PNCV *koro / *qoro root, "to fence"

Robert Blust blust at
Mon Apr 26 00:08:53 UTC 1999

Dear Alexander,

I have a card-file of several hundred unpublished Proto-Oceanic
reconstructions, and among them is POC *koro, which evidently referred to
a fortified village:


Nali /kon/, Loniu /ko/, Bipi /kox/, Titan /kol/, Leipon /kor/, Sori /oh/


Fijian /koro/ `an eminence; a village', Tongan /kolo/ `village, town;
fortress' (also `temporary fence of native cloth around an open grave'),
Niue /kolo/ `fort, tower, lookout point', Samoan /qolo/ `fort, shelter'
(Rotuman /koro/ `fortified place, fortress' is a Polynesian loan; cf.
Biggs 1965).

As for the semantic profile of this cognate set, cp. English /town/,
German /Zaun/ `fence', Dutch /tuin/ `garden', Irish /dun/ `fortified
place', where the English form preserves the sense of a settled place,
German preserves the sense of an enclosing structure, and Dutch preserves
the sense of an enclosed collection of cultivated plants rather than
human dwellings.  The original sense clearly was `town', and in the Middle
Ages and even earlier this meant a collection of domiciles surrounded by a
protective wall.  In several publications I have referred to this type of
semantic development as `semantic fragmentation': a complex meaning breaks
into its component parts, some of which are preserved (and perhaps
generalized) in one language, others of which are preserved (and perhaps
generalized) in other languages.

I hope this helps a little.

Bob Blust

On Fri, 23 Apr 1999, Alexandre FRANCOIS wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> I would be very pleased to read any information about a Proto-Oceanic
> root which was reconstructed *qoro / *koro for PNCV
> [=Proto-North-Central-Vanuatu] by Ross Clark (1985, Pac.Ling. C-88)
> after Andrew Pawley (1972, Studies in Oceanic culture history) ; Mota
> /goro/ is an example of this root (Codrington 1896).
> It should have several meanings, from "cover" / "surround", to
> "obstruct", "prevent", etc. It could be related to notions like
> "fence, "enclosure", "cut around", according to Clark's hints. He
> actually gives two references of Andrew's works, one of which is a
> 1977 unpublished manuscript ("POC reconstructions"), and the other one
> I couldn't find so far.
> Can anybody tell me what he knows about that root, from the
> diachronical viewpoint as well as the synchronical (does it show up at
> all among Polynesian languages ?), including semantic (different
> meanings…) and syntactic issues ? Does it behave like a verb, a verbal
> suffix, a preposition, or may it have been a noun at some date,
> meaning for instance "fence" [cf. Mota /geara/, if it is related to
> it] ?
> If no word in the modern languages you know appears to share the same
> origin, at least have you heard similar semantic associations (fence /
> protect / prevent s.o. from doing s.t. / against / keep s.t.
> secret...) are common throughout the area, although with different
> etymologies ?
> Any references or data appreciated,
> Cheers
> Alexandre FRANCOIS
> Paris (LACITO)
> ______________________________________________________
> Get Your Private, Free Email at

More information about the An-lang mailing list