An expanded higher Austronesian phylogeny (head post)

This is the head post for a series of 24 on Austronesian phylogeny, linked together by hyperlinks, created between 2020 and 2022. At the time of writing (June 22, 2022), the phylogeny relies on 42 mutually compatible lexical, morphological and phonological innovations. Six of them are the numeral innovations on which the tree in Sagart (2008) was based:

Austronesian phylogeny in Sagart (2008)

The remaining 36 have accumulated between 2008 and 2022. Together they define this tree. Clicking on a node leads to the posts containing the information relevant to that node. Alternatively the innovations supporting a node can be accessed through this list. That the original phylogeny can be expanded with 36 new ones shows that it was a successful first approximation.


Sagart, Laurent (2008) the expansion of setaria farmers in east asia: a linguistic and archaeological model. In Sanchez-Mazas A, Blench R, Ross M, Peiros I, Lin M, eds. Past human migrations in East Asia: matching archaeology, linguistics and genetics, 133-157. Routledge Studies in the Early History of Asia, London: Routledge.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "An expanded higher Austronesian phylogeny (head post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 22/06/2022,

Eastern Walu-Siwaish *layaR ‘sail’

Up one level to Eastern Walu-Siwaish (here)

The cognate set for ‘PAN’ *layaR ‘sail’ in Blust’s ACD (here) (includes the MP forms under Dempwolff’s *layaɣ ‘sail’ plus two Formosan items:

Kavalan RayaR sail of a raft or boat; cloth around a threshing machine
Paiwan la-laya a flag, banner
pu-la-laya to raise a flag, fly a banner
excerpt from Blust’s ACD

Elsewhere, in a note under PAn *qabang ‘boat, canoe’ (here), Blust wrote:Given the independent evidence for PAn *layaR ‘sail’ we can be sure that PAn speakers had boats with sails. However, we cannot be certain that they possessed the outrigger, since *saRman ‘outrigger float’ and other terms connected with the outrigger canoe complex are reconstructible only to PMP. As noted in Blust (1999) the Austronesian settlement of Taiwan may have been accomplished with bamboo sailing rafts, leaving open the possibility that the *qabaŋ was a simple dugout canoe used on interior rivers.”

It is difficult to imagine how sailing rafts with neither outriggers nor a keel—traditional boats with keels are absent in East Asia—would fail to capsize in even moderately strong winds. Evidently Austronesian sailing boats with outriggers did not come into existence through the addition of outriggers to pre-existing saining boats: rather, the outrigger is a prerequisite to the invention of the Austronesian orientable sail. There is in fact evidence that until relatively recently the Formosans used sail-less boats with outriggers. The Atayals had small boats that they used to cross streams (Taintor 1874:34):

“The small boats which the savages use in crossing streams they call mangka. A boat is made by hollowing out a log of wood and fastening a board upon each side of it to prevent its capsizing. They have no oil and chunam for filling the cracks or seams, and hence have to bail constantly. A boat will carry two or three people”

The Basais and Kavalans had ‘huge’ sea-going rowing boats with outriggers fixed with vines which could carry up to 25 people and a large amount of cargo (Chien 2021).

For evidence that Austronesian sails are as old as PAN, Blust essentially relied on his assumption of the correctness of his 10-branch phylogeny: the term being reflected in languages of three of his primary branches, he assumed that *layaR was a PAN word. In my phylogeny, however, *layaR only occurs in Eastern Walu-Siwaish languages, and counts as a Proto-Eeastern Walu-Siwaish innovation. The invention of the sail has the character of a post-PAN technical improvement to the rowing boat with outriggers used by the Basais, Kavalans and Atayals. This makes it likely that the first Austronesians crossed from the mainland to Taiwan on sail-less rowing boats with outriggers, while the out-of-Taiwan event, which brought the MP languages to the Philippines and beyond, was effected with the help of newly-invented sails.


Blust, R. 1999. Subgrouping, circularity and extinction: some issues in Austronesian comparative linguistics. In: Elizabeth Zeitoun and Paul Jen-kuei Li (eds.) Selected Papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian linguistics, 31-94. Taipei: Institute of Linguistics (preparatory office).

