What is it about?

An overlooked grammatical affix lends further linguistic support for the idea that Austronesian speakers in eastern Taiwan used their seafaring skills to span out across the Pacific. Scientists all agree that people speaking Austronesian languages started out from Taiwan and settled the Philippines around 4,000 years ago. But linguists had found little evidence about where precisely the migration started and which Indigenous group was involved in the expansion. Our new research provides this missing linguistic evidence, based on an overlooked grammatical affix. It suggests the Amis of eastern Taiwan are the closest relative of the Malayo-Polynesian people (including Māori) in the Austronesian language family. This finding complements recent research in archaeology and genetics, which also suggests the Austronesian expansion likely began along the east coast of Taiwan. Contemporary Indigenous groups in this part of Taiwan are known to have long-standing seafaring traditions.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Austronesian is the second-largest language family in the world. Austronesian languages are spoken from Madagascar to Polynesia, including te reo Māori, and have been the focus of considerable research. But many basic questions remain about the origin and primary dispersal of this language group.


Our findings point to a revised linguistic subgrouping more consistent with the socio-historical view that a seafaring community began the out-of-Taiwan expansion. It coincides with recent findings in archaeology, which put the starting point of the Austronesian expansion in eastern Taiwan. It also aligns with three recent genetic studies. All three reveal a particularly close connection between the Amis and Malayo-Polynesian populations.

Victoria Chen
Victoria University of Wellington

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Is Malayo-Polynesian a primary branch of Austronesian?, Diachronica, May 2022, John Benjamins,
DOI: 10.1075/dia.21019.che.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page