monosyllabic roots

Waruno Mahdi mahdi at
Fri Mar 31 17:41:53 UTC 2000

> Daniel Long's Japanese word _champon_  "mixed" does seem to be Austronesian,
> and its root must be _*pun_ "collection, gathering, group, bunch etc. ".
> This root is mentioned p. 143 in BLUST, Robert A. ( 1988), _Austronesian
> root theory_.
> At the smaller scale of Tagalog, I have 10 disyllabic stems built on _*pun_.
> _sampón_ / _sampún_ "including (connector)" is the closest equivalent to


One should quite generally be extremely careful about reconstructing
PAN monosyllabic roots. You already cited Bob Blust's 1988 'Austronesian
Root Theory'. There are also two contributions by Bernd Nothofer in
Oceanic Linguistics (1990, 19:132-152, and 1991, 20:223-258).

As both authors show, eliciting such roots requires inclusion of
cognates in many languages from various ranges of the AN family,
and identifying the root in a number of protoforms (not just in
a number of distinct words in one or more languages, let alone in
an isolated loanword in a non-Austronesian language like Japanese).

Austronesian languages have a tendency towards retaining a certain
degree of "overtness" of former monosyllabic roots, but that which
one might perceive as a meaningful monosyllabic radical on the
synchronic plain does not always reflect an historical root.
So, although the 'submorphological' feature as a whole probably in
some way reflects some particularity of Austronesian historical
morphology or wordformation, there is not necessarily a direct
relationship between monosyllabic radicals of the current language
and monosyllabic roots of the proto-language.

In Indonesian Malay this is particularly evident, where coining
acronyms a.o. with such monosyllabic radicals is the favourite
sport of Indonesian officialdom.
For example, one recent creation is Menkumdang for _MENteri kehuKUMan
dan perunDANG-undangan_ 'minister of justice and legislation'.
_men_ is quite a standard radical for _menteri_ 'minister', a word
      of Sanskrit origin, where _men_ is not an historical root;
_kum_ also occurs in other acronyms as radical for _hukum_ 'law' and
      its derivations; the word is of Arabic origin, cognate with
      Indonesian _hakim_ 'judge' and _mahkamah_ 'court, tribunal',
      hence the actual root is _h.k.m_, and not _kum_;
and only _dang_, representing the root morpheme _undang_, might
theoretically reflect an historical root.

In Javanese, inventing such pseudo-historical concoctions is
extremely popular, a kind of game of 'charades' that may also
serve to demonstrate a person's literary educatedness. The more
obvious the non-historicity of the creation, the higher usually
its entertainment value.

As for the likelihood that the _pon_ in Japanese _champon_ reflects
an AN *pun 'assemble, collect, gather', and not perhaps *pung 'bunch,
cluster', one would have to establish that Japanese would not reflect
final _-ng_ as _-n_.

But of course, if Japanese borrowed not the word as a whole, but
only the root, it must have done this much much earlier than the
separation of Tagalog and Malay from each other, so one couldn't
assign the loan concretely to any one of these.

If however we assume that Japanese borrowed the word as a whole,
then the identity of the root becomes irrelevant. And even if we only
like to cite the root of whatever word of an AN language we might
assume to have been the etymon or precursor, then we'd also have to
exclude that Japanese reflects a foreign _-pur_ (cf. Malay _campur_
'mix') or a such _-pul_ (cf. Malay _kumpul_ 'gather', _sampul_
'envelope') as _-pon_; not to forget the already mentioned _-pung_
(cf. Malay _tampung_ 'gather together in a receptacle', _kampung_
'settlement, compound, village').

Anyway, given the Okinawan form _champuruu_, one is only left with
_-pur_ or _-pul_ for the likeliest original final syllable. Together
with the first syllable _cham-_ and the meaning 'mix', this pretty
narrowly singles out that Malay _campur_ 'mix, mingle, put/bring
together [things of different kind]' as most probable precursor, I
think. It is a feature of the basic everyday vocabulary and more widely
represented in contact versions of Malay, than its synonyms _aduk_
'mix, stir, blend', _kacau_ 'mix up, stir up, bring into disorder',
_baur_ 'mix, become indistinct [from another]'.

Sorry this got so long.

Salam,   Waruno

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