The PAN coda *-X in Favorlang

In Sagart (2019 here) I reconstructed a new PAN consonantal ending : *X [χ]. This is one source of the Kra-Dai tone B. In the same paper I showed that at the end of Austronesian words, two previously reconstructed h-type sounds: *H1 and *H2, evolved to different tones in Kra-Dai: *H1 to tone C and *H2 to tone A. In Table 7 of that paper I further assigned my *X to two words having no Kra-Dai cognates: *qeCaX ‘chaff’ and *duRiX ‘thorn’.  The reason for claiming these words ended in *X was that, while there was evidence in each case for a final voiceless fricative (Amis ʔtah ‘chaff’, Aklanon dugih ‘thorn’), that fricative could neither be *H1 nor *H2, as shown by the combination of  cited Saisiyat, Amis and Bunun forms: only *X was consistent with all the evidence.

Favorlang, an extinct Austronesian language of the Formosan west coast, recorded by Dutch missionaries in the mid-17th century brings additional evidence. I rely on Happart’s Favorlang vocabulary of 1650, as published in Campbell (1896).

As represented in those sources, Favorlang regularly loses the PAN endings *H1 and *H2:

*-H1: bao ‘new’ < baqeRuH1; bagg’ (o chau) ‘a live coal’ < baRaH1; ema < *qumaH1 ‘a field’, atshia ‘a salting’ < qasiRaH1.

*-H2: torro ‘three’ (in manna-torro-us ‘three times’) < tuluH2; manna-pida ‘to be often repeated’ < *pijaH2; charina ‘ear’ < CangilaH2; abo < qabuH2 ‘ash’; kairi ‘left’ < ka-wiRiH2; bato ‘stone’ < batuH2.

Yet *qeCaX ‘chaff’ is reflected in Favorlang with a final back-of-the mouth fricative, as chach or chagh ‘the powder of ground seed; the refuse of bruised corn’ (understand ‘the by-product of pounding grain: chaff’). PAN *q is regularly lost in Favorlang, and PAN *C evolves regularly to ch. Dutch orthographic ch writes [x] and gh writes [x] or [ɣ] : this may have been close to the value of the fricatives in chach/chagh: [xax], [xaɣ] or similar. The first ch- reflects PAN *C; the last consonant: –ch or –gh, my *X. It cannot reflect *H1 or *H2, since as shown above both go to zero in Favorlang.

The behaviour of final *-X in Favorlang is parallel to that of final -h in the Amis cognate ‘tah ‘chaff’: this -h cannot reflect *H2, as final *H2 goes to zero in Amis. It could reflect *H1, since Amis reflects final *H1 as –h, but *H1 is contra-indicated by Saisiyat kæ-ʔsæʔ ‘chaff’—expect ʔsæh if PAN was *qeCaH1. Thus geographically distant Amis and Favorlang agree in having in ‘chaff’ a final back-of-the-mouth fricative that can neither reflect *H1 nor *H2.


Happart, Gilbertus (1650 [1896]) Woordboek der Favorlangsche Taal. Published in English translation as Happart’s Favorlang vocabulary in W. Campbell (ed.) The articles of Christian Instruction in Favorlang-Formosan Dutch and English. London, Kegan Paul, Trench and Trübner, 1896, pp. 122-199.

Sagart, Laurent. 2019. A model of the origin of Kra-Dai tones. Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 2019, 48 (1), pp.1-29. ⟨10.1163/19606028-04801004⟩

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "The PAN coda *-X in Favorlang," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 24/06/2020,

Labial fortitions in Kra-Dai

In his study of Proto-Kam-Sui (PKS) initials, Ferlus (1996) tentatively reconstructed initial *ˀl- based on a set of four comparisons with high-register tones, including ‘wasp’ and ‘boar’:

Dong Shui Maonan Mulao
wasp la:u A1 lu A1 du A1 -lu A1
boar lai B1 -la:i B1 -da:i B1 -la:i B1

The probable Austronesian prototypes are *waNu ‘honeybee’ and *waNiS ‘boar’s tusk, boar’ in Blust’s PAN reconstructions. Recall that *N was a lateral, probably simply [l], in PAN, until it shifted to *n after Proto-Southern-Austronesian, in PMP. As a daughter of PSA (here), PKD retained *N as [l]. Evolution of *waNiS to tone B in PKS is unexplained, but has a parallel in the reflex of *gumiS ‘moustache, beard’ in Kra: Buyang mui 11 (B) ‘body hair, feather’.

In PSA, initial *w- became *ʔw- with phonetic glottal stop: ʔwalu, ʔwaliS. This ʔw- underwent fortition to *p- in Proto-Hlai (Ostapirat *pəlu A, Norquest *p-lu: A). In PKS, *ʔwal- simplified to ʔwl- and ultimately to Ferlus’s *ʔl-.

The Kam-Sui word for ‘blood’, Ferlus *pʰr-, Thurgood *phla:t 7, can now more confidently be related to PAN *huRaC ‘artery, blood vessel, blood vein’ (Blust) with fortition of initial *XuR- to *pʰr- via [ɸr-] vel sim., parallel and similar to the fortition of *ʔul- to *pl- in Hlai.


Ferlus, Michel. 1996. Remarques sur le consonantisme du proto kam-sui. Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale 25: 235-278.

Norquest, Peter. 2015. A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Hlai. Brill.

Ostapirat, W. 2004. Proto-Hlai sound system and lexicons. in: Ying-ching Lin, Fang-min Hsu, Chun-chih Lee, Jackson T.S. Sun, Hsiu-fang Yang and Dah-an Ho (eds), Studies in Sino-Tibetan languages, papers in honor of Professor Hwang-cherng Gong on his seventieth birthday, 121-175. Nankang: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Labial fortitions in Kra-Dai," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 15/05/2020,

Southern Austronesian *sa-puluq-at in numbers 10 to 19

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This post returns to a subject discussed in a 2010 conference paper (here). New facts are presented and the interpretation is slightly modified.

Several Philippine languages belonging to the South-Central Cordilleran subgroup in northern Luzon: Kankanay, Kalinga, Bontok, Ifugao, Balangaw, Inibaloi, have a conjunction reflecting Proto-South-Central Cordilleran *et [ət] ‘and, and then’. In the Central Luzon group of Philippine languages, Kapampangan, not in direct contact with the Cordilleran languages, has at ‘and’, reflecting either *et [ət] or *at. Tagalog, a Central Philippines language, has at ‘and’, which can only reflect *at, unless it is a loan from neighboring Kapampangan at ‘id.’ (personal communications from L. Reid and R.D. Zorc, April 2007). Kapampangan is known to be a source of loanwords to Tagalog. Among the Central Cordilleran languages reflecting *et ‘and’, Isinai, Kalinga and a few others use a phonologically reduced form of that morpheme between pulu ‘ten’ and a following unit numeral. Thus in Kalinga, ‘ten’ is simpulu < *sa-n(g)a-puluq, but ‘eleven’ is simpu:lut osa (Tryon et al. 1995, Vol. 4, 43-45). That last form is analyzable as /sin-pulu=t osa/, where /=t/ ‘and’, /osa/ < *əsa ‘one’. Similarly, ‘twelve’ is simpu:lut duwa /sin-pulu=t duwa/, where /duwa/ < *duSa ‘two’ and /=t/ ‘and’. Kapampangan, the only Central Luzon language with a reflex of *et, does not use it in compound numerals. Although Tagalog may have borrowed the conjunction from Kapampangan, it does use a reduced form of at in compound numerals above ‘20’, in a very similar way to Kalinga and Isinay:


twenty’ < *daduha ‘two’ + nasal linker + *puluq ‘ten’

dalawampút isá

twenty-one’ < *daduhatwo’ + nasal linker + *puluq ‘ten’ + =(a)t ‘and’ + *esa ‘one’

dalawampút dalawá

twenty-two’ < *daduhatwo’ + nasal linker + *puluq ‘ten’ + =(a)t ‘and’ + *daduha ‘two’

The puluq-t-numeral form cannot easily have been borrowed from Cordilleran into Tagalog, as the languages are not in contact: if Tagalog borrowed the conjunction from Kapampangan, Tagalog shows a development parallel to Cordilleran in its use of the conjunction.

