Eastern Walu-Siwaish (master post)

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(Jump up one level to Walu-Siwaish).

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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, https://stan.hypotheses.org/734.

The merger of PAN *S1 and *S2

The merger of PAN *S1 and *S2 is an innovation of eastern Walu-Siwaish

Working in the tradition of Dyen (1971), Tsuchida (1976:250, 308) distinguished two major PAN sibilant phonemes, *S1 and *S2. Examples of the former are many; Tsuchida (1976:250 and index) examplified the latter with seven lexical items:

  • *S2uni ‘chirp’,

  • *S2uReɬa ‘snow’,

  • *kaS2iw ‘tree, wood’,

  • *CuS2uR ‘to thread’,

  • *q4uS2uŋ ‘mushroom’,

  • *Cuma[S2H1] ‘body louse’,

  • *guS2am ‘skin disease’.

The ending in *Cuma[S2H1] is ambiguous with *H1 if the evidence is limited to Saisiyat and Atayalic (as in Tsuchida 1976:202), but when Kavalan tumes and Amis tomes are included, only *S2 is possible. More examples can be added. By my count at least 15 reconstructable Austronesian words include S2.

See this table.

15 words is not a negligible number. S2 occurs in all positions: initial, medial, final.

The distinction between *S1 and *S2 is consistently observed in Saisiyat (S ≠ h), Pazeh (s ≠ h), Atayal (s ≠ h), Seediq (s ≠ h), Thao (ʃ ≠ 0), Siraya (x ≠ 0), Bunun (s ≠ 0), Tsou (s ≠ 0), Kanakanabu (s ≠ 0) and Rukai (Maga dialect: s ≠ 0; Mantauran dialect ʔ ≠ 0). It is lost in Saaroa (0 = 0), Kavalan (s = s), Amis (s = s), Paiwan (s = s), Puyuma (0 = 0), PMP (0 = 0), Proto-Kra (word-medially: s = s), Proto-Hlai (word-finally: -t = -t), Proto-Tai (word-medially: s = s). Th evidence for the merger in Kra-Dai will be detailed below.

Treatment of *S1 and *S2 in extinct Taokas, Favorlang/Babuza, Hoanya, Papora, Basay and Trobiawan cannot be determined due to the fragmentary character of the evidence.

Geographically the languages that merge *S1 and *S2 are spoken along the eastern and southern coasts of Taiwan. Those that keep them distinct are found on the west coast and in the central regions. Saaroa, a central Taiwan language that merges *S1 and *S2 is special: its distance from the eastern coast, and its affiliation with Tsouic argue strongly that the same merger took place independently on the east coast and in Saaroa.

I now present the evidence for the merger of *S1 and *S2 in the Kra-Dai branches. The evidence is as limited as the examples of *S2 are. To my knowledge, only *CumeS2 ‘louse’, *kaS2iw ‘tree, wood’, and *qaluS2ip-an ‘centipede’ are reflected in Kra-Dai.

In the Kra branch, Proto-Kra *sui A ‘firewood’ (Ostapirat 2000) is the most probable reflex of *kaS2iw ‘tree, wood’—several Formosan languages reflect *kaS2uy instead of *kaS2iw. This shows that the PK reflex of *S2 in word-medial position is *s-. *s- is also the reflex of *S1 in the same position: PAN *duS1a ‘two’ = PK *sa A.

In the Hlai branch (Norquest 2015) we have *CumeS2 ‘louse’ reflected by Proto-Hlai *hməːt ‘flea’ and ‘to winnow’ *tapeS1 by *wet, showing the merged reflex of *S1 and *S2 is -t in word-final position.

In the Tai branch, Proto-Tai *q.sip D (Pittayaporn 2009) ‘centipede’ corresponds to PAN *qaluS2ip-an ‘centipede’ (I take final *-an to be suffixal, compare *waNiS-an ‘boar’, *RiNaS-an ‘pheasant). PAN medial *S1 also goes to s- in Proto-Tai: PAN *qaS1aN ‘grain before husking’, PT *sal A ‘husked rice’ (Pittayaporn 2009).


Dyen, I. (1971) The Austronesian languages and Proto-Austronesian. In T. Sebeok (ed.) Current Trends in Linguistics, Vol. 8:5-54. The Hague and Paris: Mouton.

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.

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, "The merger of PAN *S1 and *S2," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 05/04/2020, https://stan.hypotheses.org/618.

Yet another word for ‘ten’ in Formosan languages

A hitherto undescribed etymon for ‘ten’ occurs in languages of the north and east coasts of Taiwan: Sakizaya, Puyuma, and north Formosan ( Kavalan, Basay, Ketagalan).

In Sakizaya, Amis’s close relative, bataʔan serves for ‘ten’ in and multiples of ten (data collected by McNaught, 2017; see the Sakizaya page in Eugene Chan’s ‘numeral systems of the world’s languages’ (here). There no trace of a reflex of *puluq, unlike in Amis and in Puyuma.

Cauquelin’s Puyuma dictionary (Cauquelin 2015) only has puɭuʔ and məəp for ‘ten’ but ‘twenty’ is maka-bəʈaʔan. The prefix maka- serves in ‘ten’ and multiples of 10, eg maka-telun ‘30’, maka-pətəl ‘30’ etc. It is possible that maka-bəʈaʔan was simplified from maka-ɖua-bəʈaʔan: removing ɖua would cause no ambiguity.

Kavalan has Rabtin ‘10’, zusabtin ‘20’ where –btin is the numeral ‘10’ (Li & Tsuchida 2006). One source of Kavalan /i/ is *qa. Vowel syncope is common in Kavalan although the conditions governing this process have not been elucidated. Basay is similar to Kavalan: labatan ‘10’, lusa batan ‘20’, as is Ketagalan ɭabat-an ‘10’, ɭusa batan ‘20’ (Ogawa, cited in Ferrell 1969). All these forms are regular outcomes of *baCaq-an. Puyuma provides the evidence for reconstructing -C- as against -t-.The formative Kavalan Ra-, Basay la-, Ketagalan ɭa– is a distinct morpheme.

A tentative etymology can be offered. Tsuchida (1988) glossed the Bunun word bataqan (< baCaq-an, *bataq-an) in Qato and Idhokan dialects as ‘racks (L-shaped – to carry woods)’. Nihira’s Bunun vocabulary gives ‘a carrying board on the back’. The name of a carrying device for multiple objects is a potential source of ‘ten’. Bunun is a Walu-Siwaish language, like the languages where *baCaq-an occurs in ‘10’ or ‘20’.


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

Ferrell, R. (1969) Taiwan Aboriginal groups: problems in cultural and linguistic classification. Monograph No. 17, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica. Nankang: Academia Sinica.

Li, P. J-K, and S. Tsuchida (2006) Kavalan dictionary. Language and Linguistics monograph series A19. Nankang: Institute of Linguistics (preparatory office), Academia Sinica.

Nihira, Y. (1983) A Bunun Vocabulary (2nd edition). Privately published.

Tsuchida, S. 1988. Comparative word lists of Bunun dialects. Report of the research carried out in 1983. Unpublished manuscript.

Cite this post as: Laurent Sagart, "Yet another word for ‘ten’ in Formosan languages," in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian, 31/03/2020, https://stan.hypotheses.org/614.