Austronesian Counting

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dead Hand of the Comparative Theory – 2 – Out-of-Taiwan?

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 4:06 am

Arthur Capell, writing nearly half a century ago, but only 20 years after the creation of proto-Austronesian, by Otto Dempwolff, gives some idea of just exactly how ‘proto-Austronesian’ came about:

Dempwolff (1938) established a vocabulary of some 2,000 words which he regarded as “Original Austronesian” (Uraustronesisch).
- The basis of this restoration is found in [just] two Western IN (Indonesian) languages, Toba-Batak (Sumatra) and Javanese, and one Northern IN language, Tagalog (Philippines).
These, with occasional references to Malagasy, Ngadju (Borneo), and a few other languages, served to establish proto-IN (Indonesian).
- He later added to his list Fijian and Sa’a (Southeast Solomons) and based a “proto-MN (Melanesian)” on the agreements of these with his IN (Indonesian).
- In the third stage, he examined three PN (Polynesian) languages (Tongan, eastern Futuna, and Samoa) and similarly established a proto-PN (Polynesian). In each of the latter two cases he sought to establish phonological innovations on the *AN sound-system, to determine what vocabulary appeared in each of the MN (Melanesian) and PN (Polynesian) areas, again with scant attention to MC (Micronesian).
- Moreover, all his PN (Polynesian) languages belong to the western subgroup of the family, without reference to Tahitian or Maori of the eastern subfamily. He did not seek to establish any original AN (Austronesian) morphology; and very little has yet been done in that sphere.

Arthur Capell – Oceanic Linguistics Today – Current Anthropology, Vol. 3, No. 4. (Oct., 1962), pp. 371-428.
http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0011-3204%28196210%293%3A4%3C371%3AOLT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2


Andrew Pawley and Malcom Ross carry on the story:
During the 1960s and 1970s a more complex theory of AN high order subgroups emerged from work on historical phonology and morphology. The poorly documented Formosan languages, completely left out of Dempwolff’s comparisons, became key witnesses in the reconstruction of PAN. Several changes to Dempwolff’s proposed PAN sound system have been made in the light of Formosan testimony .

Dyen noted the possibility of a primary split in AN between
(a) some or all Formosan languages and
(b) a group containing all other AN languages on the grounds of phonological mergers common to all the extra-Formosan languages.
Dahl argued forcefully for such a primary split.
Blust named the extra-Formosan branch “Malayo-Polynesian” (MP) and gave a morphological argument supporting it. Although several scholars have expressed strong reservations (Wolff, Dyen),the hypothesis has gained increasing acceptance.

…According to Blust, Harvey, and Reid the Formosan languages may comprise more than one first-order branch of AN, perhaps dividing into Atayalic (northern), Tsouic (central), and Paiwanic (southern) groups.
… Although most Philippine languages seem at least superficially similar to each other, Reid suggests that they have no significant innovations in common. Zorc challenges Reid, arguing that Philippine languages share numerous lexical replacements and that these constitute innovations defining a Philippine subgroup. The problem in the Philippines, as in many other compact regions, is to distinguish innovations from borrowings among related languages that have been in contact for millennia. A recent study of Tiruray (Mindanao) vocabulary shows that this Philippine language has replaced nearly 30% of its basic vocabulary with loans from its neighbors.
Blust has proposed a more detailed family tree. In this tree the
Western MP comprises chiefly the languages of the Philippines, Malaysia, western Indonesia (including Sulawesi) as far east as mid-Sumbawa, and Madagascar and
Central MP comprises approximately the languages of eastern Indonesia east of Sumbawa and Sulawesi excluding Halmahera.

Oceanic remains, but it has been demoted to something like a fourth-order subgroup.[;-(]

…It is probably fair to say that of Blust’s proposed subgroups, MP and three of its daughters-Eastern MP, South Halmahera/West New Guinea, and Oceanic-are rather widely accepted because each is based on a significant body of diagnostic innovations. Western MP, Central MP, and Central~Eastern M P, on the other hand, are much more problematic. The difficulties in finding innovations encompassing the entire putative Central MP group very likely reflect the existence of an earlier extensive and longstanding dialect network in the eastern Indonesian region . What one finds is overlapping innovations, each covering part of the region. As ‘a whole, Western MP languages seem to inherit only the innovations shared by all MP languages, i.e. those attributable to Proto MP (PMP).

This suggests that there was no Proto Western MP, but rather that PMP diverged into a number of dialects, one of whose descendants became Proto Central Eastern MP. The Western MP languages are simply those MP languages that do not belong to the Central Eastern group. In the same vein, Central MP languages may be just those Central Eastern languages that are not members of Eastern MP.

