AUSTRONESIAN LINGUISTIC PHYLOGENY.

Another fascinating post by Mark Liberman at the indispensable Language Log, linking to an article published today in Science, “Language Phylogenies Reveal Expansion Pulses and Pauses in Pacific Settlement,” by R. D. Gray, A. J. Drummond, and S. J. Greenhill. The abstract:

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.

I’m glad they came down on the side of Taiwanese origin, because that’s how I’ve always understood it, and it would have been a painful effort to dislodge the idea. Mark adds “An unusually clear explanation of the project, along with a great deal of background information, is available on the web here,” describes some earlier work, and invites comment, as of course do I (I hope the recent spate of Russian-related posts hasn’t driven off the Austronesianists!).

Comments

  1. I thought the Taiwanese origin had been established genetically. There was a documentary here in Zild last year in which a group of Maaori travelled to Taiwan to investigate their “roots” with the indigenous Taiwanese. Much was made of (presumably) mitochondrial DNA links confirming Taiwan as the original home of the Polynesians. Linguistic and cultural similarities were also examined.

  2. marie-lucie says:

    Before it was established genetically, the origin of the Austronesian languages had been unequivocally placed in Taiwan, on comparative linguistic grounds. This origin is more firmly established geographically than that of the Indo-European languages.

  3. The FAQ on Gray’s web site says:

    5. Wasn’t everybody already convinced that the Wallacean-origin model was wrong?
    It depends who you talk to. Amongst linguists and archaeologists it has few proponents but it is taken very seriously by many geneticists.

  4. Thanks, marie-lucie and Mark. As a layperson in Aotearoa, seeing a headline like “Language study links Maori to Taiwan” (an actual headline on a web article about this research), is akin to seeing “study supports claim that Sun is hot”. The Taiwanese origin theory has been the accepted version among the general population here for several years now. Hence my first comment, really just expressing suprise that it was still being “proved”, after all the evidence, linguistic and genetic, that had already been published.

  5. marie-lucie says:

    I guess that the word should have been confirmed rather than proved. Scientists are always trying to reproduce the results of others if a hypothesis is considered controversial.

  6. “The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific” by Geoffrey Irwin discusses these questions in great detail, mostly from a navigational perspective, but also referencing linguistic, genetic, and archeological data. A very nitpicky book, but for good reason. Fascinating if you’re seriously interested.

  7. “The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific” by Geoffrey Irwin discusses these questions in great detail, mostly from a navigational perspective, but also referencing linguistic, genetic, and archeological data. A very nitpicky book, but for good reason. Fascinating if you’re seriously interested.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    400 languages is impressive.
    I’ll download the paper on Monday…

  9. marie-lucie says:

    400 languages is impressive.
    Indeed, and the vast majority of them belong to the single (but geographically extensive) Malayo-Polynesian group, the members of which tend to be very similar. This family is not of the same kind (or the same antiquity) as Indo-European with its ten quite different branches.
    JE, do you have a more detailed reference for the Irwin book?

  10. An Amazon search finds it easily.

  11. An Amazon search finds it easily.

  12. marie-lucie, here’s Abebooks listings for the Irwin book. As abonus, this at least brings up double figures for the commnts on this post.

  13. Is it that easy to link genetics and language phylogenies for Austronesian? You probably run into more than one brick wall if you try that approach in Europe.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Is it that easy to link genetics and language phylogenies for Austronesian?

    Yes, because most of the vast area was uninhabited when the first AN speakers came in, and in the rest (Philippines, Indonesia) it was an immigration of farmers where only hunter-gatherers (with a much lower population density) used to be.

    You probably run into more than one brick wall if you try that approach in Europe.

    Exactly — though it would still easily rule out the more wacky ideas that can be found out there, like an original IE homeland in India, northern Europe, or northern Egypt.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    Sorry. Genetics wouldn’t rule out anything in Europe. A phylogeny of IE would.

  16. The Dravidian theory has many enemies.

  17. The Dravidian theory has many enemies.

  18. scarabaeus says:

    Why does language change? it is that germ in the stomach that modifies the the food ingested, that in turn modifies that gene that controls that linguistic gene.
    Just a ‘tort’ after reading that it can be shown that the way man moved throughout world by looking at the genes in the microbes that enjoy life in the stomach and how they evolved.