There are two possible accounts of the development of the conjunction itself in the Philippine languages. In the first, the conjunction’s oldest form in the Philippines was *et [ət], regularly evolving to at in Kapampangan, and loaned to Tagalog as at. Under that account, the conjunction, inherited only in the South-Central Cordilleran and Central Luzon groups, reconstructs to the northern clade of Philippine languages in the phylogeny of Gray, Drummond and Greenhill (2009), which this post follows for Malayo-Polynesian. Use of the conjunction between *puluq and a following numeral in Cordilleran and in Tagalog must be the result of parallel innovations.

In a second account, the conjunction’s oldest form in the Philippines was *at. Kapampangan and Tagalog inherited it in that shape, while in the Cordilleran languages the presumably unstressed vowel underwent centralization, to [ət]. Under that account, Tagalog being part of the southern clade, both *at ‘and then’ and the *puluq=at+numeral construction reconstruct higher, to the ancestor of the southern and northern Philippine clades.2

Whether as *et or *at, the Philippine conjunction is reminiscent of the form ato ‘and, with’ in Amis (central Amis: Fey 1986, Namoh 2013) and of the conjunction katu in Paiwan. In Nataoran Amis (Nataoran Amis: Bril fieldwork), atu may occur in numeral expressions (Isabelle Bril, p.c., 11 February 2014):

a cacay-en atu la-tusa ku ni-pabeli itakuan-an tu pawli

HORT one-UV and half NOM PERF.NMZ-give me-OBL ACC banana

Give me one and a half banana (lit. ‘let it be one and a half the giving a banana to me’)

Both Namoh (2013:136) and Bril treat ato~atu as originally composed of a ‘and’ plus =to ‘oblique common noun marker’, drawing a parallel to aci ‘and + personal noun’ (<a ‘and’ + =ci ‘personal noun marker’). The oblique common noun marker to itself is analyzable into t- oblique and u or o common noun marker.

In a northern Amis numeral system recorded by Tsuchida (here), tu, a shortened form of atu, serves in numerals between 11 and 19 as a linker between the locally innovated word for ‘ten’: sabaw , and the following unit number, e.g. sabaw tu tulu ‘13’, sabaw tu lima ‘15’.

Similarly, in a Paiwan dialect recorded by Chang Hsiou-chuan (here), a conjunction katu occurs between *sa-puluq and a following unit number, e.g. tapuluʔ katu ʔunəm ‘16’. katu is analyzeable as katu ‘and-oblique noun marker’, or possibly kaatu ‘andoblique noun marker’.

While *sa-puluq, the Puluqish word for ‘10’ ends in *-q, which correspoponds to -k in Kra-Dai, the Kra-Dai word for ‘10’ ends in *-t, as if it came from *pulut. The Philippine developments suggest an explanation. The following scenario is based on the hypothesis that the oldest Philippine form of the conjuction was *at. It is also possible to explain the facts under the view that it was *et, but the explanation is slightly more complex.

Comparison of Amis and Paiwan leads one to posit a conjunction *atu ‘and’ between *sa-puluq ‘10’ and a following numeral. In PSA the presumably enclitic conjunction was reduced to *at through syncope. Proto-Malayo-Polynesian and Proto-Kra-Dai, the direct daughters of PSA, inherited both *at and the compound numeral construction with it. Proto-Malayo-Polynesian in turn transmitted these to its immediate daughter Proto-Philippines, but the conjunction and construction were lost in Malayo-Polynesian outside of the Philippines. For this to occur, a single loss is required as such a node is supported with 98% posterior probability in Gray, Drummond and Greenhill (2009). Soon after Kra-Dai branched off, and independently from developments in the Philippines, *at ‘and’ was further reduced to /t/, and the resulting *sa-puluqt was reduced to *sa-pulut in PKD. This then evolved to Proto-Hlai *apu:c, Proto-Kra *pwlot. The outcome in Proto-Kam-Tai is unknown because these KD languages have abandoned Austronesian numerals for Chinese ones.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Southern Austronesian *sa-puluq-at in numbers 10 to 19," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 07/05/2020,

Southern Austronesian lexical innovations

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Each of the lexical innovations listed below associates a Malayo-Polynesian form with reconstructions from one or more Kra-Dai branches. The MP side of the comparison either has no Formosan cognates, or cognates with distinct semantics. If it has no Formosan cognate, a Formosan etymon of the same meaning, partly or fully displaced by the MP etymon, exists.

1. PSA *baqbaq ‘mouth’.  Tsuchida’s *ŋuθuq ‘mouth’ (1976:130) is identical with Blust’s *ŋusuq ‘mouth’ and Wolff’s *ŋucuq ‘snout, beak’. This is the highest-reconstructing  Austronesian etymon for ‘mouth’ (humans and animals). It is reflected in Tsouic, Batanic and Oceanic (cognate set #2 here). In MP  *baqbaq ‘mouth’ (cognate set #1 here; see also here) is more widespread. In Taiwan Wolff recognized its precursor in Bunun vaqvaq ‘chin’ (2010:757); Bril (p.c., April 13, 2020) mentioned northern Amis babaq ‘jaw’. The most likely scenario, then, is that *baqbaq, a word for ‘chin’ or (lower ?) ‘jaw’ in a Formosan precursor of PMP, shifted to ‘mouth’ in PMP, competing with *ŋuθuq, ultimately displacing it in Cebuano, Malagasy, Old Javanese and other languages.

A reflex of *baqbaq is the word for ‘mouth’ in the Kam-Tai branch of Kra-Dai: Proto-Tai (Pittayaporn) *pa:k D, Proto-Kam-Sui (Thurgood) *pa:k 7, Proto-Ong-Be *ɓa:k D1.  For the  correspondence of PAN *-aq to Kam-Tai *-a:k, compare ‘otter’, PAN  *Sanaq : Proto-Tai *na:k.  Normally a singleton PAN *b in word medial position ought to evolve to Kam-Tai initial *b or *ɓ, not to *p: *p- in this word actually corresponds to PMP *b in the word-internal *-qb- cluster.

2. PSA *biRáq ‘kind of taro’.  An etymon *biRaq has been assigned to PAN in two meanings: ‘leaf’ and ‘taro/wild taro’. Evidently these are related, as the taro’s leaf is remarkable. Blust reconstructs the meaning as ‘taro’ (here) but as shown by Wolff (2010) Saisiyat bilaʔ, Tanan Rukai bia, Kavalan biɣi, Puyuma bira, all mean ‘leaf’. In MP,  the meaning ‘leaf’ has disappeared, all languages indicate ‘taro’ or a meaning derivable from ‘taro’.