However, Pawley and Ross do not even mention that Isidore Dyen, a giant in Austronesian language studies, still believes that the Austronesian languages originated around Melanesia, and merely relegate him to a bit-part in the formation of the Out-of-Taiwan paradigm.
Some Evidence Favoring the Central Hypothesis. Isidore Dyen. Yale University (Emeritus).
ww
w.sil.org/asia/philippines/ical/papers/dyen-evidence_central_hypothesis.pdf

The Out-of-Taiwan paradigm rests on remarkably little:

The Malayo-Polynesian (MP) hypothesis (that all extra-Formosan languages belong to a single first-order An subgroup, while the Formosan languages constitute one or more first-order subgroups) rests on the following phonological (and some nonphonological) innovations:
(a) PAn *C and *t merged as PMP *t.
(b) PAn noninitial *L and *n merged as PMP *n.
(c) PAn *S became a glottal spirant in PMP, possibly merging with *h.
The Sound of Proto-Austronesian: An Outsider’s View of the Formosan Evidence
Malcolm D. Ross Oceanic Linguistics, Vol. 31, No. 1. (Summer, 1992), pp. 23-64.
http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0029-8115%28199222%2931%3A1%3C23%3ATSOPAO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V

But then Robert Blust, by now the leader of the pack, produced his bombshell:
Blust, R. (1999). “Subgrouping, circularity and extinction: some issues in Austronesian comparative linguistics” in E. Zeitoun & P.J.K Li (Ed.) ‘Selected papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics’ (pp. 31-94). Taipei: Academia Sinica.
showing not only that Formosan languages differed radically from all others in the Austronesian family, but they formed no less than nine separate first-order families, each ranking equal with Proto-Malayo-Polynesian.

This was soon followed by a blitz of publicity:
Taiwan’s gift to the world – Jared M. Diamond

Quote: “A reanalysis of Austronesian languages by Robert Blust strengthens the identification of the first Austronesian waystation, illuminates archaeological findings and the history of boatbuilding, and may help reinterpret the histories of other language families”.
- In fact, of the 94 pages of Blust’s 1999 paper:
- Only 14 deal with the language classification (within Formosa alone, not of Austronesian languages in general, and concerning phonology only), with some notes about coastal/inland Formosan vocabularies.
- 13 pages are devoted to dismissing competing theories
- 4+ deal with the putative Austronesian Mainland Homeland, (and the embarrassing question of why there’s no trace of them). There’s also the embarrassing question of why, if the speakers of proto-Malayo Polynesian left Taiwan, they also left no traces behind them.
- 9 deal with boats (although he has some difficulty in proposing a viable method of boat transport from Taiwan out to the Philippines that would be sufficient to set in train a major wave of emigration).

Entrenchment of the Myth:
When a multidisciplinary conference was held in Geneva in June 2004, Peter Bellwood felt able to say, with full confidence:
“As a linguistic category, the Austronesian languages have a history of dispersal from Taiwan through the Philippines into Island Southeast Asia and on to Oceania and Madagascar.

Malcolm Ross explained why the majority of linguists accept Taiwan as the Proto-Austronesian homeland and in what directions the ancestral languages spread and emphasized their transmission through inheritance rather than language shift, implying that the Austronesian language dispersal was associated with an actual movement of Austronesian-speaking people….
Bellwood, Peter & Alicia Sanchez-Mazas (June 2005). “Human Migrations in Continental East Asia and Taiwan: Genetic, Linguistic, and Archaeological Evidence”. Current Anthropology 46:3: 480-485
So, it’s definite, isn’t it?

Well, this little map may be a clue to the ‘political’ (in the very widest sense) motivation of the Blust-Diamond-Bellwood-everyone else bandwagon, who (mostly) believe the Chinese kicked the Austronesians into Taiwan, and then nudged them gently out to Easter Island and Madagascar:
There may be a hint of the strong current political and nationalist motivation behind the Out-of-Taiwan hypothesis in the accompanying article

Indeed, one wonders whether Taiwan would figure in the Austronesian story at all from the 1950s onwards if Chiang Kai-Shek hadn’t retreated there in 1949, and opened up the place to his American allies, and if a ‘native’ Taiwanese (Li Denghui) hadn’t become president of Taiwan in 1990, with an implicit agenda of promoting Taiwanese separation from China.

Dead Hand of the Comparative Method – 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 2:07 am

I may sound like a linguist, and even flatter myself occasionally that I’m learning and aspiring to be one, but I try to keep my head clear, as much as possible, from the complex phonological and grammatical technicalities that seem to be the meat of so many current An linguistics papers:
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- The origin of the Kelabit voiced aspirates: a historical hypothesis revisited.
– On the origin of Philippine vowel grades

- The pronoun system in Galeya: arguments against a clitic analysis.
Oceanic Linguistics Dec 2006
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Of course, these phonological and grammatical details are essential in the recording and study of existing languages, as a whole. They are extremely useful in differentiating between, and grouping, related languages.

But they are simply irrelevant in studying the typology and semantics of number words and number-sets, en masse, as I am attempting to do. (Later on, if I ever get there, I may use phonology to resolve the very ends of the twigs, or, if it’s worthwhile, to analyse the mass of Western Malayo-Polynesian number-sets which look, very boringly, almost identical. It is essential to know the inherited sounds of a particular language to be able to help distinguish between inherited words (‘reflexes’) and borrowed words).

I do feel that the analytical power of phonology is greatly over-estimated in the special field of historical linguistics, and that over-reliance on it can lead to a very misleading results.