  19. The Dravidian theory has many enemies.
    But to compensate, more advocates than it merits.

  20. ¡Viva Dravidia!

  21. the way man moved throughout world
    I’m pretty sure it’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Woman that invented language.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Why does language change?
    It is a demonstrated fact that languages are constantly changing, just because everyone tries to express themselves and communicate with others and in doing so gets used to using certain words, sentence structures and pronunciations slightly differently from the way they did before. No young person wants to talk exactly like their grandparents. Simply put, new vs. old-fashioned words are the most obvious to the general public, but slight differences in pronunciation accumulate in a social group, some of them get out of fashion but others spread to a much larger group and get passed on through the generations. After a few hundred generations without much contact between groups, the language has split into two or more and the groups have a hard time understanding each other, if they do at all. Fast forward a few millennia, or even longer time periods, and hardly any traces of the original language remain. This goes on fairly slowly in a small, isolated group, but in a large city or country, especially one with much internal diversity, changes occur much faster, and social upheavals (revolutions, wars, and also technical changes) create even more changes in language. Such things have been studied in great detail by historical linguists (dealing with the history of known languages) and sociolinguists (dealing with language diversification among defined groups, for instance the young, or social minorities).
    A good introduction to the topic, written for the general reader, is John MacWhorter’s The Power of Babel, which is a great read, conveying a lot of information in a fun and casual way (there are a few errors, but which can be forgiven in relation to the whole).

  23. It seems rather likely, on commonsense grounds, that Austronesian languages could at one time be found on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, but unfortunately no linguistic evidence survives on the mainland side. I’m not sure what the DNA evidence might suggest on that score.

  24. marie-lucie says:

    If there was much intermarriage on the edge of the continent, there could be some DNA evidence, but if most of the original people took to boats (or crossed the mountains towards the South), to be replaced by ethnic Chinese, there might not be much of their DNA left. Another reason not to rely too much on DNA.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    Why does language change?

    Read Guy Deutscher’s book The Unfolding of Language, William Heinemann 2005.
    Basically:
    - Fashion, as explained above. For example, if there’s an upperclass, chances are it’ll do everything imaginable to separate its speech from that of the lower classes. A good example are the crazed spirals that the language of the upperclass of England has been recently going through — for example, you are not supposed to say “pardon” anymore, you are in all seriousness supposed to say “what”, and if you meet the Queen, you don’t say “how do you do” and you don’t say “nice to meet you”, you say “hello, ma’am”. No shit. But even in less stratified societies, fashion is an important factor; for example, there are documented cases where people more or less stopped using a word (and resorted to a synonym they had also been using) when they started associating it with another dialect. And then there’s the well-known fact that many a generation makes innovations just to distance it from the previous one. A particularly drastic outcome are dysphemisms: saying “munch” instead of “eat”, “noggin” instead of “head”, and the like. The most striking differences in the vocabulary of the Romance languages vs Latin and sometimes each other are dysphemisms. Better yet, such direct assaults on the otherwise very stable core vocabulary can even get borrowed. There have been linguists who denied that words for body parts could ever be borrowed. But German Kopf, the non-poetic word for “head”, is borrowed from Latin cuppa “bowl”, which is also the ancestor of English cup; the original word, Haupt, survives in daily speech not even as a noun, but only as a prefix that means “main”.
    - Laziness: People will say however little they can get away with. Laughably, however, the results are typically contradictory and self-defeating. For example, people will simplify consonant clusters, and then a few hundred or thousand years later they’ll drop unstressed vowels, which means the consonant clusters come back. So, one the one hand, you get Italian (dottore, massimo…) and Spanish (whose native speakers typically have real trouble beginning a word with [s] followed by a consonant, even in the middle of a connected, fluid utterance), and at the same time you get certain sorts of colloquial French where people say [kʃk] because they find that easier than [kœʒœk] (as in t’veux conduire, ou t’veux qu’j'conduise ?). BTW, other kinds of spoken French have a rule that forbids more than two consonants to come together, so that long-gone vowels are reinserted in, say, porte bleue, Carte bleue, Porte de Vanves and the like.
    - Metaphor and grammaticalization: nouns become adverbs or prepositions or case endings. The double function of back in English is an example, and so is the double function of going to. Even when it doesn’t go that far, drastic changes can happen — little children grow up using swearwords without knowing what they mean or even suspecting that they mean anything beyond being swearwords, so French con/conne is nowadays an adjective that just means “stupid” and can be used as a noun that means “idiot (m/f)”, even though con (masculine only) once designated a body part.
    - Exaggeration. German nicht — and, I suspect, its English equivalent not — is a contraction of “not even a dwarf” (Old High German: ni eo wiht and variants), and the original negation (which had remained stable at least since PIE, see “head” above) is gone. French pas, from je ne marche pas “I don’t walk even one step” (from a time before French had developed an indefinite article), is an even more extreme case (BTW, it’s shared with Occitan).
    And except for the German head, I haven’t even mentioned external influences yet.