Chien Hung-yi (2020) From Bangka Canoe to Shechuan Junk: Commercial Activities along Northeastern Coastal Route (1650s-1750s). Taiwan Historical Research 27, 4:1-34.

Taintor, Edward C. (1874) The Aborigines of Northern Formosa: A Paper Read Before the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Shanghai 1874. privately published.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Eastern Walu-Siwaish *layaR ‘sail’," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 14/02/2022,


(view clickable tree)

To Limaish

There is some evidence that Thao and Atayalic form a subgroup within Limaish. This subgroup includes Thao and the two Atayalic languages, Atayal and Seediq. First, Thao and Atayalic share the innovation of parallel multiplicative forms for ‘six’ and ‘eight’:

Thao (Blust 2003) makal̥-turu-turu ‘six’ (turu ‘three’);  makal̥-ʃpaʃpat ‘eight’ (ʃpat ‘four’). Shorter forms ka-turu and ka-ʃpat are also attested (here).

Atayal (Mayrinax) (here)  matuuʔ ‘six’ (tuuʔ ‘three’); maspat ‘eight’ ( səpat ‘four’)  (here)

Seediq (here) mataɾu  ‘six’ (təɾu ‘three’); maspat ‘eight’ (səpat ‘four’)

A second piece of evidence for Thao-Atayalic is the uniquely shared future prefix ma– in Blust’s ACD:

PAN     *ma-₂ future prefix

Seediq (Truku)ma-frequent prefix carrying the idea of an indeterminate future
Thaoma-prefix marking the future in actor voice verbs
Excerpt from Blust’s ACD
Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Thao-Atayalic.," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 13/02/2022,

“Out of Taiwan” and the history of Austronesian rice: a rejoinder.

I am aware of two reactions to my last post by authors of the Alam et al. paper:  Rafal Gutaker’s private reply to me, and Dorian Fuller’s reaction both rejected my claim that the very different histories of temperate and tropical japonica rices in the Austronesian world imply that different words for the two types of rice should exist in AN languages, instead of just one, as is the case; unless the early Taiwanese Austronesians carried temperate japonica south with them at the time of the Out-of-Taiwan event. Their reasoning—if I understand it well—seems to be that since the Austronesian word for the rice plant does not specifically refer to either tropical or temperate japonica, the issue I am raising is only apparent. They seem to be assuming that Austronesian speakers have in their mental lexicons a word for ‘rice plant’, whether they cultivate rice or not, and that they will give that name to whatever kind of rice they encounter in the course of their expansion.

Languages in the modern world can have a word for a domesticated plant without that plant being cultivated by its speakers—because we import it, buy it in shops, eat it, etc. Neolithic groups only have words for plants they cultivate. The Austronesians in Oceania have abandoned cereal agriculture: accordingly they do not have a traditional word for rice.

The Alam et al. paper presents the history of Austronesian rice as a pincer movement introducing temperate japonica from northeastern  Asia to Taiwan while tropical japonica was introduced from the south.  The role of Taiwan in this medel is to be a mere contact region between north and south. However the question arises as to whether, during the period of time tropical japonica had not yet reached Taiwan, Taiwanese temperate japonica had already been introduced to the south in the Out-of-Taiwan event; and whether there was interaction between the two south of Taiwan. Linguistics has useful hints there.

At the moment tropical japonica rice was introduced to the southern Austronesian world, the Austronesian people to whom it was introduced gave it the name *panjay. This means that they already cultivated rice. Otherwise, they would have had no name for it, and would either borrow the name used in the language of the group they were receiving it from, or coin a new name for it. Only by miracle would they come up with the same name that was used in Taiwan.