A statement like this, from the doyen of An linguists, who kindly sent me the numerals chapter of his forthcoming book:
“Although this may seem like a drastic departure from the decimal system that these languages inherited from a remote common ancestor, even more drastic innovations in numeral systems are found in some AN languages of New Guinea, where they clearly reflect Papuan contact influence.”

makes me go quietly ballistic.

It completely reverses the ‘normal’ hypothesis that a less-developed number system will evolve into a more-developed one. It states that, somehow, all the less-developed and ‘irregular’ number systems in Austronesian languages (more than half of them) are ‘innovations’ from a ‘pure’ An ancestor.

[And, so far, I have not found a single instance where an An number system in New Guinea can be shown to 'clearly reflect Papuan contact influence']. If anything, it seems to have been quite the opposite.

It’s easy to see how this happened: the WMP (Western Malayo-Polynesian, once called Indonesian) languages (from which PAn was originally derived) are fairly well homogenised, and all have a full decimal system (with only two minor exceptions). The majority of them use recognisably similar words for those numerals.

- Therefore, so does PAn (proto-Austronesian), the reconstructed ancestor of all Austronesian languages. You sift through those words, just like you’d pan some gravel, end up with some glittering cognates, and reconstruct the familiar ‘proto-Austronesian':
*esa/isa, *duSa, *telu, *Sepat, *lima, *enem, *pitu, *walu, *Siwa, *sa-puluq

Therefore, POc (proto-Oceanic) must also inherit this system, because it also has to demonstrate descendence from PAn.

- Therefore, if you reconstruct a proto-lexicon by sieving through a gradually-reducing mesh of current cognate words you will end up with a ‘proto numeral’ lexicon that mirrors the majority of current vocabularies, even if that particular lexicon set has been relatively recently introduced, and become very rapidly widespread. If that numeral lexicon also implies a fully-developed number system, you’ve allowed yourself to be led right down the plughole.

From there on, you must consider anything else as a deviant numerical practice, or innovation (probably brought about by miscegenation with fuzzy-wuzzies).

Therefore, most Melanesians and Polynesians are raving numerical deviants.

The limitations of the Comparative Method are revealed (between the lines) by its greatest current exponent, Robert Blust:

Historical linguistics depends for its results on two fundamental and by now well-tested claims about the nature of language: (1) The relationship between sound and meaning is largely arbitrary, and (2) sound change is largely regular. The first of these claims was first clearly enunciated by Saussure (1959), and the second by various of the Neogrammarians during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Both have been challenged in various ways, but both remain as pillars of linguistic method.

Like everything in Nature, language changes. In time words come to differ in shape and perhaps also in meaning. Since sound change is regular, the differences in the sound shape of words are systematic, and permit the original forms to be reconstituted with a rather high degree of confidence. The procedures followed in such reconstitution of prehistoric forms are collectively known as the Comparative Method. Where we have documentary checks, as in comparing the modern Romance languages with their immediate common ancestor, Latin, we are encouraged that even in the absence of documentary support our results will not ordinarily go far wrong.
The application of the Comparative Method to related (cognate) words by a process of triangulation results in a reconstruction of the sound system and vocabulary of an earlier language, called a proto-language.

To illustrate with three simple examples, Malay langit, Samoan langi, Hawaiian lani “sky”, Malay tangis, Samoan tangi, Hawaiian kani “weep”; and Malay mata, Samoan mata, Hawaiian maka “eye” show recurrent correspondences of sound in words of related meaning, and so are assumed to derive from (reflect) a common ancestral form in each case, conventionally preceded by an asterisk to show that it is based on inference, not on observation.
For our purposes here (leaving out information that can be supplied only by the aboriginal languages of Taiwan), these forms can be reconstructed as *langit “sky”, *tangis “weep” and *mata “eye”.

Robert Blust
The Prehistory of the Austronesian-Speaking Peoples: A View from Language
Journal of World Prehistory, Vol. 9, No. 4, 1995

Having reconstructed a proto-language, you can then then propose it as the root of a family tree, and trace back the branches to separate the modern, existing languages into their bunches, or groups, each bunch of twigs descended from one node on a major branch.

You end up with a family tree that looks like this:
(Click on the picture for a larger version)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You´ll soon notice a few peculiarities:
1) The family tree is upside down. This is only one of linguistics’ weird idosyncrasies, where ‘reflect’ means derive from, ‘innovation’ can mean ‘reversion’, etc.

2) The tree is heavily weighted towards the right, ie towards Oceanic, with a proto-language featured at each node. On the other major branches:

Formosan languages
Western Malayo-Polynesian

There are no proto-languages at the major nodes at all.
Each of those major groups has proved impossible to reduce down to an ancestral proto-language, so far.
Which is a great pity, since it implies that around the majority of all current Austronesian-speakers speak an orphan language, or at least one whose immediate parental identity and location are in doubt.

