Puluqish and *paka-/*maka- abilitative

(Jump to Puluqish master post)

Prefixed *paka-, originally a causative with *pa- of stative verbs prefixed with *ka- (Zeitoun 2000), retains its causative function in a  broad range of Formosan languages: Saisiyat (pak-), Pazeh, Mayrinax Atayal and Mantauran Rukai (examples in Zeitoun’s paper); Siraya (Adelaar 2012:117), Kavalan (paq -̴ paqa-, Li & Tsuchida 2006:17), Central and Northern Amis (Bril, in press), and Puyuma (as in pa-ka-ulaŋ ‘make crazy’, Cauquelin 2015). paka-causatives are also found in the Philippines (Liao 2011).

In the Puluqish languages of Taiwan (Amis, Puyuma, Paiwan), in addition to paka-causatives, one also finds abilitative verbs with paka-: in the words of Liao Hsiu-chuan (2011:858), paka- expresses an actor’s ability to perform an action: ‘can V, able to V’. The present discussion is largely based on Liao’s  findings on the distribution and functions of paka- and maka- abilitatives, and on her examples for Taiwan and the Philippines.

Here is an example of paka- abilitative in Paiwan, cited by Liao from  Wolff (1995:567):

su=paka-qati-n ‘you (SG) can do it.’ (qati ‘succeed, achieve’).

In addition to paka-, Paiwan and Amis have an Actor-Focus prefix maka- which is also abilitative. A Paiwan example:

maka-qati ‘can do something’ (Wolff, ibid.)

Bril finds maka- abilitatives in Northern Amis too (p.c.):

maka-tengil tiya suwal
(he) could hear these words

Wolff (ibid.) derives Paiwan maka- from an earlier *<um>paka-. This seems likely. I assume the same explanation works for Amis.

Philippine languages use maka- not paka- in abilitatives (Liao 2011:859). maka-abilitatives are also found elsewhere in MP, as in Malagasy, under the form maha- (maha-fotsy ‘qui peut blanchir’).

paka- abilitatives maka-abilitatives
Northern Amis + +
Puyuma +
Paiwan + +
MP-Philippines +
MP-Malagasy +
Kra-Dai ? ?

These facts are susceptible of phylogenetic interpretation.  *paka- and/or *maka- abilitatives are only found in the southern languages Paiwan, Amis, Puyuma, and in PMP:  the innovations creating these two forms should therefore be assigned to proto-Puluqish. Whether  the abilitative prefixes were derived out of *paka- causatives, or out of another source is a question for further investigation.

Since proto-Kra-Dai is a Puluqish language, one would like to know whether these two innovations were present there too. Unfortunately the Kra-Dai languages do not preserve the left edge of words well enough for us to know the answer.


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

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

Liao Hsiu-chuan. 2011.  Some morphosyntactic differences between Formosan and Philippine languages. Languages & Linguistics 12, 4:845-876.

Wolff, John U. 1995. The position of the Austronesian languages of Taiwan within the Austronesian group. Austronesian Studies Relating to Taiwan, ed. by Paul Jen-kuei Li, Cheng-hwa Tsang, Ying-kuei Huang, Dah-an Ho & Chiu-yu Tseng, 521-583.
Taipei: Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica.

Zeitoun, E. 2000. Concerning ka-, an overlooked marker of verbal derivation in Formosan languages. Oceanic Linguistics, 39.2: 391-414.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Puluqish and *paka-/*maka- abilitative," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 07/04/2020, https://stan.hypotheses.org/624.