  26. if most of the original people took to boats (or crossed the mountains towards the South), to be replaced by ethnic Chinese, there might not be much of their DNA left. Another reason not to rely too much on DNA.
    marie-lucie, I wonder if you could clarify the last sentence above for me. I read it as implying that linguistic evidence would be more reliable than DNA evidence, but I can’t figure out how. If the people took their DNA with them, wouldn’t they have also taken their language? Especially if they were displaced rather than absorbed, how would linguistic evidence remain when DNA evidence didn’t? Or have I, once again, completely misread the comment?

  27. marie-lucie says:

    Stuart, perhaps I skipped some intermediate steps. I mean that if many of the original people stayed put and were just absorbed by the Chinese through intermarriage, there might still be some useful DNA without linguistic evidence, but if the vast majority of them either were able to leave or were destroyed (and the descendants of the survivors now inhabit Taiwan and/or the rest of the Austronesian-speaking area), then there would hardly be any of their DNA left in the mainland population, not enough to matter. Note that it is not inconceivable that the aboriginal Taiwanese started to migrate from the mainland before China (excluding the minorities in the West) became in fact Chinese, and were later joined by other waves of pre-Chinese immigrants from the mainland, some of whom used their boats to explore and settle other lands (this is just speculation on my part).
    In general, I think that DNA evidence can be useful as to the geographical origin of a given population, but I don’t think it can be considered a decisive factor as to the language spoken by it or its ancestors, or the proper classification of that language.
    By the way, Stuart, thank you for the Abebooks link, but I don’t understand your comment:
    this at least brings up double figures for the commnts on this post.
    Would you care to explain?

  28. The post I made with the Abebooks link was comment number 10 in this thread. I thought that was worth a passing mention given Hat’s lighthearted concern about Austronesianists being scared off by all the Russophile posts.

  29. Hat can hardly be faulted for so many Russian posts after Mr. Emerson’s threats on his life.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    David, very good details, I just disagree with a couple:
    if you meet the Queen, you don’t say “how do you do” and you don’t say “nice to meet you”, you say “hello, ma’am”
    I heard this described a few years ago by no less than a highly placed clergyman in the Anglican Church, who was relating the experiences of a bishop of his acquaintance who had been invited by the Queen, I think at Balmoral (these are not part of my usual circle of friends!). Prior to the visit, the bishop was given a quick course in proper behaviour by a palace official: “Ma’am” (pronounced as [British] “marm”) is how you address the queen, and you don’t ask her questions (even “how do you do”). I don’t know how recent this custom is, but it cannot be described as current fashion among upper-class youth.
    porte bleue, Carte bleue, Porte de Vanves
    In these cases it is not that “a long-lost vowel is reinserted” but that an underlying vowel (ie one that could theoretically be pronounced but is usually omitted) pops up again. I would say the first two, especially since “Carte bleue” is the name of a specific credit card where the -e in carte is part of the name – if I heard someone say cart’ bleue I might think that they are talking about another card that is blue in colour (but I could also say port’ bleue if speaking more quickly or casually). For the last one (the name of a place and metro station), the pronunciation “Porte d’Vanves” sounds extremely low-class (or do you mean both e‘s are pronounced?) – the normal, neutral pronunciation is Port’ de Vanves, and similarly for the other “Portes” in Paris. Usually when there are two e‘s one after the other (separated by one or two consonants), there are rules about which one is dropped, but exactly how can be a little tricky. That said, as I mentioned earlier there seems to be a fashion for pronouncing more e‘s than before, even when there is only one, as in maintenant, something that makes me “wince”.