In the Kra-Dai languages, *biRaq appears as ‘taro’, never as ‘leaf’: Proto-Kra *p-ɣak D (Ostapirat), Proto-Hlai (Norquest) *ra:k, Proto-Tai (Pittayaporn) *prɯək, proto-Kam-Sui (Thurgood) *ɓra:k 7.  The vowel in the Proto-Tai form points to a precursor with penultimate stress, such as reduplicated *biRaq-bíRaq. Kra-Dai and MP share the loss of the meaning ‘leaf’.

3. PSA -ŋel ‘deaf’. Blust reconstructed PAN * Culi ‘deaf’ (here), Wolff *tilu ‘id’. This word persists in MP, but MP languages add words for ‘deaf’ having root *-ŋel (here), possibly somehow connected with *deŋeR ‘hear’ (Puyuma, Paiwan, MP).

The Kra-Dai languages reflect *ŋel: Proto-Kra (Ostapirat) *ŋel C ‘deaf’.

4. PSA *píntu ‘door’. A PMP word for ‘door’, reflected as Malay pintu, Tagalog pinto, pintu-an reconstructs to PMP as *pintu, even though the cognate set is not recognized by either of Blust or Wolff. Formosan words for ‘door’ often include root *-Neb ‘close’ (Blust; here) so *pintu is clearly innovative. Its etymology is unknown. Metanalysis of a compound including root *-pit ‘hold by pinching’ is a possibility (Wolff 2010; see also Blust’s evidence for this root here).

The Kra-Dai word for ‘door’ is cognate with PMP *pintu. Buyang, a Kra language, has ma tɔ  A2 ‘door’, where ma is the expected reflex of an Austronesian first syllable beginning in a labial (e.g. *walu > ma ðu ‘eight’, *buŋaH1 > ma ŋa C ‘flower’, *maCa > ma ta A ‘eye’), and   A2 reflects an unstressed *-ntu, i.e. a paroxytone PSA prototype *píntu. ‘A2’ is the low variant of tone A: it shows that initial t– went through a voiced stage, as it evolved out of  PSA *-nt-. PSA plain medial *-t- would evolve to Buyang t- with a high-series tone. Compare PSA *taŋkup ‘to cover’, PMP *ta(ŋ)kup or *tuŋkup id., Buyang ta qup D2 id. Proto-Lakkja (Theraphan) also has a low tone in ‘door’: *tɔ: A2.

5. PSA *qi(d)zúR ‘sputum, saliva’. The earliest recontructable Austronesian form for ‘sputum’ or ‘saliva’ is PCEWS *ŋalay, a form reflected in Rukai-Tsouic, Amis, Puyuma and Bashiic (Tsuchida 1976:230). The corresponding reconstruction in Blust’s system: *ŋajay is erroneous, as the medial consonants in Paiwan ŋadjay and –h– in Yami ŋahay are not regular outcomes of PAN *-j-. In MP, *ŋalay is not found except in several Bashiic languages (Yami, Itbayaten, Ivatan…). In KD, Proto-Tai *la:j A, Proto-Lakkja *lei A reflect *ŋalay, and Ferlus (REF), unaware of the Austronesian comparison, reconstructs the Proto-Kam-Sui initial as *ŋl-.

PMP innovates *qi(d)zuR ‘saliva, spittle’ (Blust *qizuR), reflected in the Philippines (Ibaloi, Southern Cordilleran), Toba Batak, Javanese. In KD, the Kra branch reflects *qi(d)zuR: Buyang qa tu B (remember that PSA *-R goes to tone B in KD).

From what precedes, PCEWS *ŋalay and PMP *qi(d)zuR are in competition in Philippine and KD languages, and nowhere else. This fit well with the idea that the competition existed from PSA through an early time in the diversification of MP.

6. PSA qa-sáuŋ ‘canine tooth’. The highest reconstructable word for ‘canine tooth’ is *waqit (Blust, ACD), a Formosa-only etymon reflected in Atayal and Puyuma. *bangeliS (Also Blust, ACD), with reflexes in Kavalan and MP, is specifically a word for ‘tusk’. As ‘canine tooth’, *sáuŋ  displaced *waqit in Philippine languages. This became the word for ‘tooth’ in the Kra branch of KD: Proto-Kra *C-tʃuŋ A ‘tooth’ reflects *sáuŋ with a prefixed element, which Buyang qa ɕɔŋ 54 ‘tooth’ shows to have been a velar or uvular: *ka-sáuŋ or *qa- sáuŋ.

7. PSA *sapeléd, *ma-sapeléd ‘astringent’. Blust (ongoing) reconstructed *qasepa ‘astringent’, reflected in Puyuma and MP, and thus assignable to Puluqish. Only in Puyuma is the meaning ‘astringent’: all MP forms (Iban, Malay, Javanese) mean ‘stale’, ‘insipid’, ‘tasteless’. Subsequent to this semantic shift, the Puluqish word was displaced by a new word: PMP *sapeled, with reflexes in the Philippines, Malay and Mongondow (reconstructed in Blust, ongoing). A stative ma-prefix is moreover in evidence in Bikol, Hanunoo. In Kra-Dai, Buyang phat 54 ‘astringent’ reflects a prefixed variant of *sapeled, possibly *ma-sapeled. The Buyang vowel points to a stressed vowel in the PSA prototype, thus *Pfx-sapeléd. Austronesian  vowels except for the last one are  lost in the evolution to Kra. For the reduction of the -pl- internal cluster to -p- in Buyang, compare PSA *sa-puluq-Vt ‘ten’, Buyang put 54 id. Buyang voceless aspirated stops originate in voiceless stops preceded by a voiceless obstruent, here /s/. Proto-Tai ʰwɯət probably has the same origin as Buyang *phat. Of the two words for ‘astringent’, it is the innovated one which occurs in KD.

8. PSA *buŋáH1 and *bujak ‘flower’.  Which was the earliest Austronesian etymon for ‘flower’ ? Despite Blust (ongoing) and Wolff (2010), not *buŋaH1—I reconstruct final H1 in this word based on the correspondence between Aklanon final -h and Proto-Kra-Dai tone C. When examining the semantics of *buŋáH1 one must evidently leave aside languages (Atayal, Seediq, Thao, Amis, Puyuma, Thao) where the referent is ‘sweet potato’, a south American domesticate spread across the Pacific in prehistoric times. Such forms are in all likelihood loanwords, spread from an unknown source. This leaves only the two Southern Tsouic languages Kanakanabu and Saaroa. Inherited reflexes of *buŋaH1,not meaning ‘sweet potato’,  have been reported to occur there. During fieldwork on Saaroa in 2014 by myself and Hsu Tzefu, I elicited vuŋavuŋa < *buŋa-buŋa as ‘ear of foxtail millet’ (here). Wolff (2010) gave Saaroa vuu-vúŋa < *buu-buŋa ‘flower’. For Kanakanabu we have conflicting evidence. Wolff (2010 sub *buŋa) cited vuŋávuŋu, which seems to be vuŋ < *buŋ reduplicated, with final echo vowel; he notes a variant vuŋávuŋ. This does not reflect  *buŋa well—where is final *-a ? more probably it reflects *buŋ-a-buŋ. A root connection to Proto-Philippine *sabuŋ ‘flower’ (here) is possible. Blust (here) cited Kanakanabu buŋa-buŋa ‘flower’, the language source hyperlinked to Tsuchida (1976), but I could not find that form there.  Reconstructing Proto-Southern Tsouic (PST)  from Blust’s Kanakanabu buŋa-buŋa ‘flower’ and my Saaroa vuŋavuŋa ‘ear of foxtail millet’ one obtains PST *buŋa-buŋa ‘outgrowth of a plant’. The meaning ‘flower’ is too narrow.

