num "water"

potetjp potetjp at
Mon Nov 22 15:08:47 UTC 1999

Dear Ms. Kumar,
    Thank you for the information.
    As you may have understood, one of my research subjects is "Tagalog
monosyllabic roots" (_Oceanic Linguistics_, Vol. 34, #2, December 1995, pp.
345-374). I broached it in my 1983 dissertation on Filipino morphology, and
have developped it ever since. I am no longer interested in disyllabic
radicals because, although very useful to study consonant reflexes in the
intervocalic position, they have proved - at least to me - a dead end alley
for a deep study of Tagalog etymology. For instance, if you ignore PAN *num,
you cannot see the connection between Tagalog _inum _ "drink" and  Ilokano
_danum_ "water"; if you ignore PAN *iR, you cannot see the connection
between Malay _air_ "water" and Tagalog _tubig_ "water" etc.
    As regards the monosyllabic root *num "fresh water", it cannot have been
borrowed during proto-historical or historical times because, during such
periods, Austronesian linguistic units were already disyllabic items.
Actually I think *num belonged to the vocabulary of the Austronesian people
who settled in Japan in a very remote antiquity. Indeed, Japanese before it
sinification cannot have been a simplex; it must have been a complex (I am
using here the terms defined by Curtis McFARLAND in his _Linguistic Atlas of
the Philippines_), and that part of its vocabulary comes from Austronesia.
    The hypothesis that the first inhabitants of Southern and Central Japan
were Austronesians is not mine. I read it a long time ago in Roger BERSIHAND
(1959), _ Histoire du Japon des origines à nos jours_ [A history of Japan
from the origins to our days], Paris: Payot, who writes, p. 23: "A mesure
qu'ils [ces Mongols] avançaient, ils soumettaient les premiers
occupants,sans doute une race malaise, ou les refoulaient devant eux. [As
they moved on, they [these Mongols] subjugated the early settlers, probably
a Malay race, or drove them back before them.]"
    Paul K. BENEDICT (1990), _Japanese Austro-Tai_, Ann Arbor: Karoma.,
addresses the problem from the linguistic point of view,  but didn't leave
me any lasting impression.
    Best regards
Jean-Paul G. POTET. B. P. 46. 92114 CLICHY CEDEX. FRANCE.
PS1. What are the titles and references of the papers you are alluding to?
PS2. You should have sent your message to the whole AN-LANG list. I am sure
more people than I alone are interested in what you have to say.

----- Original Message -----
From: Ann Kumar <Ann.Kumar at>
To: <potetjp at>
Sent: Monday, November 22, 1999 12:44 AM
Subject: Re: num "water"

> Dear M. Potet,
> I have published one paper and submitted for publication another written
> with a phonetician colleague, presenting evidence for Austronesian loans
> into Japanese.  However, I am pretty sure these are not from the period of
> proto-Austronesian but from a considerably later period, and are in fact
> specifically Indonesian words.  The second paper contains an account of
> correspondences and sound shifts involved.  It is possible that (i)num is
> part of this borrowing (Waruno Mahdi points out it doesnt seem to go back
> to when the Austronesians were in Taiwan), but we didnt include it as we
> confined our attention to longer words (CVCVC) to reduce the possibility
> chance similarities.
> Best wishes
> Ann Kumar
> Dr Ann Kumar
> Asian History Centre
> Faculty of Asian Studies
> Canberra ACT 0200
> Australia
> Tel. (02) 6249 3677/4658  fax. (02) 6279-8326

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