But you’ve got a neat map, showing the distribution of language groups.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Decades in Polynesia

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 12:50 pm

To mitigate the Tongan 50 SNAFU, I posted a list of Polynesian numbers that I consider are overlays on older sytems:

Language – 10 – 20 – 50
Takuu – sinafuru – matarua, rue – matarima, lima
Vaeakau-Taumako – katoa, kharo, dumaa – gatoaelua – gatoaelima
Futuna East – kau, agafulu – kaulua – kaulima
Pukapuka – laugaulu – tinolua, laulua, luangaulu – tinolima, laulima, limangaulu
Fijian – e tini na, sagavulu, – rua-sagavulu – lima-sagavulu
Niuean – hongofulu – tekau – lima fiha
Tongan – hongofulu – tekau – nimangofulu
Rarotongan – nga’uru – rua nga’uru – rima nga’uru
Tahitian – ho’e’ahuru – piti ‘ahuru, ta’au, arooato – ?
Marquesan – ‘onohu’u, ‘okohu’u – tekau – ?
Hawaiian – umi – iwakâlua – haneli
Maori – ka-cahuru, ngahuru, tekau – rua tekau, tekau – rima tekau

The ‘proto-Austronesian’ number system goes:
10 = *sa-puluq (1 x10) – 20 = *duSa-puluq (2 x 10) – 50 = *lima-puluq (5 x 10)
so, any major variations in the Polynesian numbers (ie non-cognates) must be, by the rules of the game, innovations in the purely linguistic sense.
But in the real world, a retained number-name from an older vigesimal system (above no 10), cannot possibly be a technical innovation.

Even linguists recognise that
French
70=soixante-dix
80=quatre-vingt
90=quatre-vingt dix
are not ‘innovations’.

Most of these Polynesian systems appear to be relatively ‘modern’ constructions:
Only Rarotongan shows a regular series.
Why else should Fijian make 20= 2 x 1 x 10, 5 x 1 x 10?
Why else does Maori rename 20 as 10, in modern times, and then make up a series?
And what does fiha mean in Niuean? Or haneli in Hawaiian?

Old Numbers Overlaid by New ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 3:25 am

The evidence of 4 base systems, plus several quite scattered and different ‘subtractive from 10′ systems, suggests that Austronesian number systems may have evolved individually through separate stages in many different areas, ,just as ‘Papuan’ , and many other languages appear to have done.

They could then have invented or borrowed new words for increasing needs to count exchangeable agricultural or fishing surpluses, and later again adopted very widespread loanwords with more contact and real trade, perhaps long after proto-Austronesians or proto-Oceanics were actually speaking those languages.

(Perhaps, like the Kilivila (Trobriand) chief who got to 9000 and 10000, for counting shells, and ran out of options, they just invented new words on the spot).

Going through New Guinean language records, it’s very obvious that the new decimal Tok Pisin has influenced modern speakers very quickly, obliterating earlier recorded systems, at least in the higher numbers. The overlaying process is ongoing, and very visible.

In my Filipino village, everyone now uses Spanish numbers for trade, and nobody can tell me the ‘real Surigaonon’ for 10, any teens, or 20 up, except ‘gatus’=100, which is still used in fishing and agriculture. But the ‘native’ system was decimal anyway, so there’s no radical system change.
———————————————————-
It should be quite possible, then, to infer multiple overlays of newer systems on old.

Tongan may be an example:
10 = hongofulu
20 = tekau
50 = nai rima avuru (why has hongofulu become avuru?)
(this turned out to be a very definite SNAFU – situation-normal- all-fucked-up.. The Tongan 50 turned out to come from Uruava in the Solomon Islands)

The only An languages that seem to have preserved traces of apparent original number systems are out of the mainstream:
Formosa, Ilongot, Borneo, Sumba, Flores, Timor, SW Maluku, Micronesia, and all of Melanesia south of a fairly definite line.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whothehellami ?

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 11:39 am

The word for ‘person, human’ in certain Formosan languages is:
Favorlang/Babuza – babosa
Ci’uli Atayal – ci’uli?
Squliq Atayal – squliq
Sediq Taroko – sediq
Siraya – sidaia
Bunun – bunun
Which is a very obvious answer to ‘What do you call yourselves?’

But not as good as the Australian native who was asked what a certain animal was, and answered: ‘How the f**k should I know?’ which is why we now call it a kangaroo.

The indri (lemur)’s name means nothing special; it’s just ‘Here it is!’ in Malagache, the local Austronesian language of Madagascar. In Filipino Bisayan, also an Austronesian language, more closely related to Malagache (6000 miles away) than French (22 miles away) is to English, the same expression is “Diri na!”

If I could read Chinese (台灣;) I might tell you what T’ai-wan means. Wikipedia says “Both Tayoan and the island name Taiwan derive from a word in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages”

The only word I can find in Siraya that remotely resembles that is ‘mat-tauwa’ meaning ‘laugh’. Perhaps the colonising Dutch really were laughable, before they started in on the usual native massacres.

Formosa just means ‘beautiful’, so, if I was one of the very few Formosans left, I would be happy that everyone else, including even linguists ;-) called me that.
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Many years ago, I went travelling around Wadi Rum in Jordan, with a local guide named Ahmed Hellawi. We kept on getting lost, so he still has the nickname: “Where The?”

Monday, November 26, 2007

Base 4 – How?

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 12:24 pm

A very well known Austronesian linguist wrote, in the An-Lang group:
“I cannot imagine what may have been the source of having ‘4’ as a base for numeration.”

