The Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language (PMP) is the reconstructed ancestor of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, which is by far the largest branch (by current speakers) of the Austronesian language family. Proto-Malayo-Polynesian is ancestral to all Austronesian languages spoken outside Taiwan, as well as the Yami language on Taiwan's Orchid Island. The first systematic reconstruction of Proto-Austronesian (="Uraustronesisch") by Otto Dempwolff was based on evidence from languages outside of Taiwan, and was therefore actually the first reconstruction of what is now known as Proto-Malayo-Polynesian.
The following consonants can be reconstructed for Proto-Malayo-Polynesian (Blust 2009):
|Voiceless obstruent||*p||*t||*c /c͡ç/||*k||*q|
|Voiced obstruent||*b||*d||*z /ɟ͡ʝ/||*D /ɖ/||*j /ɡʲ/||*g|
|Tap or trill||*r||*R /ʀ/|
The phonetic value of the reconstructed sounds *p, *b, *w, *m, *t, *d, *n, *s, *l, *r, *k, *g, *ŋ, *q, *h was as indicated by the spelling. The symbols *ñ, *y, *z, *D, *j, *R are orthographic conventions first introduced by Dyen (1947). The assumed phonetic values are given in the table.
This consonant system is quite similar to the ancestral Proto-Austronesian (PAN) system, but is characterized by three mergers:
- PAN *t/*C > PMP *t
- PAN *l/*N > PMP *l
- PAN *h/*S > PMP *h
The Proto-Austronesian vowels *a, *i, *u, *e (/ə/) and final diphthongs *ay, *aw, *uy, *iw remained unchanged.
In a recent study, Roger Blench (2016) has raised doubts that there was actually the existence of a single unitary Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language. Rather, Malayo-Polynesian expansion across the Luzon Strait consisted of multi-ethnic crews rapidly settling across various locations in maritime Southeast Asia, as suggested by both archaeological and linguistic evidence. There was also a Malayo-Polynesian migration to Hainan; Blench (2016) notes that both Hlai and Austronesian peoples use the foot-braced backstrap loom as well.
- Dempwolff, Otto (1934-37). Vergleichende Lautlehre des austronesischen Wortschatzes. (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Eingeborenen-Sprachen 15;17;19). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer. (3 vols.)
- Blust, Robert (2009). The Austronesian languages. Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-85883-602-0.
- Dyen, Isidore. (1951). Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *Z. Language, 27(4), 534-540.
- Blench, Roger. 2016. The boiling pot: 4000 years ago in the Luzon straits.