  31. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Well done, David Marjanovic, that was very interesting. Is there no class-related equivalent in German of the ‘non-U’ words in British English, like pardon?
    Marie-Lucie: “Ma’am” (pronounced as [British] “marm”) is how you address the queen
    It’s actually the opposite. It’s supposed to be pronounced ‘mam’. This was discussed in a recent thread. ‘Mam’ is corroborated, as was said at the time, in the recent Steven Frears film The Queen, with Helen Mirren as H.M.; the session you describe takes place on the stairs in Buckingham Palace with the Blairs in the place of the bishop.

  32. David Marjanović says:

    I left off an important factor for language change. I mentioned laziness of pronunciation, but forgot laziness of the mind, which draws historically unjustified analogies between different words, leading to the disappearance of irregularities, but also to former irregularities becoming more common and eventually regular, and allowing sound changes to affect the grammar.

    but I could also say port’ bleue if speaking more quickly or casually

    In my limited experience, some people say it always, others never. Though… one of those who never says it always speaks extremely fast.

    the normal, neutral pronunciation is Port’ de Vanves

    Yes, of course. The second e doesn’t normally get dropped; that’s why I didn’t bold it. I don’t think anybody pronounces the first and drops the second, though I don’t go out enough…

    That said, as I mentioned earlier there seems to be a fashion for pronouncing more e‘s than before, even when there is only one, as in maintenant

    I’ve encountered the opposite phenomenon: dropping of the remaining t.

    Is there no class-related equivalent in German of the ‘non-U’ words in British English, like pardon?

    Not that I know of. After all, both empires ended in 1918, and in Austria nobility itself, even including the von, was abolished in the process. To his friends, the son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor apparently is Kaiserliche Hoheit, but to the TV, he’s Herr Dr. Habsburg.
    In imperial times, the upper bourgeoisie and the nobility spoke Schönbrunnerdeutsch, as far as I know: close to Standard German, but with nasalization of all vowels and a few dialect features. As you can tell from my uncertainty, it’s now extinct and mythical; I only know it from sugar-dripping flicks turned in the 1950s that are often supposed to be funny or even parodies and are often shown in the two public-owned Austrian TV channels around midday.

  33. A.J.P. Crown says:

    That’s really interesting. There are no actual words, then, not just accents, that distinguish people by class, as there are in England?

  34. marie-lucie says:

    Marie-Lucie: “Ma’am” (pronounced as [British] “marm”) is how you address the queen
    It’s actually the opposite. It’s supposed to be pronounced ‘mam’. This was discussed in a recent thread. ‘Mam’ is corroborated, as was said at the time, in the recent Steven Frears film The Queen, with Helen Mirren as H.M.;

    Well, I have never been in a position to be briefed on how to address her myself, I was just relaying what the bishop’s friend said in my presence – it was definitely [ma:m] (long vowel) not [mam].

  35. Don’t some of these silent vowels count somehow in poetic prosody? I think I remember hearing that somewhere, but can’t remember clearly.

  36. Don’t some of these silent vowels count somehow in poetic prosody? I think I remember hearing that somewhere, but can’t remember clearly.

  37. marie-lucie says:

    David: maintenant
    I’ve encountered the opposite phenomenon: dropping of the remaining t.

    “dropping of the t” is not quite right: a more general rule of casual pronunciation converts stop consonants to nasals after a nasal vowel, especially before another consonant (after dropping an underlying e), so mainnnant – this is how I say it myself unless I am teaching a class. Another example is jambe de bois pronounced jamme de bois (“wooden leg”). Similarly also langue d’oc (= occitan) where the -gu- (= [g]) is converted into the equivalent of English or German ng.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Don’t some of these silent vowels count somehow in poetic prosody?
    Absolutely, you cannot read classical poetry properly without paying attention to each one of them (except at the very end of a line). Modern poets sometimes pay attention to this, sometimes not, so its is not always clear how they intend their lines to be read aloud. Songwriters also take more or less liberties with this. In general, the more formal the situation, the more e‘s are pronounced, and more and more of them are dropped as the situation becomes more casual. David’s earlier examples, like t’veux qu’j'te conduise? “do you want me to drive you?”, are extremely casual. I might say this to my sister, but with my father I would be more likely to pronounce a little more carefully: tu veux que j’te conduise?.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    There are no actual words, then, not just accents, that distinguish people by class, as there are in England?

