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The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic

The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic: The culture and environment of ancestral Oceanic society: 2 The physical environment

Malcolm Ross
Andrew Pawley
Meredith Osmond
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic
    Book Description:

    This is the second in a series of five volumes on the lexicon of Proto Oceanic, the ancestor of the Oceanic branch of the Austronesian language family. Each volume deals with a particular domain of culture and/or environment and consists of a collection of essays each of which presents and comments on lexical reconstructions of a particular semantic field within that domain. Volume 2 examines how Proto Oceanic speakers described their geophysical environment. An introductory chapter discusses linguistic and archaeological evidence that locates the Proto Oceanic language community in the Bismarck Archipelago in the late 2nd millennium BC. The next three chapters investigate terms used to denote inland, coastal, reef and open sea environments, and meteorological phenomena. A further chapter examines the lexicon for features of the heavens and navigational techniques associated with the stars. How Proto Oceanic speakers talked about their environment is also described in three further chapters which treat property terms for describing inanimate objects, locational and directional terms, and terms related to the expression of time.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-19-6
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Chapter contents in detail
    (pp. vi-xi)
  4. List of maps, tables and figures
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  5. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xv)
  6. Maps
    (pp. xvi-xvii)
  7. Preface
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
    Malcolm Ross
  8. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Proto Oceanic (POc) is the immediate ancestor of the Oceanic subgroup of the Austronesian language family (see Map 1). This subgroup consists of all the Austronesian languages of Melanesia east of 136°E, together with those of Polynesia and (with two exceptions) those of Micronesia—more than 450 languages in all.¹ Extensive arguments for the existence of Oceanic as a clearly demarcated branch of Austronesian were first put forward by Otto Dempwolff in the 1920s, and the validity of the subgroup is now recognised by virtually all scholars working in Austronesian historical linguistics.

    This is the second of a set of...

  9. 2 Locating Proto Oceanic
    (pp. 17-34)

    This chapter briefly describes the major biogeographical regions of Oceania and Island Southeast Asia, summarises the evidence for locating the Proto Oceanic speech community in the Bismarck Archipelago, and refers to the range of environments and environmental features to be encountered there.¹

    Oceania is often divided into three main geographic regions: Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. However, a more useful primary division for understanding the history of plants and animals, and, particularly, of humans in the Pacific is between Near Oceania and Remote Oceania.²

    Modern Near Oceania consists of Australia and that part of the Pacific Islands whose chief land masses...

  10. 3 The landscape
    (pp. 35-90)

    This chapter and the following one are an attempt to discover something of the way in which Proto Oceanic speakers experienced and conceptualised their environment. We begin by giving examples taken from the ethnographic literature of how several different Oceanic-speaking peoples describe parts of their environment. We then examine evidence, provided by cognate sets and lexical reconstructions, concerning details of the inanimate land environment known to speakers of Proto Oceanic and certain of its daughter languages. We deal first with the land and landforms, and include vegetation cover only when it is part of a topographical feature.¹ Seascape is dealt...

  11. 4 The seascape
    (pp. 91-118)

    This chapter presents reconstructions pertaining to the inanimate marine environment, the seascape.¹ As experienced sailors (see Chapter 6), Proto Oceanic speakers would have possessed a vocabulary to express the physical details of their maritime world, of waves, currents and swells, and, more locally, of tides, of treacherous rocks and reefs, of passages through the reef and sheltered water. As fishermen and gatherers of reef foods their descendants have demonstrated an extensive knowledge of the reef in all its parts (McEldowney 1995, Hviding 1996, Akimichi 1978, Dye 1983). Data have been organized within two main categories: (i) the sea and its...

  12. 5 Meteorological phenomena
    (pp. 119-154)

    The reconstruction of any terminology brings its own peculiar problems. In this case, the challenge was associated with the fact that meteorological conditions are not the same throughout the Austronesian speaking area. It is a necessary inference that as Austronesian speakers settled the regions they now occupy, they encountered new conditions which required adaptations in their terminology. Thus the meanings of the terms in a given language need to be related to the weather conditions which occur where the language is spoken. For this reason, §2 gives a short account of Pacific wind systems, while in §3 the weather patterns...

  13. 6 Navigation and the heavens
    (pp. 155-192)

    For as far back as the four or five thousand years that we can trace them culturally, Austronesian speakers have preferred to live close to the sea.¹ They have typically been sailors and fishermen. For as long as their settlements were confined to southeast Asia and northwest Melanesia, virtually all their sailing would have been between intervisible or near-intervisible islands. However, in the late second millennium BC, Austronesian speakers living somewhere in the region of the Bismarck Archipelago—speakers of the language now known as Proto Oceanic—began to move out eastwards, to the Solomons and beyond. Over the next...

  14. 7 Properties of inanimate objects
    (pp. 193-228)

    The terms reconstructed in this chapter denoted properties of inanimate objects in POc. It is impossible to draw a clear line between the properties of inanimate objects and the properties of living beings as there are some properties, for example, ‘big’ and ‘small’, which were almost certainly used of both inanimate objects and animate beings. However, there are also many property expressions which were evidently used only of animate beings, and these are not considered here.¹

    Oceanic languages make some distinctions between properties of inanimates and properties of animates that are not made in European languages, and vice versa. In...

  15. 8 Talking about space: terms of location and direction
    (pp. 229-294)

    Talking about space is a part of talking about the environment as a whole. We include talking about space in this volume because some of the terms reconstructed in §2 are also used to denote parts of the landscape and seascape reconstructed in Chapters 3 and 4. However, much of the terminology reconstructed in this chapter was also used to talk about space in relation to manufactured objects (vol. 1), to flora and fauna (vols. 3 and 4) and to human beings (vol. 5). Many languages have complex terminologies for talking about space, and the length of this chapter bears...

  16. 9 Time
    (pp. 295-338)

    The kinds of time and duration expressions that we might expect to find in a language are listed below. This categorisation could probably be applied to any language, Oceanic or otherwise, as it appears to have its basis in human cognition and universal experience rather than in the vagaries of English. Part 1 also indicates the structure of this chapter. Why part 2 is not part of that structure is explained below.

    1. Times

    a. Undirected:

    (i) times within cycles: ‘at midnight’, ‘at dawn’, ‘at midday’, ‘at full moon’, ‘at yam harvest’, ‘in daylight’, ‘in the morning’/‘in the afternoon’/‘in the evening’/‘in...

  17. Appendix 1: Data sources and collation
    (pp. 339-342)
  18. Appendix 2: Languages
    (pp. 343-366)
  19. References
    (pp. 367-388)
  20. Index
    (pp. 389-399)