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The Austronesians

The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

Peter Bellwood
James J. Fox
Darrell Tryon
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Austronesians
    Book Description:

    The Austronesian-speaking population of the world are estimated to number more than 270 million people, living in a broad swathe around half the globe, from Madagascar to Easter Island and from Taiwan to New Zealand. The seventeen papers in this volume provide a general survey of these diverse populations focusing on their common origins and historical transformations. The papers examine current ideas on the linguistics, prehistory, anthropology and recorded history of the Austronesians. This volume is a publication of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies' Comparative Austronesian Project.  

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-85-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Peter Bellwood, James J. Fox and Darrell Tryon
  4. Chapter 1. The Austronesians in History: Common Origins and Diverse Transformations
    (pp. 1-16)
    Peter Bellwood, James J. Fox and Darrell Tryon

    The Austronesian languages form a single and relatively close-knit family, similar in its degree of internal diversity and time depth to other major language families such as Austroasiatic, Uto-Aztecan and Indo-European. Prior to AD 1500 the Austronesian languages belonged to the most widespread language family in the world, with a distribution extending more than half way around the globe from Madagascar to Easter Island. Today, Austronesian-speaking peoples comprise most or all of the indigenous populations of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Madagascar. Austronesian languages are also found on Taiwan (the possible homeland of the first Austronesians), in parts of southern...

  5. Section I. Origins and Dispersals

    • Chapter 2. Proto-Austronesian and the Major Austronesian Subgroups
      (pp. 19-42)
      Darrell Tryon

      The Austronesian language family is perhaps the worldʹs largest, with some 1200 languages and approximately 270 million speakers, according to the most recent studies (Tryon, ed. 1994). It ranges from languages with tens of millions of speakers (Malay/Indonesian, Javanese, Tagalog) to a surprisingly large number of languages with only a handful of speakers, numbered in the hundreds. These latter are particularly prevalent in Oceania, the causes for which will be examined later in this volume by Dutton. The geographical range of the Austronesian family is displayed in Map 1. A glance at the map will show that Austronesian languages are...

    • Chapter 3. The Prehistory of Oceanic Languages: A Current View
      (pp. 43-80)
      Andrew Pawley and Malcolm Ross

      Proto-Oceanic (POc) is the ancestor of some 450 Austronesian languages of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Darrell Tryon has outlined in his paper for this volume the origins and position of the Oceanic subgroup within the wider Austronesian language family. Our concern here is with what historical linguistics has to say about the development of the Oceanic languages and the cultures of their speakers from Proto-Oceanic times onward.¹

      We will address the following questions:

      1. How solid is the integrity of the Oceanic subgroup?

      2. What was the culture of Proto-Oceanic speakers like?

      3. What was the order of genetic splits among the languages...

    • Chapter 4. Borneo as a Cross-Roads for Comparative Austronesian Linguistics
      (pp. 81-102)
      K. Alexander Adelaar

      If one thing has become clear in the last one and a half centuries, it is that Borneo, in spite of some shallow appearances to the contrary, represents an amalgamation of ethnic groups with often very different origins. Where Hardeland in the mid-19th century (Hardeland 1858, 1859) still thought it suitable to call the language of his dictionary and grammatical sketch ʺDayakʺ, it now appears to be merely one of the Northwest Barito languages, which in turn form a branch of the West Barito grouping in the southern part of Borneo. According to Hudson (1978), the West Barito language group...

    • Chapter 5. Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation
      (pp. 103-118)
      Peter Bellwood

      This paper will commence by focusing on the question of where the immediate ancestor of Proto-Austronesian was located, and when. Proto-Austronesian is the hypothesized linguistic entity, perhaps a single language or perhaps a dialect network (see Pawley and Ross, this volume), ancestral to all subsequent and existing Austronesian languages. But like all languages it also had an ancestor, prior to the budding of the Austronesian (henceforth An) family as a linguistic taxon with its own unique history.

      An observation relevant for this question, one particularly intriguing in terms of its relevance for world prehistory, is that the general homeland regions...