    There simply isn’t enough of an upperclass left in the first place, because monarchy is over. The issue is pretty much moot.
    And what is left is hidden in rather secretive places in Germany, so I don’t know anything about it.

    Don’t some of these silent vowels count somehow in poetic prosody?

    In songs (at least in fairly modern ones), they sometimes count — whenever the meter requires it. I get the impression this feature is used very liberally to squeeze or bloat anything into the meter. (It also helps that the otherwise utterance-final word stress can go absolutely anywhere in French poems and songs.)
    In this song, which parodizes either Louis XIII (with Richelieu) or XVI, word-final e appears to be always pronounced unless the next word begins with a vowel, except in the 2nd stanza (where reine and (twice) noire are a single syllable)… and that even though that same reine is two syllables in the… wait… ummmm… 19th stanza, though I suspect that should be “reine de” rather than “reine”.

    David’s earlier examples, like t’veux qu’j'te conduise? “do you want me to drive you?”, are extremely casual.

    Quite so, though, for the sake of pedantry, it was t’veux conduire, ou t’veux qu’j'conduise ? (“do you want to drive, or do you want that I drive?”, but with no emphasis whatsoever on the remnants of the personal pronouns), with [kʃk], seven syllables in total.

    In general, the more formal the situation, the more e’s are pronounced, and more and more of them are dropped as the situation becomes more casual.

    This I can confirm.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    French e: with no emphasis whatsoever on the remnants of the personal pronouns
    You can’t put emphasis on words in French the same way you would in English, you have to add extra words or structure the sentence differently, especially if the words to be emphasized are “Ce” words (je, te, le, etc).
    In songs (at least in fairly modern ones), they sometimes count — whenever the meter requires it. I get the impression this feature is used very liberally to squeeze or bloat anything into the meter.
    Exactly. A song can do that because it can both be a form of poetry and use a conversational style.
    In the song you link to (all French people know at least the first stanza if not more) I think the expression la reine Dagobert must be right (in spite of being very unusual), without a de in between: it parallels le roi Dagobert, just like Madame Dupont parallels Monsieur Dupont, or during the Revolution, la citoyenne Dupont/le citoyen Dupont. In English you can refer to a king’s wife as his queen, but the word reine cannot be used in this way: la reine de Dagobert would mean that Dagobert was a place, as in la reine d’Angleterre ‘the queen of England’.

  41. A.J.P. Crown says:

    “do you want to drive, or do you want that I drive?”
    Although this is a rather nice, and certainly a closer translation, a native English speaker would in normal circumstances only say ‘…do you want me to drive?’.

  42. David Marjanović says:

    Yes, of course; I wanted to translate the symmetry.
    (And then I used first bold and then italics. Some symmetry. Grmpf.)

    You can’t put emphasis on words in French the same way you would in English

    You can — when they are unquestionably words, as opposed to prefixes. Hypothetical example: Veux-tu que je conduise ou que je marche ?
    Regarding la reine Dagobert, “his queen” would sound awkward or at least ambiguous in German, too (does she rule him?), but I wouldn’t have expected that French went that far with the ancient custom of calling women (especially widows) with their (late) husband’s full name…

  43. In some cases a woman who inherits a crown is called a king, to make it clear that she’s the heir and not the king’s consort. Tamara of Armenia was one example and actually functioned as a king. In Jadwiga’s case it seems to have been a formality — she became King at age ten and her eventual husband, Jogaila / Jagiello, was king once they married.

    Jadwiga finally came to Kraków and at the age of ten, on November 16, 1384, was crowned King of Poland — Hedvig Rex Poloniæ, not Hedvig Regina Poloniæ, as the Polish law had no provision for a female ruler (queen). The masculine gender of her title was also meant to emphasize that she was monarch in her own right, not a queen consort.

    In the middle of the Tang dynasty Empress Wu Zetian ruled for several years in her own right rather than as a regent or dowager consort, but I don’t know the terminology used. That part of history tended to be erased by later official historians.
    The Lithuanian king Jogaila / Jagiello converted to Christianity in 1386 in order to assume the Polish throne upon marrying Jadwiga. He was essentially the last European pagan ruler, though the Lithuanians took a century or two to fully convert. Poles tend to portray him as a filthy beast, whereas Lithuanians deny that. Jadwiga was declared Saint Jadwiga The Second, possibly just for marrying the much older pagan. She died young.
    In 1520 or so Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia were all ruled by d4escendants of Jagiello, though not by his first wife Hedwig.
    The Jagiellon rulers all tended to marry very late, at 50 or so, and rule for a long time.