Further, and importantly, the local words for the rice plant that derive from *panjay exhibit the same pattern of phonetic variation, or sound laws,1 as a significant  part of the Austronesian vocabulary, simultaneously present in and outside of Taiwan.  Linguists assign that vocabulary to the ancestor of all known Austronesian languages. That this vocabulary—currently at least several hundred words—obeys the same set of sound laws must mean that it traveled as a package in the course of the Austronesian expansion. Moreover, that phonetic shared innovations [this is the linguistic equivalent of ‘synapomorphies’ in cladistics] of the non-Formosan Austronesian languages have been observed on this vocabulary leaves no doubt that the expansion went south from Taiwan.

Thus, whatever rice was present in Taiwan at that time was transferred south, together with its name. Most likely that was temperate japonica—what else ? That would certainly explain why it was so easily eliminated by tropical japonica.

In conclusion the finding that rice south of Taiwan is of the tropical japonica type does not argue agains the “Out of Taiwan” hypothesis. This hypothesis does not predict that modern Austronesian rices south of Taiwan should be temperate japonicas. It merely predicts that at the moment of the Out-of-Taiwan event, the Austronesians carried rice with them in their canoes and that they and their descendents grew it in the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, Indonesia… On linguistic evidence, such was indeed the case.

In closing I note the lack so far of reactions to my criticism regarding the far too recent date proposed in the Alam et al. paper for the  introduction of temperate japonica to Taiwan.

1 This table illustrates the regularity of sound correspondence in the words for the rice plant and other words in selected Austronesian languages in and outside Taiwan.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "“Out of Taiwan” and the history of Austronesian rice: a rejoinder.," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 30/08/2021,

“Out of Taiwan” and the history of Austronesian rice

Alam, O., Gutaker, R., Wu, C., Hicks, K., Bocinsky, K., Castillo, C., Acabado, S., Fuller, D., Guedes, J., Hsing, Y., Purugganan, M. (2021). Genome analysis traces regional dispersal of rice in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Molecular Biology and Evolution Download

This recent paper by Alam et al. makes the case from genome analysis that the traditional rices cultivated by Austronesian-speaking peoples outside of Taiwan are different from those cultivated in Taiwan: they are tropical japonica rices, similar to those from mainland southeast Asia, while the majority of Taiwanese rices are temperate japonicas, close to the rices grown in north China, Korea and Japan.  In their view, this goes against the “out of Taiwan” paradigm of Austronesian prehistory. Their idea is further detailed here.

The paper claims that the Taiwanese temperate japonicas were introduced from northeast China, and that the tropical japonicas in the Philippines were introduced from the south; and further, that temperate japonicas never left Taiwan. Given these very different histories, one would normally expect to see different words for temperate and tropical japonicas in the Austronesian languages. Instead, the Austronesian languages mostly use the same word for the japonica plant, whether temperate or tropical, in Taiwan or outside of Taiwan. Local phonetic variations are mostly predictable: this indicates that the words are inherited from the Austronesian ancestor language, as opposed to being borrowed locally from other Austronesian languages through contact. This term is reconstructed as *pajay in a widely-used resource [1]. My own reconstruction is *panjay. This word is regarded by linguists as the name of the rice plant in the ancestral Austronesian language, widely believed to have been spoken before 5000 BP in Taiwan.

The formation of the Austronesian language family through a primary differentiation in Taiwan, followed by a single migration out of Taiwan circa 4000 BP, is supported by multiple lines of evidence: shared linguistic innovations of non-Formosan languages [2]; , Bayesian phylogenies of Austronesian languages [3], archaeology [4], studies of the Austronesian human Y-chromosome [5], genetics of the human pathogen Helicobacter pylori [6], and of the paper mulberry, a domesticated plant [7]. Language, then, argues that the out-of-Taiwan migration did introduce temperate japonica rices, together with the term *panjay to the Philippines and islands further south. Absence of temperate japonicas in these modern regions can be explained in terms of competition between temperate and tropical japonicas: as the latter did not grow well in the new southern environment, they were  out-competed by tropical japonicas introduced “from the south”— probably from mainland southeast Asia.