    • Chapter 6. The Lapita Culture and Austronesian Prehistory in Oceania
      (pp. 119-142)
      Matthew Spriggs

      The most widespread cultural horizon in Oceania is the Lapita culture, defined initially on the basis of its highly distinctive decorated pottery (see Green 1990 for a ʺpottedʺ history of Lapita studies). Its geographic spread is from Manus (Admiralties) and the Vitiaz Straits (between New Guinea and New Britain) in the west to Tonga and Samoa in the east (Map 1). On New Guinea itself sherds from a single pot only have been found at Aitape on the north coast of West Sepik Province (Papua New Guinea). The Lapita culture dates from about 1600 BC to between 500 BC and...

    • Chapter 7. The Austronesian Conquest of the Sea — Upwind
      (pp. 143-160)
      Adrian Horridge

      The built-up dug-out or planked canoe with an outrigger and sail has been the principal technology for survival and colonization for the sea-going peoples who spread over Island Southeast Asia and far over the Pacific for at least the past few thousand years. We deduce this from the present and presumed past distributions and structures of the canoes. With the ability to carry fire, family, dogs, chickens, tuberous roots, growing shoots and seeds by sea, the Austronesians eventually occupied the Pacific Islands, travelling into Melanesia about 3500 years ago and onwards into Polynesia. I propose to deal with two questions,...

    • Chapter 8. Domesticated and Commensal Mammals of Austronesia and Their Histories
      (pp. 161-174)
      Colin P. Groves

      A variety of animal species have travelled with Austronesians on their migrations through Southeast Asia, and some have gone further into the Pacific. In this paper I will discuss the ecology of some of these species, trying to understand their geographical distributions and the natures of their associations with Austronesian-speaking people. I will try also to identify the regions of their aboriginal wild distributions. In this way we can possibly make some statements about prehistoric Austronesian culture, subsistence and migration history.

      Water-buffalo are so closely associated with wet rice cultivation that it is difficult to see how an efficient wet...

  6. Section II. Transformations and Interactions

    • Chapter 9. Homo Sapiens is an Evolving Species: Origins of the Austronesians
      (pp. 177-194)
      S. W. Serjeantson and X. Gao

      Homo sapiens is an evolving species. We make this point because the archaeological debate relating to the development of Lapita pottery in Melanesia has focused on whether it represents an intrusive culture (Spriggs, this volume) or an indigenous development (Allen and White 1989). This debate has been carried over to the question of whether the pre-Polynesians were a colonizing group from Island Southeast Asia, or a group that evolved within Melanesia. The genetic record shows that contemporary Polynesians do indeed share many genetic features with Island Southeast Asians, but they have also undergone further and probably rapid evolution in the...

    • Chapter 10. A Study of Genetic Distance and the Austronesian/Non-Austronesian Dichotomy
      (pp. 195-206)
      Kuldeep Bhatia, Simon Easteal and Robert L. Kirk

      In 1965, Giles, Ogan and Steinberg claimed a clear-cut discrimination based on tests for the Gm system between Austronesian (An) and non-Austronesian (NAn) speakers in the Markham River Valley of Papua New Guinea. Because of a failure later to find a similar discrimination between An and NAn speakers on Bougainville, there has been critical and sometimes heated debate on (a) the usefulness of genetics for studying An and NAn origins, and (b) the validity of the model which suggests that An and NAn-speakers have different biological origins.

      These competing views have been highlighted from differing perspectives by John Terrell in...

    • Chapter 11. Language Contact and Change in Melanesia
      (pp. 207-228)
      Tom Dutton

      The topic of language contact and change in Melanesia is a vast one, and one that I cannot possibly do justice to in detail in the space available here. My aim will therefore be merely to give an overview of the types of contact-induced change that have so far been observed in that part of the Pacific that is popularly known as Melanesia (Map 1), with a view to drawing attention to certain problems that these pose for the classification and reconstruction of the history of Melanesian languages. In some ways Melanesia is typical of the rest of the Austronesian...

