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,

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,

Northern Puluqish (master post)

(to clickable tree)

(Jump up one level to Puluqish master post)

Amis and Puyuma are two languages of eastern Formosa. In Blust’s Austronesian subgrouping (Blust 1999) they belong to different primary branches of the AN family: Amis to his East Formosan branch, along with Siraya (a west coast language), and the north Formosan languages Kavalan, Basay and Trobiawan; while Puyuma forms a branch unto itself. The ground for Blust’s East Formosan is the alleged change of PAN *j, construed as a voiced palatalized velar stop, to *n. East Formosan requires at least one prehistoric migration. The phylogenetic study of Gray et al. finds no support at all for Blust’s East Formosan. Sagart (2004, 2015) argues that the PAN phoneme known as *j was a nasal so that the modern nasal reflexes are in fact a retention—which explains their discontinuous geographic distribution at the periphery of Taiwan. It is the nonnasal reflexes which are innovative—which fits well with their continuous geographical distribution in Taiwan.

My phylogenetic scheme is based on the nested distribution of numerals 5-10 in Taiwan (Sagart 2008, modified from Sagart 2004). In it, both Amis and Puyuma are Puluqish languages. Puluqish includes all Austronesian languages where the word for ‘10’ reflects *puluq. This subgroup also includes Paiwan, and, outside of Taiwan, Malayo-Polynesian and Kra-Dai. Within Puluqish, there is evidence that Amis and Puyuma subgroup together, forming a northern group opposite Paiwan, MP and KD. Here are seven lexical innovations uniquely shared (afaik) by the two northern puluqish languages. The first three concern the numeral system.

  1. ‘one’ *sasay: Amis cacay ‘one’, Puyuma sasaya (< *sasay-a) ‘one’ (counting things). These forms reflect PAN *sa, short form of PAN *isa/esa ‘one’,  reduplicated, plus intrusive -y- inserted beween final -a in the word-base and the linker -a- following it. Thus Puyuma has ɖaɖua-ya ‘two’,  iwaiwa-ya ‘nine’, but ta-taɭu-a ‘three’, pitu-pitu-a ‘seven’, waɭu-waɭu-a ‘eight’ (all counting things);
  2. ‘ten’  *puluq. By the etymology proposed here, a word *puluq  meaning ‘to put aside’ was recruited in counting numbers above 10 in Proto-Puluqish; *puluq ‘(n) [sets of 10] put aside’ could only arise preceded and followed by a numeral.  In numbers 11 to 19,  the numeral for ‘one’ probably had the shape *sa-, as still in the other Puluqish languages: Paiwan tapuluʔ < *sa-puluq and PMP *sa-puluq. Once *puluq ‘put aside’ was lost as an independent morpheme, *puluq could be reanalyzed as a morpheme meaning ‘ten’ and *sa- could be dispensed with. That reduction had taken place in the ancestor of Amis and Puyuma, but not elsewhere in Puluqish.
  3. ‘ten’ *mukeCep. In both languages, inherited *puluq is attested only as the serial-counting word for ‘ten’ and multiples of ten. When counting human and non-human referents, it has given way to an innovated form *mukeCep: Amis moketep, Puyuma mukʈəp. The expression of numerals 11 to 19 is complex and will not be discussed here.
  4. ‘bone’ *ukak:  Amis ‘okak ‘bone’, Puyuma ukak ‘bone’;
  5. cloud’ *kuCem ‘cloud’: Amis kotem ‘black cloud’, Puyuma kuʈəm ‘(big black) cloud’ (mi-a-kuʈəm ‘big black clouds promising rain’);
  6. ‘activity, skill *Nemak: Amis dmak ‘an activity, a happening; the things one does; to move’ (Fey); ‘activity, affair, business; to move; situation’ (Namoh); Puyuma lemak ‘know-how; skill’.
  7. hat’ *kabuŋ: Amis kafoŋ ‘hat; anything worn on the head’ (Fey); Puyuma kabuŋ ‘hat’, mi-kabuŋ ‘wear a hat’ (Cauquelin).


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).

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

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

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Northern Puluqish (master post)," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 20/03/2020,