The higher yields of tropical japonicas would feed a larger population. This can be related to a recent proposal that Bayesian phylogenetics of Philippine languages support a diversification from the south, implying a northward back-migration of Philippine speakers   [8]. This population movement was quite plausibly fueled by the possession of tropical japonicas: it was also the instrument of their northward spread. Philippine farmers, one supposes, did not think of tropical and temperate japonicas as different plants, referring to both kinds as *panjay—they would later also recognize the more strongly divergent indica rices, introduced from the Indian subcontinent, as *panjay. When temperate japonicas were abandoned, their original name continued to be used for tropical japonicas. This both accounts for the existence of a single term for the rice plant in the Austronesian languages, and reconciles the out-of-Taiwan hypothesis with the finding of a southern origin of tropical japonicas.

The date of separation between temperate japonicas from northeast Asia and from Taiwan, given as 2600 BP by the authors, is another problematic area. They attribute the introduction of temperate japonica to Taiwan to a migration from northeast Asia, which must, then, have started after 2600 BP, and reached Taiwan at an even later date. They seek support for the migration, and for their own chronology, in the observation that “Taiwanese peoples from ~1300 BCE to 800 CE carried ~25% of a northern East Asian lineage in their genomes” [9]. This, however, means that the northerners had already reached Taiwan by 3300 BP, 700 years before the proposed date of separation. The northerners and their temperate japonica rices may actually have reached Taiwan much earlier, as the last-mentioned study did not use any earlier ancient DNA data for Taiwan. The date the authors of that study suggest for the arrival of northerners in Taiwan is 5000-4500 BP: this is based on archaeological finds of domesticated foxtail millet in Taiwan during that period. Foxtail millet is generally thought to have been domesticated in north China around 8000 years ago. Under the Alam et al. paper, two distinct southward migrations are necessary for the introduction of millet and rice to Taiwan from northeastern China.

[Added Aug. 30, 2021: this post occasioned some reactions from authors of the Alam et al. paper. See my response here].


[1] Austronesian Comparative Dictionary, web edition. Robert Blust and Stephen Trussel. Online at

[2] Blust, R. A. 2009. The Austronesian languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

[3] Gray, R.D., A.J. Drummond and S. Greenhill. 2009. Language Phylogenies Reveal Expansion Pulses and Pauses in Pacific Settlement. Nature, 323, 479-483.

[4] Bellwood, Peter. 1985. Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago. Sydney: Academic.

[5] Trejaut J.A., Kivisild T, Loo J.H., Lee C.L., He C.L., et al. 2005. Traces of archaic mitochondrial lineages persist in Austronesian-speaking Formosan populations. PLoS Biol 3(8).

[6] Moodley, Y, B. Linz, Y. Yamaoka, H. M. Windsor, S. Breurec, J.-Y. Wu, A. Maady, S. Bernhoft, J.-M. Thiberge, S. Phuanukoonnon, G. Jobb, P. Siba, D. Y. Graham, B. J. Marshall, M. Achtman. 2009. The Peopling of the Pacific from a Bacterial Perspective Science, 323 (5913), 527-530 DOI: 10.1126/science.1166083

[7] Olivares G, Peña-Ahumada B, Peñailillo J, Payacán C, Moncada X, Saldarriaga-Córdoba M, Matisoo-Smith E, Chung KF, Seelenfreund D, Seelenfreund A. Human mediated translocation of Pacific paper mulberry [Broussonetia papyrifera (L.) L’Hér. ex Vent. (Moraceae)]: Genetic evidence of dispersal routes in Remote Oceania. PLoS One. 2019 Jun 19;14(6):e0217107. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.

[8] Benedict King, Lawrence A. Reid, Mary Walworth, Simon J. Greenhill, Russell D. Gray. 2021. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Philippine languages supports rapid initial Austronesian expansion followed by northward back-migration. Communication to 15ICAL, June 28-July 2, 2021 (online).

