query on 'cotton'

Laurent Sagart Laurent.Sagart at ehess.fr
Mon Oct 15 13:00:27 UTC 2001


Bill Baxter and I are interested in the history of words for 'cotton', especially Dempwolff's Ur-Austronesisch *kapat' (=*kapas in Dyen's orthography) 'cotton', reconstructed on the basis of:

Toba batak hapas 'cotton'

Javanese, Malay, Nadju Dayak kapas 'cotton'

Fidji kava 'string'

Tonga, Futuna kafa 'string'


Tree cotton, Gossypium arboreum,  is said to be native to the Indian subcontinent, and a word for 'cotton' very close to Dempwolff's reconstruction has spread far to the West, indeed to Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic (see Buck 1949).  Related forms are also found in eastern languages, particularly Austroasiatic and in Chinese. Bill and I are interested in evaluating the likelyhood that Dempwolff's *kapat' was really part of PMP because if that was the case that would place a terminum post quem non on the date of spread of cotton to Island South-East Asia. We would be grateful to hear how good Austronesianists think Dempwolff's cognate set is. 


L. Sagart
54 Bd Raspail
75270 Paris cedex 06
Tel: +33 1 49 54 24 18
Fax: +33 1 49 54 26 71
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