‘Outgrowth of a plant’ also characterizes the meaning of *buŋáH1 in Philippine languages well: ‘fruit’, ‘seed’, ‘sapling’, ‘outgrowth’, ‘result’ are common meanings. ‘Flower’ is not among them, evidently because *buŋáH1 as ‘flower’ was displaced by *bujak (here). In MP languages from Malagasy to Oceanic where *bujak has not become the word for ‘flower’, the meaning of *buŋáH1 has narrowed down to ‘flower’.

What, then, was the earliest AN word for ‘flower’ ? very probably *buRay, a reconstruction of Dyen’s accepted by Blust   (here). This is based on Saisiyat and Paiwan forms, with the possible addition of Atayal and Kavalan.   In the post-Formosan phase of Austronesian history, *buRay was displaced as ‘flower’ by innovative *bujak and a semantically narrowed version of *buŋáH1. The former took hold in the Philippines, the latter in the rest of Malayo-Polynesian. Kra-Dai reflects both *buŋáH1 and *bujak.

A direct cognate of *buŋáH1 is seen in the Kra branch: Buyang ma ŋa 11 (tone C) ‘flower’, Proto-Kra (Ostapirat) *hŋa C id.. Preinitial ma in Buyang is regular for any labial initial in PSA. *h in Ostapirat’s reconstruction *hŋa C serves to account for the high-series tones in certain Kra varieties, but a reconstruction with *pŋ- or *ɓŋ- would serve the same purpose (the KD reflexes of PSA *b and *d are high-toned in KD), while accounting better for the Buyang pre-initial.

Proto-Tai *ɓlo:k (Pittayaporn) ‘flower’ is a cognate of *bujak .  PSA *j merges with PSA *d as PT *ɗ: *mújiŋ ‘nose’, PT *ɗaŋ A id. ; *púja ‘navel’, PT *ɗwɯ A. When forming a cluster with a preceding labial stop (as inside a trisyllable, where syncope of the second vowel occurs), the stop is retained and *ɗ (like *t-) lenites to l-: PSA *(Pfx-)punti ‘banana’, PT pli: A ‘banana blossom’; PSA *qapejúH2 ‘gall’ : PT *ɓli: A id. (change of *u to *i after *j is regular).

In order to have cognates of both *buŋáH1 and *bujak, KD needs to have branched off at a time when both words were in competition. That would have been the case between the moment when  *buRay was displaced (by *buŋáH1 and *bujak) and the separation between Proto-Philippines and the rest of MP: in other words, around the time of the out-of Taiwan event, c. 2000 BCE.


RETRACTED: PSA *sedút ‘to suck’. Austronesian etyma for ‘to sip, suck’ assignable to pre-MP times are mostly onomatopoetic forms that begin in a sibilant and end in -p: Blust’s PAN *SiRup, *sepsep, *supsup, Wolff’s *siɣup, *cep, *cepecep , *cipecip, etc.  Blust’s PWMP *sedut ‘to sip, suck’ is a minor form with a  patchy but geographically widespread distribution in Sarawak, Lombok and New Guinea.

Kra-Dai has a cognate of *sedut: Proto-Hlai (Ostapirat) *iru:c ‘to suck’, Saek du:t 6, Siamese du:t 2.

This comparison is retracted because of Amis hedot ‘to ingest noisily, making sucking noises’ (Namoh). This apparently reflects *Sedut,  distinct from *sedut (which would give Amis #cedot), but the Kra-Dai forms just cited could reflect either.


Dyen, Isidore. 1995.Borrowing and inheritance in Austronesianistics. In Paul Jen-kuei Li, Cheng-hwa Tsang, Ying-kuei Huang, Dah-an Ho, and Chiu-yu Tseng, eds., Austronesian studies relating to Taiwan:455-519. Symposium Series of the Institute of History and Philology, No. 3. Taipei: Academia Sinica].

Norquest, Peter. 2015. A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Hlai. Brill.

Ostapirat, Weera. 2000. Proto-Kra. Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 23.1:1-251.

Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. 2009. The phonology of proto-Tai. Unpublished Cornell U. dissertation.

Theraphan L.-Thongkum. 1992. A preliminary reconstruction of Proto-Lakkja (Cha Shan Yao). Mon-Khmer Studies 20: 57-89.

Thurgood, Graham. 1988. Notes on the reconstruction of Proto-Kam-Sui. In Jerold A Edmondson and David B. Solnit (eds) Comparative Kadai: Linguistics studies beyond Tai, 179-218. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington publications in Linguistics.

Tsuchida, S. (1976) Reconstruction of Proto-Tsouic phonology. Tokyo: Study of languages and cultures of Asia and Africa monograph series N° 5.

Wolff, John U. (2010) Proto-Austronesian phonology with glossary. 2 vols. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia program publications.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Southern Austronesian lexical innovations," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 07/05/2020,

*nanum, an Eastern Walu-Siwaish word for ‘water’.

The PAN word for water was *daNum (Blust, ACD), *D2aNum (Tsuchida 1976), *daɫum (Wolff 2010).  Barring special circumstances, this word should remain unchanged into Eastern Walu-Siwaish (EWS). Among EWS languages, Basay (one dialect) lanom ‘water’,  Trobiawan zanum ‘water’, Kavalan zanum (in qi-zanum ‘to drink’), Amis radom ‘carry water from the water source’, Paiwan zaɫum ‘water’, PMP *danum ‘water’ show the expected outcomes.

Equally widespread in EWS languages are forms reflecting PEWS *nanum: Basay  nanom ‘water’, Kavalan nanum, m-nanum ‘to drink’, Sakizaya nanum ‘water’, mi-nanum ‘to drink’, Amis nanom ‘water’, mi-nanom ‘to drink water’, Puyuma nanum ‘water’ (male, religious). Papora mananu ‘to drink’ (Tsuchida 1982) may belong here too—this would raise *nanum ‘water’ to Proto-Walu-Siwaish— but loss of final *-m is problematic.

In Kra-Dai, PAN medial *-N- evolves to *l, while *-n- evolves to *n. Compare *aNak ‘child’, Proto-Kra *lak, Proto-Tai *lɯ:k, Proto-Kam-Sui (Ferlus) *la:k 8; *buNum ‘air, weather, sky’, proto-Tai *C̬.lɯm A ‘wind’, Proto-Kam-Sui (Thurgood) *hlwɯm 1, (Ferlus) *(C)l/rəm A. Consequently, all the Kra-Dai words for ‘water’: Proto-Hlai (Ostapirat) *nam C, Proto-Tai *C̬.nam C  (Pittayaporn; ‘C̬’ is a voiced consonant), Proto-Kam-Sui (Ferlus) *n-, Proto-Lakkja *num C (Theraphan) are cognates of *nanum, not *daNum.

