Phylogeny and "Sharing" versus "Borrowing"

Jeff Marck jeff.marck at
Fri Sep 13 13:37:19 UTC 1996

Histling and Arcling Subscribers:
The demise of a common language between Tonga and Samoa seems to have
occurred slowly during a period from about 1000 B.C. when those islands
were first settled, through the first millenium B.C. when they were
apparently sharing the innovations that came to mark Proto Polynesian, and
then sharing seems to have declined significantly by about the time of the
divergence of Eastern Polynesian with numerous innovations marking it as
more like ancient Samoan than ancient Tongan.
Had Eastern Polynesian, the Outliers and Niuean, not emerged out of the
Western Polynesian heartland, the measure of whether ancient Tongan and
Samoan were "sharing innovations" or "borrowing", it seems to me, would
have been the point at which the phonologies were different enough that
certain sounds were no longer being shared according to patterns of regular
inheritance from the proto language.
However, with the divergence of Eastern Polynesian, the Outliers and
Niuean, it seems to me that there is a phylogenetic principle that says the
sharings of ancient Tongan and Samoan prior to those other divergences were
"shared innovations" (if unmarked by irregular sound correspondences) while
any sharings after those divergences are formally "borrowings".
I don't immediately find relevant discussions in Hoch, etc. and some of my
favourite historical linguistics web sites seem to be down at the moment.
I would appreciate any suggestions on relevant areal (any language family)
and theoretical titles.
I find that the archaeologists are quite grateful for clarification when I
point out that what we call "sharing" in one instance and "borrowing" in
the next is a linguistic formalism having to do with how the phylogeny is
constructed and implies no discontinuity in the social processes current
between Tonga and Samoa at the time of the divergence of Eastern
Polynesian, the Outliers and Niuean.
Jeff Marck
Jeff Marck
Publications Officer
HTC-NCEPH-ANU                   Health Transition Centre
Canberra ACT 0200 Australia     National Centre for
                                 Epidemiology and Population Health
                                Australian National University
jeff.marck at               Voice:61-6-249-5618 (5614(fax))
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