    • Chapter 12. Austronesian Societies and Their Transformations
      (pp. 229-244)
      James J. Fox

      Austronesian societies offer a spectacle of diversity. There are at least eight hundred contemporary Austronesian societies, each of which can be considered to possess a distinct, if not distinctive, social organization; and, if one were to add to this number those Austronesian societies on whose early social formations we possess reasonable historical information, this diversity is further increased.

      Such social diversity ranges from that of simple hunter-horticulturalists such as the Buid of Mindoro, the Ilongot of Luzon, the Penan of Borneo, the Sakkudei of the Mentawai islands, or the Huaulu of Ceram to the elaborate command states of the Merina...

    • Chapter 13. Sea Nomads and Rainforest Hunter-Gatherers: Foraging Adaptations in the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago
      (pp. 245-286)
      Clifford Sather

      Peter Bellwood (1985:205) has proposed that the first ʺAustronesian-speakers who expanded into the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago carried [with them] a fully agricultural economyʺ. If this is so — and the evidence in support of the proposition is compelling — then the status of contemporary foraging groups in Island Southeast Asia, whose members speak Austronesian languages, must be seen as problematic. Clearly such groups cannot be said to have preserved in any simple or direct sense a form of adaptation ancestral to Austronesian colonization. How, then, are we to place these non-agricultural societies in the history of the Austronesian-speaking world? It is...

    • Chapter 14. Exchange Systems, Political Dynamics, and Colonial Transformations in Nineteenth Century Oceania
      (pp. 287-308)
      Nicholas Thomas

      Elaborate exchange systems have always been conspicuous features of Austronesian societies, and travellersʹ accounts frequently feature extended descriptions of activities described as trading or feasting. Even in relatively casual or shallow descriptions, it is often apparent that the practices witnessed were not merely economic transactions or ceremonies in a narrow sense, but events linked with kinship economies, with social reproduction as well as utilitarian traffic, that were often also evidently arenas for political competition. Twentieth-century anthropology, particularly with respect to Oceania, extended these observations to a dramatic extent and made them the basis for fundamental theories of ʺthe giftʺ and...

    • Chapter 15. Indic Transformation: The Sanskritization of Jawa and the Javanization of the Bharata
      (pp. 309-332)
      S. Supomo

      Although contacts between the western mainland of Southeast Asia and India had existed since prehistoric times, it was only in the beginning of the Christian era that the Sanskrit civilization of India began to spread more rapidly across the Bay of Bengal into the western parts of the Austronesian world. The exact circumstances will probably remain unknown, but the following factors have been most often mentioned as the main causes of this new development.

      The first was the expanding international trade which, from about 2000 years ago, greatly increased the number of traders and adventurers voyaging from India to Southeast...

    • Chapter 16. Continuity and Change in the Austronesian Transition to Islam and Christianity
      (pp. 333-350)
      Anthony Reid

      A Samoan deposited in (say) Madura might well conclude that it was Islam that most profoundly distinguished Indonesian culture from his own. In dress, diet, naming, social and domestic relations as well as belief and ritual, Islam has taken the majority of todayʹs Austronesians in a distinctive direction. In consequence they would probably see less reason to identify with our Samoan than with non-Austronesian Muslims in South and West Asia. One might reasonably conclude that the conversion by 1650 of most lowland areas of the archipelagoes we now know as Indonesia and the Philippines to Islam or Catholicism had created...

    • Chapter 17. Christianity and Austronesian Transformations: Church, Polity and Culture in the Philippines and the Pacific
      (pp. 351-364)
      Aram A. Yengoyan

      Christianity in its many forms and expressions came into insular Southeast Asia and the Pacific with the colonial expansion of European states. In more specific terms, the Austronesian portion of Southeast Asia went through various phases in which Christianity and colonialism worked in some contexts within a common and unified framework, while in others the Church and the State diverged in separate directions. For instance, early Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia was primarily a political and economic venture, and it was only in the nineteenth century that Dutch versions of Protestantism and Catholicism became active forces within the colonial regime....

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 365-368)