There are no obvious reflexes of *nanum ‘water’ in MP, however it appears that the PMP word for ‘water’: *um-inum ‘to drink’ was reanalyzed from *mi-nanum ‘get water, drink water’ (here).


Tsuchida, S. (1982) A Comparative Vocabulary of Austronesian Languages of Sinicized Ethnic Groups in Taiwan, Part I: Western Taiwan. Memoirs of the Faculty of Letters, No. 7, University of Tokyo. Tokyo, Japan.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "*nanum, an Eastern Walu-Siwaish word for ‘water’.," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 23/04/2020,

Southern Austronesian (master post)

(to clickable tree)

(Jump up one level to Puluqish master post)

Within Puluqish, the Malayo-Polynesian (MP) and Kra-Dai (KD) languages form a southern clade,  consisting of all Austronesian languages spoken south of Taiwan. I use the term ‘Southern Austronesian’ (SA). Shared innovations cannot be grammatical since KD preserves morphology indirectly at best and grammar has aligned on Chinese, but they can be phonological or lexical.

phonological innovation

Puluqish linker *atu ‘and’ reduced to *at after *sa-puluq in numbers 10 to 19 (here)

Lexical innovations (here)

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Southern Austronesian (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 13/04/2020,

Puluqish (master post)

(To clickable tree)

(Jump up one level to Eastern Walu-Siwaish)

(Jump down one level to northern Puluqish; to southern Austronesian)

Puluqish (Sagart 2008) is an Austronesian subgroup defined by the innovative numeral *puluq ‘ten’. It includes three languages of southern and southeastern Taiwan: Amis, Puyuma, and Paiwan, plus Malayo-Polynesian and Kra-Dai.

A second innovation of Puluqish has now been identified: the use of prefixes *paka- and *maka- to indicate abilitative meaning (here).

Critics of Puluqish had underlined the lack of an etymology for *puluq (e.g. Winter 2010: 284): this apparent opacity seemed to indicate that *puluq is as ancient as the lower Austronesian numerals *isa ‘one’, *duSa ‘two’ etc.  The etymology of *puluq has now been determined (here).

The new etymology implies that the original Puluqish word for ’10’ was actually *sa-puluq (one-puluq) rather than just *puluq. The *sa- component was lost in Amis and Puyuma but preserved in Paiwan, Malayo-Polynesian and Kra-Dai. The irregular phonetic shape of one word for ‘nine’ in Puyuma confirms the loss (here).

The internal structure of Puluqish has been clarified: lexical evidence that Amis and Puyuma form a subgroup within Puluqish has been described (here).

Similarly, lexical evidence has been presented (here) that Malayo-Polynesian and Kra-Dai form a subgroup: Southern Austronesian (SA).

Puluqish clashes with Blust’s East Formosan (Blust 1999) and with Ross’s Nuclear Austronesian (Ross 2009; now abandoned by him). See my criticisms of these constructs here and here.


Blust, Robert A. 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).

Ross, Malcolm D. 2009. Proto Austronesian verbal morphology: a reappraisal. Austronesian historical linguistics and culture history. A festschrift for Robert Blust, ed. by Alexander Adelaar and Andrew K. Pawley (eds), 285-316. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Sagart, L. (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.

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

Sagart, L. 2015. East Formosan and the PAN palatals. Paper presented at the 13th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Taipei, July 18-22, 2015.

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

Winter, Bodo. 2010. A note on the higher phylogeny of Austronesian. Oceanic Linguistics 49:282‒87.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Puluqish (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 09/04/2020,

Michel Ferlus et l’interface austronésien/kra-dai

Michel Ferlus avait fait à la conférence austronésienne 11-ICAL d’Aussois en 2009 une présentation où il résumait une nouvelle théorie des relations entre austronésien, kra-dai (il utilise le terme de Benedict: tai-kadai) et malayo-polynésien. Elle peut être consulté ici, en versions française et anglaise. Elle répondait à un de mes articles (2004) où je proposais que le kra-dai est une branche de l’austronésien, notamment sur la base d’innovations partagées dans les système des numéraux.

Ferlus déplore aujourd’hui le peu d’attention accordé à son texte, allant jusqu’à parler de “refus du débat scientifique”. Je vais donc donner ci-dessous une liste de problèmes contenus dans sa présentation qui sont, me semble-t-il, la cause du manque d’intérêt de ses collègues. Précisons que personne n’a abandonné l’idée du “out of Taiwan” suite à la présentation de Ferlus: j’ai moi-même employé ce terme dans un article paru l’an dernier dans la revue Rice (ici).

Tout d’abord, résumons rapidement l’idée de Ferlus.

Ferlus pense que l’austronésien, originellement parlé dans le bas-yangtzé, s’est d’abord répandu vers le sud le long de la côte chinoise. De là, des groupes austronésiens auraient peuplé Taiwan les uns après les autres (ainsi, il n’y a pas de proto-formosan dans la théorie de Ferlus). Les austronésiens restant sur le continent auraient ensuite continué vers le sud jusqu’au Guangdong, où ils seraient devenus malayo-polynésiens. Là, ils auraient été recouverts par la famille kra-dai, laquelle aurait emprunté beaucoup de vocabulaire de base au malayo-polynésien, donnant l’impression d’une parenté génétique entre le kra-dai et l’austronésien. Par la suite, les malayo-polynésiens seraient passés du Guangdong aux Philippines, d’où ils auraient peuplé tout le Pacifique. Ils n’auraient pas laissé de traces sur le continent. Parallèlement à leur expansion vers le sud, ils auraient, au nord, influencé les langues de Taiwan, leur transmettant les nombres de 4 à 10, mais apparemment rien d’autre sur le plan linguistique. La transmission des nombres malayo-polynésiens aux langues de Taiwan se serait faite de façon graduée, les langues du sud recevant plus de nombres MP que celles du nord. Outre les nombres, des éléments culturels auraient été transmis par les malayo-polynésiens des Philippines aux formosans du sud, en particulier un certain type de poterie (“red-slipped pottery”, terme que Ferlus traduit par “lissé-rouge”), et le riz indica.

Voyons les problèmes inhérents à cette théorie.

1. Une famille kra-dai distincte ?

Laissant de côté les emprunts au chinois, le vocabulaire de base kra-dai contient une couche principale austronésienne et une couche secondaire, plus petite, austroasiatique. Si le kra-dai était une famille distincte, il devrait exister une couche lexicale indigène très fondamentale qui ne serait ni AN, ni AA, ni chinoise. Ferlus ne fait aucun effort pour caractériser une telle couche. Notons qu’elle ne comprendrait ni les pronoms personnels, ni les nombres, et bien peu de noms de parties du corps. En l’absence de caractérisation lexicale, l’idée d’une famille kra-dai distincte n’est pas recevable.

2. Les kra-dai auraient acquis l’agriculture des austroasiatiques.

Selon Ferlus, les premiers TK auraient été des végéculteurs (du taro, en particulier), et le vocabulaire kra-dai de la riziculture serait entièrement d’origine austroasiatique. Pourtant :

  • “riz décortiqué”, Proto-Tai *sa:l A, proto-Kra *sal A. Ce mot est d’origine austronésienne: PAn *qaSaN “grain non décortiqué”;
  • “riz cuit”, Proto-Kra *m-laɯ C. Ce mot est d’origine austronésienne: PAn *beRas “grain décortiqué”
  • “rizière inondée”, Proto-Kra *na A, proto-Hlai *ana B, également d’origine austronésienne : PAn *bena “champ de plaine”.