I responded: The 1-4 numeral system is not so baffling when you consider that virtually all numbering systems began with finger-counting.
It just comes down to whether you consider the thumb part of the finger-count or not.
Different ways (and directions) in totting up fingers seem to have quite perceivable effects on the resulting number words.
Either way.
You might [ignore the thumb or] even emphasise it:
Bargam (Papuan) uses abainakinta (thumb) for 5.

The ‘Papuan’ Kewa of the PNG Southern Highlands have two number systems, a full body part tally (hand, up arm, over, and down the other side) giving a 47-cycle number system, used mainly by elders for massive gift exchanges, and a 1-4 cycle system for everyday stuff.
They’re described at:http://www.uog.ac.pg/PUB08-Oct-03/franklin1.htm
(The strange bit, that I still can’t fathom, is how 7 = hand + 3 thumbs).
———————————————————
There’s even a Papuan language (Kote, from Morobe Prov) that has a 22 cycle system, because they count both nostrils as well as their fingers and toes. (Wouldn’t want to buy a dozen bread rolls from them, though).
———————————————————-
There are more than a few Austronesian numeral systems that [seem to] show vestiges of an archaic 4 cycle system, with 8 at the end of the 2nd cycle, but most are now overlaid with a 10
cycle.
In fact, they are rarer in New Guinea, with its multiple language families, and quite absent in Papuan languages west of there. They’re not so very common elsewhere. (Except in California – where else?)
And there is even a suggestion of a vestigial trace of a 4 cycle system in Indo-European, in that *oktô is apparently the dual form of *kwetwores – Beeler (1964, p. 1). Common counting in dozens may be another vestige.
———————————————————-
If the 6-9 numbers are simple 5+1, 5+2, etc, then 8 would include, somewhere, 3. If it’s subtractive from 10, it would include 2. If it includes 4 then that indicates something
quite different.
If 9 includes a 1 morpheme, then it might be like ‘sembilan’ in Indonesian, or ‘salapan’ in Sunda, ie 1 from 10, or it could ‘start again’ from 8, which it would seem to do in the cases where 8 involves 4.
The next cycle, to 12, seems to have been mostly overlaid now by 10/teen systems.
Except, perhaps, in English, where 11 and 12 are ‘irregular’.
———————————————————-
Austronesian 4 cycles:

Formosa: Siraya, Thao, Favorlang/Babuza, Taokas, Saisiyat,
Atayal, Sedeq
– all show no. 8 inclusive of 4, then start again with ‘something different’, often including a 1 morpheme.

Enggano (which may not be An at all) – has an 8 related to 4.

Simba: Gaura Nggaura and Lamboya have 8 = pondopata =’x’.4 (or cognate) and banda’ iha (or cognate) for 9.

Flores: Ende, Rongga, Lio and Nghada – have 8=2×4 and ‘ta esa’ (or cognate) for 9

Aru: Kola, Dobel, Ngaibor, Barakai, Tarangan West, Ujir – 8= karua and 9= ser, or tera (or cognates)

Keule, Wogeo, and Biem, offshore of E Sepik Prov, PNG, have straightforward and obvious 1-4 systems: Boiken, a neighbouring Papuan language shares this, but only in one offshore island dialect, near the An speakers. But the system may be related to nearby Vanimo, Rawo and Mountain Arapesh, Papuan languages, also with 1-4 number systems.

Ormu, Tobati/Yotafa and Kayupulau near Jayapura, have ‘symptoms’ of a 4 cycle. Adjacent to them is Nafri, the only member of the Sentani family to have a 4 cycle system.

Of all these, it seems only the Wogeo/Biem and Ormu/Yotafa groups may have existing neighbouring non-An languages with 1-4 systems. But those Papuan languages are very much in the minority themselves, so without more information there is no way of telling which way the influence went.

There are other languages that have a 4 morpheme in 8, but they seem to have a multiplicative system, with 6=2×3, etc, rather than a 1-4 cycle:

Wuvulu-Aua, in the Admiralties, has a strange (and very lonely) number system, analysed by Dempwolff (1905) as:
aiai : 1 – 1
gu-ai : 2 – 1
odu-ai : 3 – 1
gui-ne-roa : 2 – 2
ai-pan : 1 hand
ode-roa : 3 – 2
ode-ro-miai : 3 – 2 +1
vai-ne-roa : 4 – 2
vai-ne-ro-miai : 4 – 2 +1
(Almost all other Admiralties numerals show the unique Manus subtractive system).

‘Motu’ languages (under the ‘tail’ of Papua New Guinea) also (mostly) have a number 8 related to 4 (taura hani), and 9=8+1, but these also have 6=’2’x3 (taura toi) with 7 = a ‘regular’ hitu, or ima ua =5/2 or 6/1 (karakoi ka pea). Quite mongrel systems.

Some of the Formosan number systems may be similar to this.

Or something else:
Makassarese: 8=7+1 – mystery in Sulawesi
but many languages in Borneo have 7= tudju (or cognate) and 8 = aya, hanga, or mai, followed by 9 = piah, jalatien, riqi (or cognates), which look as if they might just be ‘start-agains’.