  44. In some cases a woman who inherits a crown is called a king, to make it clear that she’s the heir and not the king’s consort. Tamara of Armenia was one example and actually functioned as a king. In Jadwiga’s case it seems to have been a formality — she became King at age ten and her eventual husband, Jogaila / Jagiello, was king once they married.

    Jadwiga finally came to Kraków and at the age of ten, on November 16, 1384, was crowned King of Poland — Hedvig Rex Poloniæ, not Hedvig Regina Poloniæ, as the Polish law had no provision for a female ruler (queen). The masculine gender of her title was also meant to emphasize that she was monarch in her own right, not a queen consort.

    In the middle of the Tang dynasty Empress Wu Zetian ruled for several years in her own right rather than as a regent or dowager consort, but I don’t know the terminology used. That part of history tended to be erased by later official historians.
    The Lithuanian king Jogaila / Jagiello converted to Christianity in 1386 in order to assume the Polish throne upon marrying Jadwiga. He was essentially the last European pagan ruler, though the Lithuanians took a century or two to fully convert. Poles tend to portray him as a filthy beast, whereas Lithuanians deny that. Jadwiga was declared Saint Jadwiga The Second, possibly just for marrying the much older pagan. She died young.
    In 1520 or so Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia were all ruled by d4escendants of Jagiello, though not by his first wife Hedwig.
    The Jagiellon rulers all tended to marry very late, at 50 or so, and rule for a long time.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    Veux-tu que je conduise ou que je marche ?
    A hypothetical sentence, as you say.
    It seems to me that the emphasis on the bolded words is indicated not so much by actual stress but by a slight pause before and after the relevant words. But I associate this type of intonation with somewhat formal usage (as in an interview or a speech) rather than with conversation.
    “la reine Dagobert”: I wouldn’t have expected that French went that far with the ancient custom of calling women (especially widows) with their (late) husband’s full name…
    If by “full name” you mean “first + last names”, in the time of Dagobert (a Frankish king) the question was irrelevant, every person went by just one name (sometimes with a nickname), so there is no other way to refer to this king. Since his wife is not generally known to posterity, and there is no other name by which to refer to her, the song calls her by a phrase parallel to the one which refers to her husband, as I wrote above, and uses the only name available. For an example of actual usage among the French nobility, there is for instance la comtesse de Ségur, who is better known than le comte de Ségur, or la baronne Rothschild, the wife (or widow) of le baron Rothschild. (The titles have no legal existence nowadays).

  46. It’s been established that Dagobert’s wife’s name was Peggy Sue, but the annalists covered it up.

  47. It’s been established that Dagobert’s wife’s name was Peggy Sue, but the annalists covered it up.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    Good try, JE, but it was more likely to be something like Cunégonde or Hilde-whatever.

  49. Supposedly the English word “gun” comes from the name “Gunhilde”, which was the name some Norsemen gave their trebuchet back in the Anglo-Saxon era. “Gun” remains a fairly common Norse girl’s name.
    That’s from the OED, though I don’t quite believe it.
    “Pistol” and “howitzer” supposedly come from Czech. The Hussite schismatics made many important contributions to our civilization. The hacek was another of them.

  50. Supposedly the English word “gun” comes from the name “Gunhilde”, which was the name some Norsemen gave their trebuchet back in the Anglo-Saxon era. “Gun” remains a fairly common Norse girl’s name.
    That’s from the OED, though I don’t quite believe it.
    “Pistol” and “howitzer” supposedly come from Czech. The Hussite schismatics made many important contributions to our civilization. The hacek was another of them.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    “Gun” remains a fairly common Norse girl’s name.
    There was a girl called Snot (with grave accent on the o) in an Icelandic movie I saw.
    JE: pistol from Czech??? surely it must be Dravidian!