Il n’y a pas lieu de supposer que les kra-dai aient jamais eu un mode de vie non-agricole.

3. L’interaction malayo-polynésien/kra-dai au Guangdong : un scénario peu clair.

Selon Ferlus (p. 5) vers le 2e siècle avant notre ère, le malayo-polynésien du Guangdong “aurait été recouvert par une poussée du TK originel venant de l’intérieur.” Il ajoute : “Ce scénario explique pourquoi le vocabulaire commun au TK et à l’AN appartient au lexique fondamental.” Or, le gaulois a été recouvert par le latin, sans que le latin tradif parlé en Gaule reçoive du vocabulaire fondamental gaulois. Les explications sont insuffisantes.

4. La date du départ des malayo-polynésiens du Guangdong vers les Philippines.

Ferlus place ce mouvement vers 3000 avant notre ère. Or il n’y a pas trace d’un mode de vie néolithique aux Philippines jusqu’à 2000 avant notre ère.

5. “La parenté du vocabulaire partagé entre le TK et l’AN est à placer au niveau du PMP”

C’est une erreur. Les mots austronésiens en kra-dai n’ont subi aucune des innovations phonologiques du malayo-polynésien: *C et *t sont toujours distincts, *N et *n également, *S est toujours une sifflante, les métathèses de -h final n’ont pas eu lieu. En particulier, le mot “oeil” cité par Ferlus, PAN *maCa, devenant *mata en PMP, est *m-ʈa A en Proto-Kra (Ostapirat 2000, sur la foi du Gelao de Qiaoshang), et non *m-ta A qui serait la forme correspondant au PMP *mata.

Sur le plan lexical, les innovations malayo-polynésiennes dans le domaine des nombres sont présentes en kra-dai, mais on trouve aussi en kra-dai des mots non-malayo-polynésiens, par exemple PAN *puja ‘nombril’, remplacé par *pusej en PMP, et pourtant reflété par Proto-Kra *m-ɖaɯ A, Proto-Tai *ɗwɯ A, Proto-Hlai *urɨ A. La seule explication est que le kra-dai est issu d’une langue du sud de Taiwan ayant les innovations dans les nombres, mais pas toutes les innovations lexicales, et aucune des innovations phonologiques du malayo-polynésien.

6. Transmission des nombres malayo-polynésiens aux langues de Taiwan : vraiment, seulement les nombres ?

Les nombres de 5 à 10 appartiennent au lexique modérément fondamental. Ils sont plus facilement empruntables que les pronoms, parties du corps, noms des éléments de base de la nature ; que les verbes aller/venir, mourir, manger, dormir ; mais sont plus difficilement empruntables que le vocabulaire culturel (techniques, commerce, calendrier etc.). Il n’est pas concevable que des nombres soient transmis par contact sans que du vocabulaire culturel le soit aussi. Si des nombres malayo-polynésiens ont été transmis aux langues du sud de Taiwan, on devrait aussi y trouver toute une couche de mots culturels malayo-polynésiens. L’existence d’une telle couche ne devrait pas être trop difficile à établir, étant donné les innovations phonologiques très visibles du malayo-polynésien. Mais personne ne l’a jamais vue. Les emprunts malayo-polynésiens dans les langues de Taiwan… sont très peu nombreux, et généralement plutôt récents (tabac, écriture etc).

7. Transmission des nombres malayo-polynésiens aux langues de Taiwan : le pattern d’implications est ignoré.

J’ai montré dans mon article de 2004 que les nombres malayo-polynésiens apparaissent dans les langues de Taiwan selon un pattern constant: la présence de *puluq ’10’ implique celle de *Siwa ‘9’ et *walu ‘8’, qui impliquent *enem ‘6’, qui implique *lima ‘5’, qui implique pitu ‘7’; mais l’inverse n’est pas vrai. Dans la géographie, plus on descend vers le sud, plus le paradigme malayo-polynésien est complet. De ce pattern, Ferlus ne retient que la ressemblance croissante (en termes du nombre de formes communes) avec le malayo-polynésien du nord au sud de Taiwan. Le pattern d’implications est ignoré.

8. Transmission des nombres malayo-polynésiens aux langues de Taiwan : les nombres bas vont plus loin que les hauts.

On sait depuis Greenberg que les nombres sont d’autant plus faciles à emprunter qu’ils sont élevés : ainsi ’10’ s’emprunte plus facilement que ‘9’, qui s’emprunte plus facilement que ‘8’, qui s’emprunte plus facilement que ‘7’, etc. Dans le modèle de Ferlus, les nombres malayo-polynésiens qui sont empruntés par le plus grand nombre de langues (et donc remontent le plus au nord) sont ‘5’, ‘6’ et ‘7’. Ceux qui restent confinés au sud de Taiwan, et donc qui sont empruntés par le plus petit nombre de langues, sont ‘8’, ‘9’ et ’10’. C’est l’inverse du pattern habituel.

9. Transmission d’éléments culturels malayo-polynésiens au sud de Taiwan : le cas de la poterie lissé-rouge.

La poterie lissé-rouge est plus ancienne à Taiwan qu’aux Philippines : elle est dominante vers -2100 avant notre ère dans le sud-est de Taiwan, mais ne commence à apparaître qu’après -2000 aux Philippines (Hung 2008: 23, 107). En général, les artefacts austronésiens communs à Taiwan et aux Philippines sont plus anciens à Taiwan (ibid.). Leur transfert a évidemment eu lieu du nord vers le sud.

10. Transmission d’éléments culturels malayo-polynésiens au sud de Taiwan : le cas du riz indica.

Ferlus propose (p.6) que le riz indica a été introduit à Taiwan depuis les Philippines par les malayo-polynésiens qui l’auraient, suppose-t-on, amené avec eux, depuis le Guangdong, en 3000 avant notre ère. C’est impossible. Le riz indica apparaît en Inde du nord par hybridation vers 2000 avant notre ère, et ne devient une composante stable de l’agriculture dans cette région que dans la période 1600-1000 avant notre ère (Silva et al 2018). Par la suite, il se répand dans l’Asie du sud-est, continentale et insulaire, à la faveur de l’expansion indienne du premier millénaire de notre ère. Depuis l’état hindouisé de Srivijaya à Sumatra, par le commerce maritime, il remonte vers le nord jusqu’à Taiwan. Les malayo-polynésiens des Philippines jusqu’à Madagascar cultivent traditionnellement du riz “japonica tropical”, aussi appelé “javanica”. Ce riz a des précurseurs biologiques dans les riz japonica des aborigènes de Taiwan (travail en préparation).

11. Pourquoi le malayo-polynésien n’est-il pas représenté à Taiwan?

Ferlus demande pourquoi le malayo-polynésien “qui serait né sur l’île de Taiwan n’y est plus représenté aujourd’hui”. C’est parce que les innovations caractéristiques du malayo-polynésien se sont produites aux Philippines, après la migration. La langue du sud de Taiwan dont le malayo-polynésien s’est séparé il y a 4000 ans a évolué vers… le paiwan moderne. Le paiwan est la langue de Taiwan la plus proche du malayo-polynésien. Ils ont les mêmes nombres et des innovations lexicales communes : les mots *alap ‘prendre’ et *Cazem ‘tranchant’.

