The etymology of PRT *cáni ‘one’

(view clickable tree)

(up one level to Rukai-Tsouic master post)

Wolff (2010, sub *táni) noticed the connection between PRT *cáni ‘one’, Itbayaten tanih ‘alone’, Ratahan tani ‘to separate’ and Bare’e tani ‘independent’; add Kavalan tani, utani ‘some, several, a few’. Bril (p.c. April 20, 2020) finds tani ‘only’ in Natauran Amis. The Rukai-Tsouic innovation consists of the semantic shift  of *cáni  to ‘one’ out of an original meaning something like ‘alone, only’.


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

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "The etymology of PRT *cáni ‘one’," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 26/04/2020,

PMP *inum ‘to drink’

(to clickable tree)

In this post  I argued that Proto-Eastern Walu-Siwaish (PEWS) innovated *nanum ‘water’, which competed with  PAN *daNum. PEWS *nanum is reflected in all the EWS languages of Taiwan save Paiwan, as well as in all the Kra-Dai branches. A direct reflex is however not to be found in the Malayo-Poynesian languages, where *daNum reigns as ‘water’. In PEWS there existed a denominal verb  *mi-nanum  ‘to get water, to drink’: *mi-N constructions meaning ‘to acquire, get, obtain, collect, N’ are common Actor-Focus verbs in EWS languages. This *mi-nanum is the probable source of the main MP word for ‘to drink’: *inum, *um-inum.

Shortly before PMP, AF *mi-nanum ‘to drink’ underwent syncope of the unstressed middle vowel, much as in pre-MP *paŋudaN ‘pandanus’, giving Tagalog pandán, Malagasy fandrana, Malay pandan, Old Javanese paṇḍan, etc. This gave *mi-nnum. As the noun part of this *mi-N construction was not recognizable anymore, *mi-nnum was reanalyzed as*m-innum, with prefixed m- allomorph of <um> in words beginning in vowels. The internal cluster was then regularized, giving PMP *m-inum ‘to drink’.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "PMP *inum ‘to drink’," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 25/04/2020,

*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,

PAN *u- common noun marker

(to clickable tree)

This marker is reflected in three kinds of contexts:

  • In northern Amis, before common nouns, inflected for case as k-u (nominative) t-u (oblique), n-u (genitive) without any number distinction (Bril, in press);
  • prefixed to numerals of the non-human series in the southern Tsouic languages: Kanakanabu, Saaroa; and in Kavalan. Modern Rukai dialects do not show it but Ino’s recording of Karei Rukai  (Ino 1898:25-33) gives an almost complete series: isa, urisiri, utool, usipat, urima, ulumu, upitoo, uvaŋat, (puruk ’10’ is a loan from Paiwan). The missing u-prefixed word for ‘1’ in Rukai is u-tsani in Karei, discussed here. Vestiges of u-prefixation also exist in Tsou numerals: usupat ‘four’ in one variety of Tsou, here.
  • sporadically reinterpreted as an onset consonant w- or v-  with PAN nouns beginning in vowels, as noticed by Bril (p.c, April 20, 2020) for Natauran:

*asu, ‘dog’, *u-asu id. > Natauran Amis wacu, Pazeh wazu, Kavalan wasu, Paiwan vatu;

*aNak, ‘child’, *u-aNak id. > Proto-Rukai vanakə (Li 1977);

*amaH2 ‘father’, *u-amaH2 > Natauran Amis  wama.

In Fey’s dictionary of Amis one finds pairs like idaŋ/widaŋ ‘friend’, ina/wina ‘mother’.

In order to explain sporadic cases of initial w- or similar in  words for ‘dog’, ‘fire’, ‘child’, Dyen (1962) reconstructed a new Austronesian phoneme *W; the random appearance of a common noun prefix is a better interpretation.

Under my model of AN phylogeny, *u- ‘common noun marker’ reconstructs to PAN, being present in the Pazeh word for ‘dog’; Pazeh is regarded as a primary branch of PAN. Usage of *u- as a marker of numerals for non-human reference begins later, in Walu-Siwaish. It is  absent from western Walu-Siwaish (Hoanya, Papora), and potentially constitutes a shared innovation supporting a Central-Eastern Walu-Siwaish node.


