Richard Parker, who runs the enjoyable new blog Notes From a Small Island from Siargao Island in the Philippines, sent me an e-mail saying:

I started a few months ago on what I expected to be a simple study of Austronesian numbers, to see if I could find out anything that could reveal a little bit new about the prehistory of that intrepid group of language-speakers, who managed to spread from Madagascar to Easter Island, Hawaii to New Zealand… It has grown from a minor diversion into an unmanageable monstrosity (my original spreadsheet now has 1443 separate entry rows, and 130 analysing columns), ie that’s 1443 number systems, in 1443 languages, Austronesian, ‘Papuan’ and anything else I could think of that might be remotely connected… In the hope that someone else may have some bright ideas on how to process this mass of information, and be able to help me get through my current attack of ‘researcher’s block’, I’ve posted it, in its present unfinished state, warts and all, online at

Warning: The file size is 2.7Mb, so it may take a while to download.

I don’t have Excel on my computer, so I can’t actually see the spreadsheet, but it sounds like an interesting project, and I thought I’d throw it up here for you all to see. You can read more about his numbers project here and here [link not archived], and he’s planning more posts on the subject. (Oh, and he knows about zompist’s Numbers from 1 to 10 in Over 5000 Languages—that’s what got him started.)

Update (July 2023). While Notes From a Small Island is long gone, his other blog, Austronesian Numbers Project, is still online, though the last post is dated May 27, 2008, and here’s a snapshot of his site.


  1. for those who want to view the spreadsheet without excel, there are at least 2 easy ways to do so. if you have a google account, download the file and then upload it to google documents ( if that doesn’t suit you, get a free program that opens .xls files (e.g.

  2. He should talk to Bob Blust at the University of Hawai‘i. Bob is a historical linguist specializing in Austronesian.

  3. Blust and his colleagues have created a great online tool, the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database. Not just number terms, of course — you can see “one” in 578 languages, but you can also see “intestines” in 461 languages.

  4. “Intestines” is basic vocabulary?

  5. David Marjanović says

    “Intestines” is basic vocabulary?

    “Gut(s)” might be. Or not — compare German Darm.

  6. Sounds like Richard could use an automated cognate searching program.
    One is under development at Sydney Uni by a friend of mine who is comparing wordlists of thousands of entries from different languages. It’s being designed especially for far-Northern Australian languages, but if it works, and things are looking good, then there’s no reason not to extend it for any given use.
    Although, it still requires the ‘human’ to do things like normalise orthography, write phonological rules, like lenition and vowel change, and sift through the perhaps hundreds of ‘possible matches’. But it beats the hell out of eyeballing a spreadsheet.

  7. I get file not found.

  8. I too am unable to locate the file.

  9. Jangari, would your colleagues find my mate Jamie’s IPA Zounds any use?

  10. Sorry, just realized that I erred in my description of the ABVD. There are only 493 languages in the database, but some items have more than one entry for a given language — hence “one” has 578 entries.

  11. Mark Townsend says

    I am a Bahá’í and find that any subject undertaken is made more relevant and more eloguent when Bahá’u’lláh is a participant.

  12. Richard Parker says

    Thanks to LanguageHat for the very kind boost to my project, and my sincere apologies for getting the worksheet URL wrong.
    It should have been:
    Very sorry

  13. Katya Branch says

    Hello! I know that it’s been fourteen years but is there another way to access this link? The site seems to have gone up for sale. I’m really fascinated by Austronesian linguistics and in fact had met Richard Parker back when I was young (RIP). His work was quite extensive and an indispensable tool for the field of Austronesian linguistics.

    Thank you in advance. ????

  14. I’m afraid not, since it’s not a URL the Wayback Machine can archive. Unless someone who sees this made a copy of the file back then and is willing to share it with you, you’re out of luck. Sorry to hear about his death; is there an obit you can link to?

  15. marie-lucie says

    Ran: intestines is basic vocabulary? – DM guts ..

    In cultures where people do not buy meat ready to cook but all meat preparation is done at home, often including killing, then butchering, cleaning the innards, etc, the word translated as “intestines” does not suggest human digestion but pre-cooking chores. Similarly with fish. These organs consisting of very long, elastic tubes can also be kept and treated in order to be put other domestic uses. So yes, on a world scale the word (or its colloquial equivalent) does belong to basic vocabulary.

  16. My brothers and I were in New York and decided to have dinner in Koreatown. We found a place that did Korean barbecue at your table, and at the end of the menu they listed a dish where the meat component was “colon.” We had never seen colon listed on a menu before, so we ordered it for three and enjoyed prodding the long strands of intestine that were roasting over the fire. It wasn’t really an amazing dish, but the colon was interesting; it was, unexpectedly, a lot like tripe.

  17. Kokoreç (Albanian: kukurec, Greek: κοκορέτσι, Turkish: kokoreç) is a dish of the Balkans and Asia Minor, consisting of lamb or goat intestines wrapped around seasoned offal, including sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, or kidneys, and typically grilled; a variant consists of chopped innards cooked on a griddle. The intestines of suckling lambs are preferred.

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