The Austronesian Comparative Dictionary


Loanwords are a perennial problem in historical linguistics. When they involve morphemes that are borrowed between related languages they can provoke questions about the regularity of sound correspondences. When they involve morphemes that are borrowed between unrelated languages they can give rise to invalid reconstructions. Dempwolff (1934-38) included a number of known loanwords among his 2,216 ‘Proto-Austronesian’ reconstructions in order to show that sound correspondences are often regular even with loanwords that are borrowed relatively early, but he marked these with an ‘x’, as with *xbazu ‘shirt’, which he knew to be a Persian loanword in many of the languages of western Indonesia, and (via Malay) in some of the languages of the Philippines. However, he overlooked a number of cases, such as *nanas ‘pineapple’ (an Amazonian cultigen that was introduced to insular Southeast Asia by the Portuguese). Since widely distributed loanwords can easily be confused with native forms I have found it useful to include them in a separate module of the dictionary. A fairly careful (but inevitably imperfect) attempt has been made to identify and document loanwords with a distribution sufficient to justify a reconstruction on one of the eight levels of the ACD, if treated erroneously as native. While this has been done wherever the possibility of confusion with native forms seemed real, there is no reason to include obvious loans that would never be mistaken for native forms. This issue is especially evident in the Philippines, where hundreds of Spanish loanwords from the colonial period that began late in the 16th century, are scattered from at least Ilokano in northern Luzon to the Bisayan languages of the central Philippines and some of the languages of Mindanao (as Subanon). Comparisons like Ilokano kamarón ‘prawn’, Cebuano kamarún ‘dish of shrimps, split and dipped in eggs, optionally mixed with ground meat’ < Spanish camarón ‘shrimp’, or Ilokano kalábus ‘jail, prison’, Cebuano kalabús, kalabúsu ‘jail; to land in prison, in jail’ < Spanish calabozo ‘dungeon’ seem inappropriate for inclusion in LOANS, but introduced plants have generally been admitted. Some of these, as ‘tomato’ may be widely known as New World plants that were introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish, but others, as ‘chayote’, may be less familiar. As already noted, Dempwolff (1938) posited ‘Uraustronesisch’ *nanas and *kenas as doublets for ‘pineapple’, completely overlooking the fact that this is an Amazonian plant that could hardly have been present in the Austronesian world before the advent of the colonial period. This example shows that errors in the semantic domain of plant names can sometimes escape detection by scholars who are otherwise known for their careful, meticulous work, and for this reason all borrowed cognate sets involving plant names are documented as loanwords to avoid any possible misinterpretation.