Bril, I. in press. Northern Amis. Handbook on Formosan languages, ed. by P. Jen-kuei Li, E. Zeitoun, R. De Busser.  Leiden: Brill

Dyen, I. (1962) Some New Proto-Malayopolynesian Initial Phonemes. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 82, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1962), pp. 214-215

Fey, V. (1986) Amis dictionary. The Bible Society in the Republic of China.

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, Paul Jen-Kuei. 1977. The internal relationships of Rukai. Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology 48:1-92.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "PAN *u- common noun marker," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/04/2020,

Rukai-Tsouic (master post)

(Jump up to Central Walu-Siwaish)

(Jump down one level to Tsouic)

Rukai-Tsouic consists of Tsouic and Rukai. Rukai-Tsouic innovations are detailed below.

  • Morphologically, the Rukai-Tsouic languages replaced CV-reduplication as a marker of the non-human series of numerals with prefixation of *u-, a common noun marker in PAN (details here).

This is not a uniquely shared Rukai-Tsouic innovation, however, because like Rukai-Tsouic, Kavalan (North Formosan) also replaced CV-reduplication with u-prefixation in the nonhuman series. However u-prefixed numerals have not been recorded for the extinct North Formosan languages: Basai and Trobiawan—what is known of them. I am provisionally assuming that CV-reduplication and u-prefixation were competing marking strategies for the nonhuman numeral series in the common ancestor of Rukai-Tsouic and Kavalan—Proto-Central-Walu-Siwaish in the present model, this situation giving rise to two independent displacements of CV-marking by u-marking, in Rukai-Tsouic and in Kavalan. *u-prefixed numerals were abandoned in Puluqish.

Whether or not Bunun, Rukai-Tsouic’s partner in Central Walu-Siwaish, participated in this innovation cannot be ascertained, as the Bunun languages have lost the distinction between serial and non-human numerals.

Lexically, Rukai-Tsouic is supported by at least eleven uniquely shared innovations.

  • Ten can be drawn from Tsuchida (1976:11-12): *ɬa ‘and’,  *S16i ‘because’, *tukuɬu ‘heart’ (anatomical), *Dakəraɬə ‘river’, *CaŋəRaɬə ‘star’, *-bali ‘to smell’, *kəku ‘leg’, *S16iqipi ‘shoulder’,  *nətənə or *tətənə ‘lungs’, *qaputu ‘hammer’. In the same list, Tsuchida proposed Rukai-Tsouic *ramuCu ‘hand’: but this word means ‘finger’ in Rukai. We are dealing with a Tsouic innovation changing *ramuCu from ‘finger’ to ‘hand’. I have not retained *ŋuRuq2u ‘nose’ which seems problematic because the only cited Tsouic form means ‘nasal mucus’.
  • *cáni ‘one’, given by Tsuchida as Tsouic-only, but observed by myself (2013, here, § 3) as a component in ‘ten’ in an extinct Rukai variety recorded by Ogawa, (Li and Toyoshima 2006 language #63) : ucani pulu. This is the supporting evidence for Proto-Rukai-Tsouic *cáni ‘one’: Tsou coni (‘1’, serial and non-human), Kanakanabu cani (serial), u-cani (non-human), Saaroa caani (serial), u-cani (non-human), Rukai #63 u-tsani pulu ‘10’ (one-ten; pulu ultimately goes back to a loan from Paiwan). It is possible that the PRT form was *u-cáni, belonging to the non-human counting series; if so Tsou coni, Kanakanabu cani, Saaroa caani, all ‘one’ (serial counting) are analogical creations of proto-Tsouic. Tsou does not have an u- prefixed form because it does not distinguish between a serial and a non-human series in counting. See this post for the etymology of PRT *cáni ‘one’.

In Rukai *u-cani coexists with inherited reflexes of *isa/*esa ‘one’: thus Rukai #63 has isa ‘one’ (presumabily the serial counting form) vs. u-tsani ‘one’ (presumably non-human).

in Tsouic  *isa/*esa were eliminated as a result of the generalization of *cáni.


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. (2013). Is Puyuma a primary branch of Austronesian ? A rejoinder. Oceanic Linguistics 52, 2: 481-492.

