Language analysis shows possible trajectory of Austronesian expansion

Our understanding of the recent expansion of the Austronesian-speaking language groups out of Taiwan and into Southeast Asia and Polynesia is enhanced by a new paper out in Science, which argues through the analysis of 400 Austronesian languages that the Austronesian expansion occurred in pulses, which were correlated to the development of new technologies and social innovations.

Language Phylogenies Reveal Expansion Pulses and Pauses in Pacific Settlement
Science, 23 January 2009

Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database

Pacific people spread from Taiwan

Science Daily, 22 Jan 2009

Debates about human prehistory often center on the role that population expansions play in shaping biological and cultural diversity. Hypotheses on the origin of the Austronesian settlers of the Pacific are divided between a recent “pulse-pause” expansion from Taiwan and an older “slow-boat” diffusion from Wallacea. We used lexical data and Bayesian phylogenetic methods to construct a phylogeny of 400 languages. In agreement with the pulse-pause scenario, the language trees place the Austronesian origin in Taiwan approximately 5230 years ago and reveal a series of settlement pauses and expansion pulses linked to technological and social innovations. These results are robust to assumptions about the rooting and calibration of the trees and demonstrate the combined power of linguistic scholarship, database technologies, and computational phylogenetic methods for resolving questions about human prehistory.


Related Books:
Austronesian linguistics at the 15th Pacific Science Congress (Pacific linguistics)
Wangka: Austronesian Canoe Origins
The Austronesians: Historical and comparative perspectives
– Chinese elements in the Tagalog language,: With some indication of Chinese influence on other Philippine languages and cultures, and an excursion into Austronesian linguistics
Proto-Austronesian (Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies Monograph Series No. 15)
Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan
Polynesians: Prehistory of an Island People (Ancient Peoples and Places)
Man’s conquest of the Pacific: The prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Indo-Pacific Prehistory 1990. Proceedings of the 14th Congress Held at Yogyakarta. Vol 1 & 2.

Related Posts

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *