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Journal Article

Is Malayo-Polynesian a primary branch of Austronesian? A view from morphosyntax


Stead,  Isaac
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Chen, V., Kuo, J., Gallego, M. K. S., & Stead, I. (2022). Is Malayo-Polynesian a primary branch of Austronesian? A view from morphosyntax. Diachronica, 39(4), 449-489. doi:10.1075/dia.21019.che.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-7A43-2
An understudied morphosyntactic innovation, reanalysis of the Proto-Austronesian (PAn) stative intransitive prefix *ma- as a transitive affix, offers new insights into Austronesian higher-order subgrouping. Malayo-Polynesian is currently considered a primary branch of Austronesian, with no identifiably closer relationship with any linguistic subgroup in the homeland ( Blust 1999 , 2009/2013 ; Ross 2005 ). However, the fact that it displays the same innovative use of ma- with Amis, Siraya, Kavalan and Basay-Trobiawan and shares the merger of PAn *C/t with this group suggests that Malayo-Polynesian and East Formosan may share a common origin – the subgroup that comprises the four languages noted above. This observation points to a revised subgrouping more consistent with a socio-historical picture where the out-of-Taiwan population descended from a seafaring community expanding to the Batanes and Luzon after having developed a seafaring tradition. It also aligns with recent findings in archaeology and genetics that (i) eastern Taiwan is the most likely starting point of Austronesian dispersal ( Hung 2005 , 2008 , 2019 ; Bellwood 2017 ; Bellwood & Dizon 2008 ; Carson & Hung 2018 ) and (ii) that the Amis bear a significantly closer relationship with Austronesian communities outside Taiwan ( Capelli et al. 2001 ; Trejaut et al. 2005 ; McColl et al. 2018 ; Pugach et al. 2021 ; Tätte et al. 2021 ). Future investigation of additional shared innovations between Malayo-Polynesian and East Formosan could shed further light on their interrelationships.