Limaish (master post)

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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. 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)  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, Paiwan, have either lost the series (Amis), or mark it with a prefix (Puyuma mia-, Paiwan ma-). Nevertheless Puluqish languages outside of Taiwan, like Itbayaten and Chamorro, tell us that Proto-Puluqish did have 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 ‘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.


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.

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)

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Enemish is defined by two innnovations:

1. *enem ‘six’, displacing earlier additive and multiplicative forms. The reflexes of the innovated word are very variable and irregular: the reconstruction *enem, is projected back from MP, and only works for a subset of available forms, some of which have a geminated initial or medial, while others have a non-nasal initial. The following data are drawn from Ogawa’s comparative vocabulary (Li & Toyoshima 2006).

      • Non-nasal initial: PAN medial *n is almost universally reflected as [n] in Formosan languages. Yet instead of medial -n-, some words for ‘six’ have a liquid—lateral or rhotic—which can only reflect  *N or *l: Tsou #38a lomu; Saaroa #47a rumu, urumu, #48 urumu; Rukai #63 ulum; Paiwan #59a, 62a urum; Kavalan #108, 108 arum; Basay #106-107-108 arum, rarum;  Papora #129b rum; Hoanya #138 alim, ilim, #142b.2 rom. It is not clear at all which, of *n or a liquid, was innovated. Forms with liquids are quite common on the west coast (Siraya, Hoanya, Papora), suggesting a non)nasal initial is the more ancient.
      • Some forms exhibit a geminate consonant: Siraya #143 annim, annum, nnum, ninnum, ninnim; Paiwan #71, 72 unnum; Amis #82c1, 82d, 83cd, 83k.2 nnum; Kavalan #88b, 92a, 92b nnum; #92c unnum, innim; #101 innoom; Basay 102b nnum; remarkably, only [n] is ever geminated, there are no forms with -ll- or -rr-.
  • 2. *CawiN ‘year’ (Siraya, Bunun, Rukai-Tsouic and Paiwan). This word neatly displaces PAN *kawaS, the main word for ‘year’ north of Siraya on the west coast of Taiwan (Pazeh, Atayal, Sediq, Thao). In PAN *kawaS cumulated the leanings of ‘year’ and ‘sky’. The underlying notion was perhaps that of ‘open space’, in both the temporal and spatial domains. Thus Pazeh babaw kawas ‘the space above; the sky’. After Proto-Enemish, *kawaS survives in secondary meanings, as in Amis kawas ‘god, deity, spirit’.


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.

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

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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Jump to Southern Austronesian master post

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.


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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.

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

Lockdown etymologies: chowder

The American English word chowder refers to a thick fish soup made in New England. It is said (here) to go back to late Latin caldaria ‘cooking pot’. More specifically: Fr. chaudrée, a thick fish soup of the Charentes region (recipe here).

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Lockdown etymologies: chowder," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 04/05/2020,

Lockdown etymologies: dog

As known already to Albert Dauzat, a major source of names of adult domesticated animals is in the name of the young. Thus French poulet ‘chicken’, earlier ‘chick’; English chicken, earlier ‘chick’; French cochon 1268-71 ‘young pig’ > 1611 ‘adult pig’; English pig , earlier > ‘young pig’;  Chinese zhu1 ‘pig’, earlier ‘young pig’; Modern Greek σκυλί ‘dog’, < Classical Greek σκύλαξ ‘puppy’; Modern Chinese gou3 ‘dog’, earlier (c. 200 BCE) ‘hairless puppy’; etc.

This might be true of the English word dog too. The early meaning of ‘cub’ perhaps survives in the term dogies, referring to calves in the cowboy song Git along, little dogies (here).

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Lockdown etymologies: dog," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 04/05/2020,