The Malayo-Polynesian languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages, with approximately 385.5 million speakers. The Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by the Austronesian people of the island nations of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, with a smaller number in continental Asia, going well into the Malay peninsula. Cambodia and Vietnam serve as the northwest geographic outlier. On the northernmost geographical outlier does not pass beyond the north of Pattani, which is located in southern Thailand. Malagasy is spoken in the island of Madagascar located off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Part of the language family shows a strong influence of Sanskrit and Arabic as the western part of the region has been a stronghold of Hinduism, Buddhism and, later, Islam.
|Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Madagascar|
The western sphere of Malayo-Polynesian languages. (The bottom three are Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian)
South Halmahera–West New Guinea (non Oceanic eastern Malayo-Polynesian)
Oceanic languages (other eastern Malayo-Polynesian)the westernmost
The branches of the Oceanic languages: Palauan and Chamorro. The black circles in with the green are offshore Papuan languages.
Two morphological characteristics of the Malayo-Polynesian languages are a system of affixation and the reduplication (repetition of all or part of a word, such as wiki-wiki) to form new words. Like other Austronesian languages they have small phonemic inventories; thus a text has few but frequent sounds. The majority also lack consonant clusters (e.g., [str] in English). Most also have only a small set of vowels, five being a common number.
The Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by about 230 million people and include Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Sundanese, Javanese, Buginese, Balinese, Acehnese; and also the Oceanic languages, including Tolai, Gilbertese, Fijian, and Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian, Māori, Samoan, Tahitian, and Tongan. Malay is also the native language in Singapore and Brunei.
The Philippine languages are the most linguistically archaic branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language family, and are spoken by around 100 million people between Orchid Island Taiwan, the entire Philippine archipelago, and the northern part of Sulawesi. Philippine languages include Tagalog (Filipino), Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Central Bikol, Waray, and Kapampangan, each with at least three million speakers.
Relation to Austronesian languages on TaiwanEdit
The Malayo-Polynesian languages share several phonological and lexical innovations with the eastern Formosan languages, including the leveling of proto-Austronesian *t, *C to /t/ and *n, *N to /n/, a shift of *S to /h/, and vocabulary such as *lima "five" which are not attested in other Formosan languages. However, it does not align with any one branch.
Malayo-Polynesian consists of a large number of small local language clusters, with the one exception being Oceanic, the only large group which is universally accepted; its parent language Proto-Oceanic has been reconstructed in all aspects of its structure (phonology, lexicon, morphology and syntax). All other large groups within Malayo-Polynesian are controversial.
The most influential proposal for the internal subgrouping of the Malayo-Polynesian languages was made by Robert Blust who presented several papers advocating a division into two major branches, viz. Western Malayo-Polynesian and Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian.
Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian is widely accepted as a subgroup, although some objections have been raised against its validity as a genetic subgroup. On the other hand, Western Malayo-Polynesian is now generally held (including by Blust himself) to be an umbrella term without genetic relevance. Taking into account the Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian hypothesis, the Malayo-Polynesian languages can be divided into the following subgroups (proposals for larger subgroups are given below):
- North Bornean
- Land Dayak
- Barito (including Malagasy)
- Northwest Sumatra–Barrier Islands (probably including the aberrant Enggano language)
- South Sulawesi
- Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian
Malayo-Sumbawan (Adelaar 2005)Edit
The Malayo-Sumbawan languages are a proposal by Adelaar (2005) which unites the Malayo-Chamic languages, the Bali-Sasak-Sumbawa languages, Madurese and Sundanese into a single subgroup based on phonological and lexical evidence.
Greater North Borneo (Blust 2010; Smith 2017, 2017a)Edit
The Greater North Borneo hypothesis, which unites all languages spoken on Borneo except for the Barito languages together with the Malayo-Chamic languages, Rejang and Sundanese into a single subgroup, was first proposed by Blust (2010) and further elaborated by Smith (2017, 2017a).
- Greater North Borneo
Because of the inclusion of Malayo-Chamic and Sundanese, the Greater North Borneo hypothesis is incompatible with Adelaar's Malayo-Sumbawan proposal. Consequently, Blust explicitly rejects Malayo-Sumbawan as a subgroup. The Greater North Borneo subgroup is based solely on lexical evidence.
Based on a proposal initially brought forward by Blust (2010) as an extension of the Greater North Borneo hypothesis, Smith (2017) unites several Malayo-Polynesian subgroups in a "Western Indonesian" group, thus greatly reducing the number of primary branches of Malayo-Polynesian:
- Western Indonesian
(an extended version of Northwest Sumatra–Barrier Islands that also comprises Nasal; the question of internal subgrouping is left open by Smith)
- South Sulawesi
- Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian
- Philippine (linkage)
(according to Smith, "not a subgroup as much as a loosely related group of languages that may contain multiple primary branches")
Edwards (2015) argues that Enggano is a primary branch of Malayo-Polynesian. However, this is disputed by Smith (2017), who considers Enggano to have undergone significant internal changes, but was once much more like the other Sumatran languages in Sumatra.
Zobel (2002) proposes a Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian subgroup, based on putative shared innovations in the Austronesian alignment and syntax found throughout Indonesia apart from much of Borneo and the north of Sulawesi. This subgroup comprises the languages of the Greater Sunda Islands (Malayo-Chamic, Northwest Sumatra–Barrier Islands, Lampung, Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, Bali-Sasak-Sumbawa) and most of Sulawesi (Celebic, South Sulawesi), Palauan, Chamorro and the Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages. This hypothesis is one of the few attempts to link certain Western Malayo-Polynesian languages with the Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages in a higher intermediate clade, but has received little further scholarly attention.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Malayo-Polynesian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Blust, R. (1993). Central and Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian. Oceanic Linguistics, 32(2), 241–293.
- Ross, Malcolm (2005), "Some current issues in Austronesian linguistics", in D.T. Tryon, ed., Comparative Austronesian Dictionary, 1, 45–120. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Donohue, M., & Grimes, C. (2008). Yet More on the Position of the Languages of Eastern Indonesia and East Timor. Oceanic Linguistics, 47(1), 114–158.
- Adelaar, K. Alexander, and Himmelmann, Nikolaus. 2005. The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge.
- Anderbeck, Karl; Aprilani, Herdian (2013). The Improbable Language: Survey Report on the Nasal Language of Bengkulu, Sumatra. SIL Electronic Survey Report. SIL International.
- Adelaar, A. (2005). Malayo-Sumbawan. Oceanic Linguistics, 44(2), 357–388.
- Blust, Robert (2010). "The Greater North Borneo Hypothesis". Oceanic Linguistics. 49 (1): 44–118. doi:10.1353/ol.0.0060. JSTOR 40783586.
- Smith, Alexander D. (2017). "The Western Malayo-Polynesian Problem". Oceanic Linguistics. 56 (2): 435–490. doi:10.1353/ol.2017.0021.
- Smith, Alexander (2017a). The Languages of Borneo: A Comprehensive Classification. PhD Dissertation: University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
- Smith, Alexander D. 2018. The Barito Linkage Hypothesis, with a Note on the Position of Basap. JSEALS Volume 11.1 (2018).
- Edwards, Owen (2015). "The Position of Enggano within Austronesian." Oceanic Linguistics 54 (1): 54-109.
- Reid, Lawrence A. (2013) "Who Are the Philippine Negritos? Evidence from Language." Human Biology: Vol. 85: Iss. 1, Article 15.
- Fay Wouk and Malcolm Ross (ed.), 2002. The history and typology of western Austronesian voice systems. Australian National University.