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, "Rukai-Tsouic (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 18/04/2020,

Tsouic (master post)

(to clickable tree)

(up one level to Rukai-Tsouic)

Tsouic is a group of three Austronesian languages spoken in south-central Taiwan: Tsou, Kanakanabu and Saaroa; plus Rukai. Within Tsouic, Kanakanabu and Saaroa form a southern branch, coordinate with Tsou.

Shared innnovations of Tsouic in sound change and morphosyntax were detailed in Sagart (2014 ) (here, sections 5.2 and 5.2, pp. 19-20).

At least 57 Tsouic-only lexical items reconstructed to Proto-Tsouic by Tsuchida (1976) are probably innovations (see the list here, section 5.3, pp. 20-21).

Proto-Tsouic *ramuCu ‘hand’, from PRT *ramuCu ‘finger’, displaced PAN *qa-lima ‘hand’. This word belongs to the most basic vocabulary: the likelihood that it was borrowed from another language, or that it is a retention from PAN is practically nonexistent.

The unusually large number of innovative Tsouic words implies a very long period of almost complete isolation in the southern part of the Formosan ridge —perhaps three thousand years—between the separation with Rukai and the breakup of proto-Tsouic.

Tsouic languages also share the metathesis of *pataS ‘tattoo, write’ to Proto-Tsouic *tapaSə (Kanakanavu tapásə, Saaroa taa-tapa-a, Tsou ta-tpos-a ‘pattern, design’).

In addition: ki-Verbs are lost; reflexes of *esa ‘one’ are eliminated from the numeral system by the generalization of the innovative form *cáni ‘one’ (jump to Rukai-Tsouic master post).


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

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

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Tsouic (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 18/04/2020,

Central Walu-Siwaish (master post)

(to clickable tree)

(Jump up one level to Walu-Siwaish)

(Jump down one level to Rukai-Tsouic)

Central Walu-Siwaish (CWS) includes Rukai-Tsouic and Bunun.  Two innovations have been identified, both of them in the numeral system: the displacement of *isa/*esa/*sa ‘one’ by *Ca-CiNi in the human counting series; and the displacement of *iCit by *ma-sa-N as ‘ten’.

The merger of PAN *H1 and *H2 in word-final position comes close to a shared innovation, being attested only in Tsouic (Saaroa) and Bunun, but as Rukai reflects both phonemes as zero, the possibility cannot be excluded that the mergers of *H1 and ¨H2  took place independently in Saaroa and Bunun.

1. Displacement of *isa/*esa/*sa ‘one’ by *Ca-CiNi in the human counting series. In Proto-CWS, a word *Ca-CiNi was innovated to serve as ‘one’ (human): Bunun tatini ‘one’ (human) Tsou cihi ‘one’ (human), Kanakanabu: ta-cini (where ta- has replaced Ca- to form a run with ta-susa ‘2’ and ta-tulu ‘three’ (all human), Saaroa: ca-ciɫi ‘1’ (human). *Ca-CiNi is a human-counting series Ca- reduplication of *CiNi, reflected in Takivatan Bunun (de Busser 2009) as tini means ‘alone, on one’s own’.

A system with two contrasting series of numerals (in addition to the serial counting series), one with Ca- reduplication for human reference and another with CV- reduplication for non-human reference, arose in Austronesian languages between the Limaish and Enemish nodes. That system is seen in Siraya, Kanakanabu, Bunun (Isbukun, here (, Puyuma; it continued into Malayo-Polynesian. One recurrent problem with the CV- vs. Ca- marking of numerals is that it failed to produce a distinction in those whose first vowel was /a/, especially ‘1’ for which Siraya had sa-saat in both series. As a result there was a tendency in Walu-Siwaish languages to innovate distinct forms of ‘1’ to be used in reference to humans and nonhumans.

2. Displacement of *iCit by ma-sa-N as ‘ten’. PAN *iCit ‘ten’ is attested in most languages of the west coast of Taiwan: Luilang, Pazeh, Favorlang-Babuza, Taokas, Papora, Hoanya. Siraya kyttian is probably *ka-iCi(t)-an, with nominalizing *-an suffix, suggesting *iCit vas originally a verb root.

