The etymology of PRT *cáni ‘one’

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(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,

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,