Retournons la question à Ferlus : pourquoi le malayo-polynésien qui serait né au Guangdong n’y est-il plus représenté aujourd’hui ?


Bien que le chemin suivi par les Austronésiens depuis le continent ne soit pas le même chez Ferlus que dans la théorie standard, l’arbre phylogénétique impliqué par son modèle n’est pas différent du mien : les branches formosanes se séparent les unes après les autres du tronc commun, puis c’est au tour du malayo-polynésien. Un tel arbre a le potentiel d’exprimer l’idée que (à la différence du modèle de Blust) les langues formosanes ont des degrés de proximité différents avec le malayo-polynésien. Il contient potentiellement les noeuds auxquels accrocher les innovations successives *pitu 7, *lima 5, *enem 6, *walu 8, *Siwa 9, *puluq 10, expliquant ainsi simplement la hiérarchie d’implications entre ces nombres dans les langues de Taiwan. Dès lors, pourquoi rejeter mon modèle au profit d’un autre qui n’explique pas la hiérarchie d’implications ?


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

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, "Michel Ferlus et l’interface austronésien/kra-dai," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/06/2019,

The origins of Kra-Dai tones, current status (I): tone C

October 8, 2019:  a paper on the origins of Kra-Dai tones is now  published (here). It represents my current understanding of the formation of Kra-Dai tones and supersedes the present three posts. There are more data in the paper, especially on the Austronesian final consonant I note as *X; there are also some significant differences between the present posts and the paper.  Thus, although it is clear that the word ‘excrement’, ususally reconstructed as *Caqi, ended in some kind of guttural fricative, it contains too many irregularities, possibly euphemistically motivated (as noted by Wolff), both in Austronesian and Kra-Dai, to identify that fricative. Therefore in the published paper I retreat from my suggestion that *Caqi ‘excrement’ was really *Caqix. I suggest instead that final *-x was the value of Tsuchida’s *-H2, thus converging with Blust’s proposal, but on completely different grounds (pages 7-9).

Like Old Vietnamese, Written Burmese and Proto-Hmong-Mien, the Kra-Dai languages exhibit a phonological typology strongly influenced by a form of Chinese which is later than Old Chinese and earlier than Early Middle Chinese: that is, a period extending beginning c. 200 BCE and covering the first half of the first millennium CE. Their tone system is structurally identical to that of Chinese of that time: three contrasting tones on words ending in sonorants (vowels, semi-vowels, nasals, liquids) while words ending in oral stops do not show any tonal contrast. The origin of the Vietnamese tone system was elucidated by Haudricourt (1954a): one tone originated in words ending in [h], another in [ʔ], a third in sonorants. Haudricourt (1954b) showed that the Chinese qùshēng 去聲 originated in an *-s suffix which evolved to [h] prior to becoming a tone. Mei (1970) completed Haudricourt’s picture by proposing that the Chinese shǎngshēng 上聲 goes back to words ending in a glottal stop. For details see Sagart (1999). The origins of the Burmese, Hmong-Mien and Kra-Dai tones have not been elucidated although some progress has been made for Kra-Dai by Ostapirat (2005) and Norquest (2013). Here I describe additional hypotheses which bring us closer to a solution.

The Kra-Dai tones are known as A, B, C and D. The core of these categories existed in Proto-Kra-Dai (Ostapirat 2000), though not necessarily as true phonetic tones having pitch as their main acoustic clue. When borrowed into Kra-Dai, Middle Chinese píngshēng 平聲 words (ending in sonorants in Old Chinese) typically have tone A; Middle Chinese shǎngshēng 上聲 words (ending in a glottal stop in Old Chinese) are treated by tone C; MC qùshēng 去聲 words (ending in *-h in late OC < OC *-s) show tone B. Chinese words ending in oral stops form the so-called rùshēng入聲 category. They do not contrast with the other Chinese tones. Kra-Dai ‘tone’ D is the corresponding category in Kra-Dai. Gedney (1978) suggests that the phonetic values of the Thai tones A, B and C are the same as the Old Chinese values of the Chinese píngshēng, qùshēng and shǎngshēng respectively, under the Haudricourt-Mei solution: sonorant endings, [h]-endings, [ʔ]-endings. Earlier attempts to solve the origin of Kra-Dai tones have assumed Gedney’s hypothesis.

Sagart (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011) argued that the Kra-Dai languages are a subgroup, not a sister, of the Austronesian language family. Here I attempt an account of the Kra-Dai tone categories from the viewpoint of Austronesian consonant endings. It should be borne in mind that the AN words in Kra-Dai, while very basic, are quantitatively limited: for that reason my proposals are based on small numbers of examples. This post deals with the Kra-Dai tone C. Two other posts deal with tones B (here) and A (here).

In examining the Kra-Dai tone categories in connexion with Austronesian, reference must be made to Tsuchida’s reconstruction of two final consonants (Tsuchida 1976): *H1 (-h in Pazeh, Saisiyat, Atayal, Sediq, Amis and Aklanon) and *H2 (-h in Takituduh and Aklanon). AN words ending in *H1 form the core of the Kra-Dai tone C:

PAN(Sa) Buyang (Li 1999) PHlai(Os) PTai(Pi)
to come, go’ *uwaH1 va11 < C2
head’ *quluH1 qa0 ðu11 < C2 *uRəu C *kraw C
shoot, outgrowth, flower’ *buŋaH1 ma0 ŋa11 < C2

PAN(Sa): Proto-Austronesian (Sagart, this post); PHlai(O): Proto-Hlai (Ostapirat 2004); PTai(Pi): Proto-Tai (Pittayaporn 2009)

Supporting evidence for these reconstructions:

*uwaH1 ‘to come, to go’: Atayal uah ‘come’, Mantauran Rukai oa ‘go’, Babuza m-oa ‘come’, Puyuma ua ‘go’;

*quluH1 ‘head’ : Paiwan qulu, Sediq (Taroko) qolox ‘skull’, Saisiyat ta-ʔœlœh, Aklanon úeo(h);

*buŋaH1 ‘shoot, outgrowth, flower’: Saisiyat poŋaeh ‘flower’ (p- unexplained; expect b-), Saaroa vuŋavuŋa ‘ear of foxtail’ (own fieldwork, 2014), Kanakanabu buŋabuŋa ‘flower’, Aklanon búːŋah ‘fruit’.