[9] Wang CC, Yeh HY, Popov AN, Zhang HQ, Matsumura H, Sirak K, Cheronet O, Kovalev A, Rohland N, Kim AM, Mallick S, Bernardos R, Tumen D, Zhao J, Liu YC, Liu JY, Mah M, Wang K, Zhang Z, Adamski N, Broomandkhoshbacht N, Callan K, Candilio F, Carlson KSD, Culleton BJ, Eccles L, Freilich S, Keating D, Lawson AM, Mandl K, Michel M, Oppenheimer J, Özdoğan KT, Stewardson K, Wen S, Yan S, Zalzala F, Chuang R, Huang CJ, Looh H, Shiung CC, Nikitin YG, Tabarev AV, Tishkin AA, Lin S, Sun ZY, Wu XM, Yang TL, Hu X, Chen L, Du H, Bayarsaikhan J, Mijiddorj E, Erdenebaatar D, Iderkhangai TO, Myagmar E, Kanzawa-Kiriyama H, Nishino M, Shinoda KI, Shubina OA, Guo J, Cai W, Deng Q, Kang L, Li D, Li D, Lin R, Nini, Shrestha R, Wang LX, Wei L, Xie G, Yao H, Zhang M, He G, Yang X, Hu R, Robbeets M, Schiffels S, Kennett DJ, Jin L, Li H, Krause J, Pinhasi R, Reich D. Genomic insights into the formation of human populations in East Asia. Nature. 2021 Mar;591(7850):413-419. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03336-2.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "“Out of Taiwan” and the history of Austronesian rice," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 26/08/2021,

Walu-Siwaish (master post)

(view clickable tree) (to list of innovations, sorted by node)

(Jump up one level to Enemish)

(jump down one level to Western Walu-Siwaish; to Central Walu-Siwaish; to Eastern Walu-Siwaish)

Proto-Walu-Siwaish (pWS) speakers occupied the south-western plain of Taiwan shortly before 4500 BP. The breakup of pWS produced three groups. One: western Walu-Siwaish, remained in the southwestern plains, ultimately splitting into Hoanya and Papora; a second group—central Walu-Siwaish—moved north into mountain territory in the Formosan interior; while a third group—eastern Walu-Siwaish— crossed the southern extremity of the central mountain range, introducing the neolithic way of life to the East coast c. 4500 BP (Hung 2008:71-73). All modern east-coast languages, plus Malayo-Polynesian and Kra-Dai languages belong to this last clade.

Walu-Siwaish language are characterized by the appearance of the ‘modern’ numerals for ‘8’ and ‘9’: *walu and *Siwa respectively, as well as of their several variants. For ‘8’: *bahlu, *balu, and *halu; for ‘9’, *siba (Sagart 2004; 2014). Similar forms cannot be found further north on the west coast, except in long shapes like Pazeh xasepatelu ‘8’, xasepisupat ‘9’, which reveal their etymologies as ‘5+3’ and ‘5+4’ (Sagart 2004).


Hung, Hsiao-chun. 2008. Migration and Cultural Interaction in Southern Coastal China, Taiwan and the Northern Philippines, 3000 BC to AD 100: The Early History of the Austronesian-speaking Populations. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Canberra: the Australian National University.

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

Sagart, Laurent. 2014. In Defense of the Numeral-based Model of Austronesian Phylogeny, and of Tsouic. Language and Linguistics 15(6) 859–882.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Walu-Siwaish (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 02/12/2020,




(view clickable tree)

(jump up one level to Pituish)

A monophyletic Favorlang-Taokas subgroup is supported by these innovations:

1. an innovative numeral for ‘6’: Favorlang and Babuza nataap, Taokas tahap, tákap , takkap (sets #26 and 28 in the ABVD).   These are additive forms based on a 1+5 prototype (*sa-RaCep), different from Saisiyat and Pazeh where ‘6’ is 5+1.

The Favorlang-Babuza form nataap  is composed of natta ‘1’ and achab [ahab] < *RaCep  ‘five’ reduced to [ab]. natta in turn reflects PAN *sa ‘one’ with na- prefixed marker of a derived series of numerals of uncertain functions: na-rroa ‘two’, na-torro-a ‘three’, na-spat ‘four’, na-chab ‘five’, na-taap ‘six’.