Cognates of ‘hanga’ for 8 also appear in the Solomons.

(I have no translations or even speculative etymologies for any of them, having ‘discovered’ them only yesterday, thanks to Anthony Jukes giving me the link to his excellent new Makassarese Grammar at: http://www.sendspace.com/file/2ps9y0).
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Ilongot Number System – A Wild Exception (Updated 5/12/07)

Filed under: exception, Ilongot, numbers, Western Malayo-Polynesian — richardparker01 @ 12:03 am

The Ilongots are the only group in the entire Western Malayo-Polynesian language family area (coloured violet on the map below) that still retain their original non-decimal counting system, where everything is hunky-dory up to No 5, then goes 5+1, 5+2, etc, in the usual way of people who have not yet made the break from counting their fingers to having a full decimal system.

The Ilongots are a head-hunting tribe of Central Luzon (the northernmost large island of the Philippines). You can find out more about them here and here, and here.
“The Ilongot live in Nueva Vizcaya Province of Luzon in the Philippines. They numbered about 2,500 in 1975. The name “Ilongot” is Tagalog and Spanish, and is derived from “Quirungut” (of the forest), one of the people’s own names for themselves. The Ilongot language is Austronesian, and there are three dialects: Egongut, Italon, and Abaka. They use Ilocano and Tagalog in trading. The Ilongot are culturally conservative and unsubjugated. They live as an enclave and resist incursions into their territory”.

Their numbers go:


1 sít 2 deva 3 tago 4 epát 5 gima,tambiang
6 tambiang nu sít 7 tambiang nu dava 8 tambiánggot tagó 9 tambiang nu apát 10 támpu

I don’t know their words for 11-19, or if they continue carrying on to count their toes, but they do call twenty duwampu, which means ‘two tens’, ie they do (now) have a decimal system, after all.

They call No 5 gima, which is the usual lima word for 5, but they also have tambiang, which is remarkably close to many of the words from New Guinea, more than 3000km away (and not used anywhere at all in between those areas). Bang, if you remember from my earlier post, is very widespread as a ‘hand/five’ word there.

This strengthens my case that the standard proto-Austronesian numbers:
esa/isa *duSa *telu *Sepat *lima *enem *pitu *walu *Siwa *sa-puluq?
did not exist, at all, when the ‘ancestral’ language was actually being spoken.

If the PAn numbers did exist way back then, then comparative linguists, following their arcane rules, would have to call the Ilongot number word combinations ‘innovations’ (ie new inventions), as indeed, they do.

The continued existence of the ‘aberrant’ Ilongot system proves that it is not just a few obscure and primitive New Guineans who didn’t learn their new Austronesian numbers properly, but a previous stage of language development that has only been suppressed by massive population movements and growth in the WMP area during the past two millenia.

Update (5/12/07) I have since seen a fuller Ilongot number-word list, that includes the teens and decades. It shows what I consider an earlier system overlaid with loanwords from neighbours.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pidgin in the Making – Boronglish

Filed under: borong, boronglish, pidgin, tok pisin — richardparker01 @ 2:12 am

The new-style numbers used by the Borong tribe, of that little bump, the Huon Peninsula, on the ‘rear end’ of Papua New Guinea, were in the very process of ‘pidginising’ a new set of numbers, still under the influence of English colonialists, when these numbers were recorded in 1984:

‘Native’ Borong Boronglish
1 motongo wan kembing One finger ?
2 woic tu kembing Two finger?
3 karong tiri kembing 3 finger
4 nemumgac fo lolo ‘4’ – 2 2
5 boro mong Hand one fa ingambe My hand?
6 boromong ano motongo Hand one + one sapsap Now this one?
7 boromong ano woic Hand one + two tepelonga Longer?
8 hetewe 8 e wa
9 hene roka 9 e wa
10 borowoic Hand two he ten ing This 10

But the numbers beyond 10, which went: 11 henareka, 12 henembing, 13 nemungawong, 14 henaru, still followed their traditional system.

This example shows all the symptoms of pidginisation, when a language keeps its own grammar, structure, and idiosyncracies (more or less) but adopts someone else’s words.

Much the same must have occurred to those Melanesians along the coasts and islands of New Guinea (and much of the rest of Island South East Asia) when the Austronesian languages first became dominant.

Numbers have been almost standardised now, with the national language of PNG, Tok Pisin, numbers:
wan, tu, tri, foa, faiv, sikis, seven, et, nain, ten, with 11 = wanpela ten wan

The Tok Ples (Talk Place – native tribal) number systems are being fast forgotten. Perhaps in less than a couple of generations, the majority of the 800+ languages spoken until recently in New Guinea, may have disappeared.

Alternatively, they will survive, and Tok Pisin will just be a superficial lingua franca, as Latin once was, and many of the unique customs and languages of New Guinea will survive,after all.