  52. One saga has the brothers Grim and Glum, who are about what you’d expect from their names. They come to bad ends.

  53. One saga has the brothers Grim and Glum, who are about what you’d expect from their names. They come to bad ends.

  54. A.J.P. Crown says:

    There was a girl called Snot (with grave accent on the o) in an Icelandic movie I saw.
    There is a fairly well-known Swiss architect from Ticino, called Luigi Snozzi. So, if he married the Icelandic girl …

  55. David Marjanović says:

    In the middle of the Tang dynasty Empress Wu Zetian ruled for several years in her own right rather than as a regent or dowager consort, but I don’t know the terminology used.

    Would be interesting to see if people were supposed to wish her to become 10,000, 1,000 or maybe 9,000 years old.

    more likely to be something like Cunégonde

    Ségolène, then! ;-)

    There was a girl called Snot (with grave accent on the o) in an Icelandic movie I saw.

    Grave? In Icelandic? :-S

    One saga has the brothers Grim and Glum, who are about what you’d expect from their names. They come to bad ends.

    One saga has a Thorgrimm who gets slain. I don’t know why; perhaps he inflicted too much holy wrath upon his neighbors.

  56. marie-lucie says:

    “Grave accent on the o”: Perhaps I should have written “acute accent”. I guess I was so distracted by the unusual name on the screen that I did not notice which diacritic it was (and I saw the movie perhaps 8 or 10 years ago).

  57. Back on topic, the phylogeny of a specific branch of Austronesian languages, RSC language group spoken in a remote part of Solomon Islands, is back in the news, sort of. The Reef Islands – Santa Cruz Islands were only recently classified as Austronesian, apparently because of severe phonetic shifts and a large fraction of Papuan vocabulary. Now it turns out that genetically, these islands are an outlier in the Remore Oceania, having exceedingly strong affinity with the first settlers of Papua – New Guinea. Perhaps these islands, on the far end of the Solomon island chain a thousand miles from the Papua coast, represent the remnant of the previously undocumented pre-Austronesian expansion of the Papuans?

  58. David Marjanović says:

    Why not?

  59. David Marjanović says:

    BTW, the literal meaning of Gun[d]hilde is “fightfight”.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    Could it be genetic drift within a small population? When the Austronesian expansion sweeped along the Papuan coasts and through Near Oceania, some Papuan genes were brought along. In most of Oceania those genes were crowded out, in this tiny part they happened to survive. But it’s intriguing that it coincides with a highly divergent language.

  61. Trond, that’s what we can glean from the paper abstract, that it isn’t clear if genetic drift alone could have been sufficient. Language peculiarity adds an intriguing element to the puzzle (a bit more detailed discussian of the linguistic controversy may be found here).
    An old treatise on Sant Cruz islands calls it “the most fascinating part of Melanesia” and cites a number of cultural traits atypical for Melanesia in general – lack of strong chiefly power, greater freedom of women, hair-bleaching. But the author links it to the islanders’ legends about see-faring invaders from “Tongoa” which he identifies with Cook Islanders. Many interesting pictures in the book

  62. Papuan presence in remote Oceania is not a new idea. For linguistic and other evidence, there’s a recent article by Pawley, and others, not freely online, by Blust (Oceanic Linguistics, 44:544, 2005), Donohue and Denham (ibid. 47:433, 2008), and Blust (47:443, 2008).

  63. Donohue and Denham’s article is here.

  64. Thanks a lot, Y! Donohue and Denham’s suggestion, that if indeed there were no humans in Remote Oceania before Lapita culture expansion, then perhaps the earliest Lapita waves were linguistically Papuan rather than Austronesian, strikes close to the familiar fight-of-paradigms about the population of Europe. Namely, did new technologies expand with new peoples and new languages, or were the technologies themselves diffusing from one population to another one. In Europe, we kind of got used to the idea that the once-favored “pots not people” paradigm has lost. Could peopling of the Oceania have been different?
    Pawley mentions an intermediate sort of a hypothesis, where the boats of the early waves of Lapita settlers would have included varying numbers of Papuan wives and/or slaves, mixing linguistic and genetic traits as they migrated.

  65. In Europe, we kind of got used to the idea that the once-favored “pots not people” paradigm has lost.

    Not so much lost, as participating in a Hegelian synthesis with its pre-WWII Völkerwanderung predecessor. As an obvious example, the 16C flow of high technology from the Old World to the New really was about migration, but the 20C flow of high technology from the New World to the Old really was not.

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