Taokas tahap, tákap , takkap ‘six’ is composed of ta- < *sa ‘one’ plus hap, kap, kkap in different dialect points. Initial h, k, kk reflects PAN *R. PAN *C should give Taokas s: here it is lost, presumably after *RaCep was reduced to Rasp through syncope.

2. An innovative word for ‘dog’. Favorlang mado, Babuza mato/malu/mado/malok (dialects), Taokas mato/maro/mazok/marox/malok etc. (dialects), all ‘dog’ (set #9 in ABVD). These forms go back to *ma[d]uq and displace PAN *asu, u-asu ‘dog’.

A Favorlang-Taokas subgroup is common to my phylogeny and to Blust’s.


ABVD (Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database). Online at Accessed June 19, 2020.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Favorlang-Taokas," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/06/2020,

Pituish (master post)

(view clickable tree) (to list of innovations, sorted by node)

(jump down one level to Limaish)

Pituish has two branches: Favorlang-Taokas (here) and Limaish (here). It is defined by the innovation of *pitu ‘seven’, as  discussed in Sagart (2004) (here), to which readers are referred. *pitu replaces PAN *RaCep-i-tuSa ‘five-plus-two: seven’, of which it is a left- and right-pruned form: *pitu < *(RaCe)p-i-tu(Sa).

In addition, a non-displacing innovation in Pituish created a new numeral for ‘nine’, based on *sa-ŋ-aCu ‘one taken away’ (from ‘ten’):  Favorlang tannacho, Babuza #131 tanahu,Taokas tanasu, Thao: tanacu. It is listed as cognate set #6 in the ABVD (here). All through Limaish and Enemish, the new numeral competed with the inherited *RaCep-i-Sepat ‘five plus four’ found in Pazeh xaseb-i-supat. It did not displace it either in Limaish or in Enemish, since later *Siwa, simplified from *RaCep-i-Sepat, finally displaces all its competitors in Walu-Siwaish. *sa-ŋ-aCu ‘9’ does not appear in  the other Pituish languages upstream of Proto-Walu-Siwaish, because of a series of local innovations displacing *sa-ŋ-aCu:  Atayal qeru, Sediq maŋali, and in Siraya matauda.


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

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Pituish (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/06/2020,

Limaish (master post)

(view clickable tree) (to list of innovations, sorted by node)

(Jump up one level to Pituish)

(jump down one level to Enemish)

(jump down one level to Thao-Atayalic)

Limaish is a daughter of Pituish. It is defined by two innovations:

1. *lima ‘five’.  This originates in *lima, *qa-lima ‘hand’. *lima displaces PAN *RaCep, the main word for ‘five’ on the northern half of the west coast:  Saisiyat, Pazeh, Favorlang, Babuza, Taokas. (cognate set #2 in the ABVD). *lima is virtually universal in the rest of Taiwan, Malayo-Polynesian and—outside of Chinese loanwords—Kra-Dai.

2. Limaish languages are also characterized by the appearance of a special series of numerals used with human referents. There is no evidence for such a series in the languages upstream of Limaish: Taokas, Favorlang, Babuza, Pazeh, Kaxabu, Kulon, Saisiyat, Luilang. The Limaish human numerals are derived out of the main series by means of Ca- reduplication, where ‘C’ is a copy of the base’s initial consonant, and –a is the plural marker of human and personal nouns (see e.g. Bril 2017 for Amis). Because this series is initially a plural one, at the time it arises, a numeral for ‘one’ cannot be part of it. In the immediate daughters languages of Proto-Limaish, Thao and Atayal, tata and qutux, both ‘one’, respectively, serve to count things and humans. Here is a list of Limaish languages with Ca-reduplicated numerals for human reference:

Thao (Blust 2003): ta-tusha ‘two’, ta-turu ‘three’, ʃa-ʃpat ‘four’, ra-rima ‘five’, pa-pitu ‘seven’ (here)

Atayal (Mayrinax): ra-rusa? ‘two’, ta-tuu ‘three’, sa-spat ‘four’, a-ima ‘five’ (here)

Siraya (Adelaar 2011)  sa-saat ‘one’, da-ruha ‘two’, ta-turo (-u) ‘three’, pa-xpat ‘four’, ra-rĭma ‘five’, pa-pĭto (-u) ‘seven’.