Numbers – This Little Piggy – Finger Tallying

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 2:12 am

I mentioned the strange counting system used by the Maisin people of coastal New Guinea, in my Why Study Austronesian Numbers? post.
Their numbers went:
1 – sesei
2 – sandi
3 – sinati
4 – fusese
5 – fakete
6 – faketi-tarosi-taure-sesei
7 – faketi-tarosi-taure-sandi
8 – faketi tarosi taure sinati
9 – faketi tarosi taure fusese
10- faketi tau tau

It helps to understand it when you learn that fakete (5) is hand.
6 is faketi-tarosi-taure-sesei = hand-one side-other side-one.
But other New Guinea Papuan language groups take the body-part tallying to extremes.

The Oksapmin developed a body-part counting system that went beyond one hand, up the arm to the head, and then down the other side. The Oksapmin example results in a numbering system of base 27.

They also had to memorise each of the 27 body-part names:
(1) tip^na, (2) tipnarip, (3) bum rip, (4) h^tdip, (5) h^th^ta, (6) dopa, (7) besa, (8) kir, (9) tow^t, (10) kata, (11) gwer, (12) nata, (13) kina, (14) aruma, (15) tan-kina, (16) tan-nata, (17) tan-gwer, (18) tan-kata, (19) tan-tow^t, (20) tan-kir, (21) tan-besa, (22) tan-dopa, (23) tan-tip^na, (24) tan-tipnarip, (25) tan-bum rip, (26) tan-h^tdip, (27) tan-h^th^ta.s
It’s easier than it looks – you only have to go up one side, and then repeat the same names in reverse, down the other.
Most numbering systems started with finger-tallying, and the physical way this was done affects the number words that were derived from it.

When you get to 5, it’s an open hand. In certain places around New Guinea, where this kind of finger-counting occurred, the words for number 5 should reflect just this.
Filipinos, for example, start with a closed fist, extending fingers one by one, starting with the smallest
But in other parts, they fold their fingers down, one by one, stating with one – the little finger of the left ‘weak’ hand.

Or six can be the little finger on the second, left hand.
In Gadsup, 6 = apä?tä?te mänayemänä?i – 1 added to ‘weak hand’

So 5 = closed fist, or sometimes, ‘thumb’.

In Bargam, the word for 5 is abainakinta (thumb-1); thumb is abainagin.

Fist should show up in many of the number words for 5, as well. (Trouble is, I don’t know many Papuan languages, and not many travelling language recorders wrote down words for ‘fist’).

I’ll find the connections someday

Sissano Lagoon 1998

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardparker01 @ 2:11 am

This is what happened to Sissano Lagoon and its inhabitants on the evening of 17 July 1998. Such disasters, or similar ones, happen regularly to coastal areas anywhere, and have quite random, but devastating effects. It’s almost as if the Earth and the Sea are casually swatting a few irritants.

This is an area of low-lying coastal plain broken by isolated hills of basement rocks: Oligocene volcanic arc rocks and associated limestone. Further inland, foothills give way to the steep-fronted Bewani and Torricelli ranges. The coastal plain is bounded seaward by a coastal sand barrier that stands 1-2 m above sea level and is typically a few hundred meters across. The sand barrier is highest at the beachfront and slopes gently downwards away from the sea — a common morphology for coastlines where sea level is rising relative to the land, and where there is a steady supply of sand distributed along the coast by longshore drift. Much of the sand barrier is planted with coconut palms and there are occasional large trees (kalopilam Callophylum inophyllum; breadfruit or kapiak Atocarpus altissima; talis Terminalia catappa; and mango Magnifera indica) and thickets of yar (Casuarina equisetifolia).

On the evening of 17 July 1998, on the Aitape coast of Papua New Guinea, a strongly felt earthquake was followed some 10-25 minutes later by a destructive tsunami. The tsunami comprised three waves, each estimated to be about 4 m high. The second of the three waves rose to a height of 10-15 m above sea level after it had crossed the shoreline and caused most damage. Maximum wave heights and greatest damage were recorded along a 14-km sector of coast centered on Sissano Lagoon. In this sector the wave fronts moved from east to west along the coast; all structures were destroyed, and 20-40 percent of the population was killed. Partial destruction extended 23 km to the southeast and 8 km to the northwest, and effects of the tsunami were felt as far as 250 km to the west-northwest, beyond the international border. More than 1600 people are known to have died, with some estimates as high as 2200; 1000 were seriously injured, and 10,000 survivors were displaced.

Before the tsunami, about 12,000 people lived in the coastal villages west of Aitape, from Malol to Sissano. Most houses were of traditional materials, and most were within a few hundred meters of the waterfront and on land that was not more than a few metros above sea level. Each village extended for a kilometer or more along the coast.

The main shock was sufficiently vigorous and prolonged that at Malol, Arop and Warapu people left their houses and moved into open space. At Arop and Warapu cracks opened in the ground, and water squirted upwards, house foundation posts shook and water rose around the posts, and there was a smell of hydrogen sulfide. At Sissano Mission the earthquake caused minor damage to the 62-year-old church, and in the nearby villages some houses collapsed. At Malol the shaking was strong enough to cause concern that the water tanks at the Mission might collapse. At Vanimo, 140 km from the epicenter, the earthquake was described by one long term resident as stronger and more prolonged than any he had experienced.

