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

Ross Clark DRC at
Mon Apr 26 04:35:29 UTC 1999

>>> "Alexandre FRANCOIS" <alex_francois at> 04/24 11:31 AM >>>

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.

Ah, the enigmatic  Clark, and the endless interpreting  of him...:}

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1977 unpublished manuscript ("POC reconstructions"), and the other one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.

The only ones I can find right now are:

Pawley 1972 (Oceanic Culture History): PHC (Proto North Hebridean Central
Pacific) *koro "motion against" (reflexes in Vanuatu only, square-bracketed
sorta-not-really-reflexes in SE Solomons)

Pawley 1976 (Some New Oceanic Comparisons, mimeo): PO *kodo "(1) to cut
around something; (2) prepositional verb denoting motion around or against;
(3) village fortified by surrounding palisade or ditch" (reflexes in
Solomons, Vanuatu, Fijian, Polynesian)

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] ?

Mota /geara/ is not related -- it's a prefixed form from  (I think) POc
*qaRa "fence".

The nominal sense of a walled, fenced or enclosed place seems to be the
most widely attested, all the way from Bob's Admiralty forms meaning
"village" to Rarotongan koro "a fenced-in or walled-off area, enclosure,
yard". This type of meaning is also well attested in Vanuatu: Nokuku kokoo
"garden"; Labo no-nggoxonggoxo "shelter", Nguna kooro "enclosure, pen",
na-kokoro "hedge, fence, windbreak", and the Makir forms cited by

Verbal senses are less abundant. Pawley 1976 gives:

Roviana golo "to ring bark a tree, cut out flesh of a coconut from its
Bugotu goro "to turn"
Mota goro "to embrace; to cut around"

There's also Wayan Fijian kooroi, having to do with the sun or moon being
covered or haloed.

These are rather scattered and semantically diverse, except perhaps for
Roviana & Mota "cut around".

It seems to be in North Vanuatu that verbal uses become very common,
semantically generalized and even abstracted. It often occurs following
another verb -- Pawley calls it a "prepositional verb", and Codrington
analyzes it as a preposition in Mota. Meanings include: surround, cover,
protect, shut, block, oppose, prevent, forbid and perhaps something like
"meet, encounter"


Mota            ilo goro   "to look out for/against/after"
                   ima goro marou   "drink to stop thirst"
Raga           daba-nggoro-i  "to cover"
                   gita-nggoro  "be careful"
Big Nambas  tu-kar- "stop, prevent"
                   vr-kar-   "forbid"
Nguna          leo-goro "watch for, expect"
                   pwalu-goro "protect"
                   tapwau-goro "cover, put a lid on"

I think this semantic range has been calqued by Mele-Fila /pijjia/ (e.g.
sai-pijjia "bar the door, shut up in house", jipwaa-pijjia "prevent,
forbid"), and possibly in part by Bislama /blokem/.

As for Polynesian, there is PPN *kolo "enclosed fortress", pretty widely
supported. One might also want to consider the possible connection of PPN
*koloa "valuable possession" (= that which is enclosed or protected?), and
perhaps PNP *kolomaki "suppress feelings, be patient", which could  be a
secondary transitive from *kolo.

Ross Clark

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