2 nnum; Kavalan #88b, 92a, 92b nnum; #92c unnum, innim; #101 innoom; Basay 102b nnum; remarkably, only -n- is ever geminated: there are no forms with -ll- or -rr-.

Further, Ishbukun Bunun (Li 1988:753) has the remarkable ʔabnum ‘six’, which implies that the geminate -nn- forms go back to an earlier -mn-, with nasal dissimilation to -bn- in Ishbukun: that is, *emnem. I hypothesize that this *emnem is the truncated outcome of an ealier reduplicative *Nem-Nem, or *X-Nem-Nem where ‘X’ is a possible prefixed morpheme (see below).

The internal -mN- cluster could have evolved to -mn-: the cluster -mN- is extremely rare and I am not aware of any counterexamples to this evolution. *Nem-Nem was an additive expression 3 plus 3, similar to Thao makalh-turu-turu ‘six’ or makalh-shpa-shpat ‘eight’. There may have been a prefixed morpheme, as in Thao, but there is no specific evidence to that.

My hypothetical *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’
  • Makatao M3 (Tsuchida and Yamada 1991) ra-rum-a ‘3’
  • Makatao M7 (Tsuchida and Yamada 1991) nunta ‘4’
  • Makatao M8 (Tsuchida and Yamada 1991) lum-ta ‘4’

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 leanings 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’.


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.

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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