The main shock was followed, some minutes later, by a loud boom, as though of thunder; this was heard from Sissano to Malol. A few minutes or up to five minutes later there was a roaring sound, variously described as the noise of a low-flying heavy jet plane, the approach of a large ship, or as the woop-woop-woop of a heavy helicopter. The sound progressed eastward along the coast then back again to the west, and was heard all along the coast from Sissano in the west to Aitape High School in the east.

Although the sun had set at 6.37 pm, there was still sufficient daylight that the day’s activities were continuing. Men were painting a canoe, young people were playing touch football and their elders were moving around in the villages. People went to the beach to investigate the unusual noise and observed that the sea was ‘boiling’ or bubbling, and had receded by 50 m or so, exposing the nearshore sea bed. They then saw a wave develop in the distance, as a dark line on a sea surface that otherwise reflected the light of the sky. The wave approached and, when 200-300 m from the beach, started to break, rolling from the top. ‘Smoke’ or haze rose from the top of the wave, and many saw a red glow in the top of the wave.

One observer (John Sanawe, a former Colonel in the PNG Defense Force) reported that he first saw the sea on the skyline rise and explode, sending spray high in the air where it caught and diffracted the late afternoon sunlight into rainbow colors. He then heard a sound like distant thunder. He wondered at hearing thunder on a day when the sky was clear, then linked this sound to the explosion. Then there was a sound like a heavy helicopter, or such as can be heard when a bottle is held under water, and the sea started to retreat from the shore. The rhythm of the helicopter noise slowed as the retreat of the sea slowed. Then there was silence for 4-5 minutes, followed by the noise of a low-flying jet aircraft. Sanawe looked to sea and saw that a wave had formed at or near the site of the explosion. The wave then approached at great speed.
People ran from the approaching waves but almost all were caught. A few escaped by climbing trees, or pushing their boats into the lagoon.

People in the waves were vigorously tumbled and turned in water that was laden with sand and debris. They were stripped of their clothing, lost skin by sand abrasion, were battered by hard objects and some cut or impaled by timber and metal objects. Those who were fortunate were carried into the lagoon and were able to cling to floating debris. An infant was deposited miraculously on the floating roof of a house. Those less fortunate were carried into swampland or into the mangroves that fringe the lagoon where some were impaled or were buried under piles of logs and debris. Some who had survived the initial impact were swept out to sea as the waters receded. Most had ingested water from the waves.

Wave heights, on shore, were 10-15 m above sea level and there was extensive damage for distances of up to 500 m from the coast. Damage was less on either side of a 14-km sector.

By 7.20 or 7.25 pm the water had retreated, though much standing water remained. At this moment, according to survivors, the sky was filled with a yellow or yellow-red glow that provided sufficient light for people to start searching for family members. They said that without the glow this would not have been possible.

At Sissano Lagoon a low haze had advanced with the wave and this now blotted out the stars, so that it became pitch dark, so dark that people moving inland, away from the lagoon, held on to each other to maintain contact.

Rescue began that night, the survivors helping each other. The first outside help arrived 16 hours after the event on the Saturday morning, and a major rescue effort began a day later, 40 hours after the event.

Three concrete slabs (right) are all that remained of the class rooms at Warapu school.

Amazingly, the coconut trees mostly survived.

This photo, taken from the sea’s edge, at Arop village, shows the destruction inland of the belt of coconut palms at the top of the beach.

And there were other horrors accopanyng the waves, which arrived just after dusk:

John Kimene of Nimas was one of a group that was fishing at a drowned reef 8-10 km from the coast at about 10 am on Thursday 16 July 1998. This probably is the reef marked on the map just inside the 200 m isobath, which stands at 82 m depth. As the party trolled 1-2 km west of the submerged reef they were surprised to run into a succession of 2-3 m waves that loomed and steepened as though about to break. They took this to be evidence of a new shoaling of the water in an area that previously had been quite deep. There was a smell of dead fish.

On Friday 17 July 1998 at about noon Tom Kaisiera, a teenager from Nimas, paddled to the same general area and was surprised to find the sea bubbling with odorless gas. The area of bubbling was large, perhaps 100-200 m across. The canoe was drawn toward the center of bubbling area and it was only by paddling strongly that he could escape.

Three unusual lighting effects were reported. Many observers saw a red light on the horizon before the tsunami developed: “After the first earthquake, a long streak of red light like fire appeared just above the ocean on northern horizon, it flashed and then disappeared, then within seconds there was a loud bang”. Also, many observers described a red glow or “fire” in the top of the wave.

After the wave passed, observers at widely separated locations (Warapu, Malol and Raihu) saw a yellow or yellow-red glow in the sky over the sea. “The sky lit up after the wave had destroyed the villages” (observer at Malol) and “after I climbed down from the tree I saw a big light over Arop and in the direction of Aitape” (observer on an island near the lagoon mouth). The Sisters at Malol recall that after the waves had passed they looked seaward and saw a calm golden sea. Warapu survivors recall that the yellow glow in the sky helped light their search for survivors.

I’m indebted to the following excellent report for the pictures and descriptions:
The Aitape 1998 tsunami: Reconstructing the event from interviews and field mapping.

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