The central Walu-Siwaish languages replace *iCit with *ma-sa-N as ‘ten’: Bunun (Takituduh, Li 1988) ma-cʔan; Tsou máskə, Kanakanabu ma:nə, Saaroa ma:ɬə, Proto-Tsouic *másaɬə (Tsuchida 1976). Proto-Rukai has *poɭoko ‘ten’ (Li 1977), apparently related to the Puluqish numeral for ‘ten’ (here), but this is evidently a loanword, as already pointed out by Pauk J.K. Li and E. Zeitoun, since Rukai treats PAN *-q as zero.

*ma-sa-N ‘ten’ consists of *sa, short form of *isa ‘one’, with the circumfix *ma-…-N ‘times’ (?). The glottal stop in Bunun ma-cʔan is already present in the word for ‘one’: Takituduh tasʔa. Bunun geminates the vowels of monosyllables and inserts a glottal stop between the vowel’s two copies (Wolff 2010:169). In compounds ma-cʔan and ta-sʔa, the vowel’s first copy has been lost.

Although superficially similar, Atayal (Mayrinax) maɣalpuɣ ‘ten’ (which includes lpuɣ ‘to count’) and Seediq (Paran) maxal id. have medial fricatives which cannot reflect *s.


de Busser, Rik. 2009. Towards a grammar of Takivatan Bunun, Selected Topics. PhD thesis, LaTrobe University, Bundoora, Australia.

Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 1977. “The Internal Relationships of Rukai.” In Li, Paul Jen-kuei. 2004. Selected Papers on Formosan Languages. Taipei, Taiwan: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica.

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

Wolff, John U. 2010. Proto-Austronesian phonology with glossary. Vol. 1. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia program publications.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Central Walu-Siwaish (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 18/04/2020,

Eastern Walu-Siwaish (master post)

(to clickable tree)

(Jump up one level to Walu-Siwaish).

(Jump down one level to Puluqish).

This large Austronesian clade includes all the languages spoken on the south-east, east and north coasts of Taiwan, plus Malayo-Polynesian and Kra-Dai. By far the largest component in EWS is Puluqish (jump to Puluqish master post here). EWS also contains the north Formosan languages Kavalan, Basay and Trobiawan. Credible phonological and lexical shared innovations of that subgroup can be found in Blust (1999).

Shared innovations of EWS are:

-the merger of *S1 and *S2 (here)

-a new word for ’10’: *baCaq-an (here)

-a new word for ‘water’: *nanum (here)


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).

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

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,

iwa vs. siwa ‘nine’ in Puyuma

(jump up to Puluqish)

The Walu-Siwaish word for ‘nine’ is reconstructed as *Siwa with capital *S. This is expected to give iwa in Puyuma, where *S evolves to zero. As recorded by Li and Tsuchida (here), Nanwang Puyuma indeed has iwa, but Thomson 1875 gives siva for the ‘tribe at Pilam’, which is 卑南, modern Beinan, Nanwang Puyuma.  Cauquelin’s dictionary of the same dialect gives both iwa and siwa, the latter  used in serial counting. Puyuma initial s- reflects PAN (and PWS) *s.

In an insightful paper, Blust (2001) stated that Formosan languages reflect *Siwa while Malayo-Polynesian languages reflect *siwa. He argued that the irregular shift of *S to *s in ‘nine’ in PMP was motivated by the proximity of *sa-puluq ‘ten’, which begins with *s-.  The existence of siwa in Puyuma shows that the shift from *S to *s in ‘nine’ is older than PMP. If Blust’s analogical explanation is correct, then Puyuma, or an ancestor of Puyuma, must once have had *sa-puluq  for ‘ten’. This is precisely what the etymology I have recently presented for *puluq ‘ten’ implies.


Blust, R. 2001. Malayo-Polynesian: new stones in the wall. Oceanic Linguistics 40, 1: 151-155.

Cauquelin, J. 2015. Nanwang Puyuma-English dictionary. Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.

Thomson, J. 1875. The straits of Malacca, Indo-China, China or ten years’ travel, adventures and residence abroad. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low and Searle.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "iwa vs. siwa ‘nine’ in Puyuma," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 11/04/2020,