Some Kra-Dai C-category words cannot come from *H1. The word for ‘excrement’, Proto-Kra *kai C, Proto-Hlai *akaːi C, Proto-Tai *C̬.qɯj C, in all likelihood corresponds to a PAN word reconstructed as *C1aq3i (Tsuchida), Blust *Caqi (Blust), *taqí (Wolff). Under the generally accepted sound correspondences, these should yield sai in Pazeh and Kaxabu, two closely related languages of central-western Taiwan. If the word had ended in *-H1, saih would be expected in both. The attested forms are Pazeh saik, Kaxabu saix (Tun 2015). Recently, thanks to my friends Prof. Hsing Yue-ie and Hsu Tze-fu of the Institute of Microbial and Plant Biology, Academia Sinica, I was able to visit Mr Tun in Puli and to record his pronunciation of this word (here). Blust treats Pazeh saik as a metathesis, but that explanation cannot work for Kaxabu. Currently I do not know any other examples of the correspondence Pazeh –k to Kaxabu –x. One possibility is that the word ended in a rare consonantal ending PAN *-x, preserved unchanged in Kaxabu, and merged with *-k in Pazeh. The aberrant –l ending in Kavalan tal ‘excrement’ would be its indirect reflection, as would tone C in Kra-Dai. This is speculative, as no other example of the final-consonant correspondence shown by ‘excrement’ in Austronesian is currently known.

In two other posts I examine the origins of the Kra-Dai tone B (here). and A (here), B and C. A list of references is appended to the post on tone A.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "The origins of Kra-Dai tones, current status (I): tone C," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/11/2017,

The origins of Kra-Dai tones, current status (II): tone B

October 8, 2019:  a paper on the origins of Kra-Dai tones is now  published (here). It represents my current understanding of the formation of Kra-Dai tones and supersedes the present three posts. There are more data in the paper, especially on the Austronesian final consonant I note as *X; there are also some significant differences between the present posts and the paper.  Thus, although it is clear that the word ‘excrement’, ususally reconstructed as *Caqi, ended in some kind of guttural fricative, it contains too many irregularities, possibly euphemistically motivated (as noted by Wolff), both in Austronesian and Kra-Dai, to identify that fricative. Therefore in the published paper I retreat from my suggestion that *Caqi ‘excrement’ was really *Caqix. I suggest instead that final *-x was the value of Tsuchida’s *-H2, thus converging with Blust’s proposal, but on completely different grounds (pages 7-9).

In my last post (here) I argued that the main origin of the Kra-Dai tone C category is Tsuchida’s * H1. Here I examine the origins of the Kra-Dai tone B. I will again argue that this tone category can be explain on the basis of observable Austronesian facts, although one of the sources I will propose has not so far been reconstructed.

It is becoming increasingly clear that PAN word-final *-R, a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ], is one of the sources of the Proto-Kra-Dai tone B. This was first pointed out by Norquest (2013), where the first two comparisons in the below table were noted.

PAN PMP(Sa) PHlai(No) Buyang (Li) PTai(Pi)
*tebuR ‘natural spring’ *tebuR —— —— *ɓoː B
*SulaR ‘snale’ —— *ljaːɦ —— ­——
*-kaR ‘dry’ *-kaR *kʰɯːɦ qha11< B *χaɰ B
—— *qi(d)zuR ‘saliva’ —— qa0 tu11 < B ‘sputum’ ——

Unaware of Norquest’s earlier observations, I noted the match between tone B and final *-R in ‘dry’ and ‘saliva/sputum’ while working on the Kra language Buyang in September-early October 2017. I became aware of Norquest’s proposal through his message of October 22, 2017 on an email discussion group strated by Cecil Brown, to which he had attached his 2013 paper in Mon-Khmer Studies.

Supporting material for root *-kaR ‘dry’: Siraya maskag ‘dry’, Puyuma (Nanwang) taŋkar ‘dry’ (fields), baʈəkar ‘dry, shallow’; Ilianen Manobo, Western Bukidnon Manobo kagkag ‘to dry’, Casiguran Dumagat kag’kag ‘to dry’, Sindangan Subanun mɨgɨngkag ‘to dry’, Siocon Subanon kumongkag ‘to dry’.

The Kra-Dai tone-B category also includes words with PAN or PMP cognates not ending in *-R:

Gloss AN Pre-PMP(Sa) Buyang (Li Jinfang 1999) P-Hlai (No) PTai (Pi) Aklanon
bran, chaff PMP(B) *qepah *qepaX ta0 pha11 < B —— —— opa(h)
knee PAN(W) *puqu *puquX qhu11 < B —— *χow B ——
shoulder PAN(B) *qabaRa *qabaRaX qa0 ʔba11 < B *C-ʋaːɦ *C̥.ba: B abága(h)
palm of hand PAN(B) *dapa *dapaX pa11 < B —— —— ——

It is noteworthy that Aklanon (Panay island, Philippines), already identified in Tsuchida 1976 as the only language outside of Taiwan with segmental reflexes (-h in both cases) of his *-H1 and *-H2, has –h for KD tone B. As argued in my preceding post, PAN *-H1 is the main source of the KD tone C; and as I will argue in my next post, *-H2 is one of the sources of the KD tone A. We must be dealing here with a final consonant distinct from both *-H1 and *-H2. This must be a consonant that (a) merges with *-R in PKD, and (b) evolves to -h in Aklanon. I propose the uvular fricative *-X [χ], with these reconstructions: ‘bran, chaff’ *qepaX; ‘knee’ *puquX; ‘shoulder *qabaRaX; ‘palm of hand’ *dapaX. By my proposal, the Kra-Dai B tone category originates in he merger of two AN uvular fricative endings, voiced and voiceless.

Here are some additional notes on the words in Table X:

Bran, chaff: the MP word has a probable Formosan cognate in Amis ʔəpah ‘wine’—bran can be an ingredient in millet or rice wine. Blust reconstructed PMP *-h based on Aklanon. In the current state of his ACD, final PAN/PMP *-h is similar to Tsuchida’s *-H1 (he has recently begun writing PAN * x for Tsuchida’s *-H2). Tsuchida’s *-H1 is reflected as -h in Amis. Amis ʔəpah ‘wine’ at first sight comforts his reconstruction of PMP final *-h: however my proposal is that PAN *-X is reflected as -h in both Amis and Aklanon, just like *-H1 (Pazeh, Kaxabu, Saisiyat, Atayal and Sediq distinguish them, though).

Shoulder is reconstructed by Blust as PAN *qabaRa. Unaware of final –h in Aklanon abága(h), Ostapirat (2005) and Norquest (2013) ascribe tone B in ‘shoulder’ to medial *-R-. For this they need a mechanism which allows the riming part of an AN word (last vowel plus any following consonant) to be lost in Kra-Dai, here: *qabaRa > qabaR. They do not explain what the conditioning is. This mechanism is overpowerful: it doubles the number of potential KD cognates for each AN word. Benedict (1975) put it to maximal use. Yet the quality of comparisons of this type tends to be low. Final –h in the Aklanon cognates of KD tone-B words like ‘shoulder’ supports a simpler and more constrained explanation: KD tone B reflects final *-X, not medial *-R-; in the evolution to KD, *-R- was lost when the -bR- cluster resulting from penultimate vowel syncope was reduced to -b-. By the correspondence rules described above one would expect final –h in the Amis word for ‘shoulder’, but the attested Amis form is afala. Lack of -h is unexplained, unless there has been dissimilation between the two uvular fricatives in the last syllable of *qabaRaX.

Palm of hand: *dapa ‘palm of hand’ was assigned to PMP by Blust until c. 2015, when he raised it to PAN following Sagart’s identification of an Atayal cognate.

Knee: reconstructed by Wolff (2010) as PAN *puqu on the basis of northern and western Formosan forms (Saisiyat, Favorlang, Thao), an impeccable PAN pedigree.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "The origins of Kra-Dai tones, current status (II): tone B," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/11/2017,