Bunun (Isbukun) ta-cini (?) ‘one’, da-dusa ‘two’, ta-tau ‘three’, sa-sapaat ‘four’, a-ima/ha-hima ‘five’, a-apnum ‘six’, pa-pitu ‘seven’, va-vau ‘eight’, sa-siva ‘nine’, ma-masan ‘ten’ (here)

Rukai: Tanan Rukai does have a separate series for counting humans (and animals), but instead of Ca- reduplication, the series is marked by ta- prefixation (here).

Kanakanabu: tacíni ‘one’, tasúsa ‘two’, tatúlu ‘three’, sasúpatə ‘four’, lalíma ‘five’, nanəmə ‘six’, papítu ‘seven’, laláalu ‘eight’, sasía ‘nine’, mamáanə ‘ten’ (here).

Saaroa: tsa-tsiɬi ‘one’, sa-sua ‘two’, ta-tulu ‘three’, a-upatɨ ‘four’, la-lima ‘five’, a-ɨnɨmɨ ‘six’, pa-pitu ‘seven’, la-la-alu ‘eight’, sa-sia ‘nine’ (here)

Tsou: Tsou has a vestigial Ca-reduplicated series, limited to sasupatə ‘four’ (here)

Kavalan has a series of numerals for counting humans, but replaces Ca-reduplication by prefixation of kin-, after the break-up of Eastern Walu-Siwaish.

The Formosan Puluqish languages: Amis, Puyuma and Paiwan, have either lost the series (Amis), or mark it with a prefix (Puyuma mia-, Paiwan ma-). [But see Theo Yeh’s comment below. The characterization of Puyuma just given is only true of the Nanwang dialect. Tamalakaw Puyuma preserves Ca-reduplication in the human counting series: 1 sa-sa, 2 za-zuwa, 3 ta-teru, 4 a-apat, 5 la-luwaT, 6 a-ʔnem, 7 pa-pitu, 8 wa-waru, 9 a-iwa, 10 pa-puruH (Tsuchida 1980). Added July 1, 2021]

A few MP languages like Itbayaten and Chamorro inherited a human counting series marked by Ca-reduplication:

Itbayaten: da-doha ‘two’, la-lima ‘five’, pa-pito ‘seven’, wa-waxo ‘eight’, sa-siyam ‘nine’ (here)

Chamorro: ta-to ‘three’, fa-fiti ‘seven’, gua-gualo ‘eight’, sa-sigwa ‘nine’ (here; fa-fiti is incorrectly assigned to ‘six’).

Most Malayo-Polynesian languages lack an independent series of  numerals for human reference but occasionally forms with Ca-reduplication crop up among a language’s numerals, e.g. Tagalog dalawa < *dadawa ‘two’, tatlo ‘three’.

The Kra-Dai languages do not preserve the left edge of words well enough for us to detect a Ca- reduplication with confidence.

Within Limaish, Thao and Atayalic may form a subgroup (here).


Adelaar, Alexander K. 2011. Siraya, Retrieving the Phonology, Grammar and Lexicon of a Dormant Formosan Language. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Blust, Robert A. 2003. Thao Dictionary. Nankang: Institute of Linguistics (preparatory office), Academia Sinica.

Bril, I. 2017. Root and stems in Amis and Nêlêmwa (Austronesian). Studies in Language 41:2 (2017), 358-407.

Tsuchida, Shigeru. 1980. Puyuma (Tamalakaw dialect) vocabulary with grammatical notes and texts. in Kuroshio no Minzoku, Bunka, Gengo pp.183-307. Tokyo: Institute for the study of languages and cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of foreign studies.

Web site:

Eugene Chan, Numeral Systems of the World’s Languages. Online at Accessed May 25, 2020.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Limaish (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 24/05/2020,

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

(view clickable tree) (to list of innovations, sorted by node)

(jump up one level to Limaish)

(jump down one level to Walu-Siwaish)

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,