Summary of "Focus system in non-Philippine languages"

pnaylor at pnaylor at
Mon Jul 1 22:08:18 UTC 2002

May I call your attention to my paper, "Toward Focus in Austronesian" presented at SICAL in Canberra in 1978, subsequently published in the SICAL volume in 1979, edited by Wurm and Carrington?

Re Malagasy,  In Professor Dahl's correspondence with me in connection with his work on Malagasy and its system of focus, he expressed the view that the basic 4-focus system of Tagalog corresponded perfectly with that of Malagasy.


-------- Original Message --------
>From: Vanish8080 at
>Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2002 14:00:47 EDT
>Subject: Summary of "Focus system in non-Philippine languages"
>In a message dated 6/24/02 3:29:46 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
>Vanish8080 at writes:
>> So my question is, does the focus system exist in Austronesian languages
>>  from the Philippines?  And if so, could you list a sample of affixes or
>>  trigger markers used?
>My thanks to Frédéric Plessis, Jean-Paul Potet, Laurie Reid, Erik Zobel, and
>Waruno Mahdi for providing in-depth answers to my question. They all
>responded to me privately, so I'll summarize here.
>I've had not much exposure, obviously, with non-Philippine Austronesian
>languages and wondered if the focus system had survived outside of the
>Philippines.  I was surprised to find out from Laurie Reid that it's "found
>in many of the Formosan languages, also in languages in Sulawesi, and as far
>west as Malgache in Madagascar, although in a great variety of different
>forms."  According to Erik Zobel, "complete loss is observed in many
>languages of Eastern Indonesia, e.g. Tetum." Frédéric Plessis says that "it
>is clear that Philippines languages are the most conservative from this point
>of view."
>Below, is a sample of affixes that Erik Zobel provided me:
>Mayrinax Atayal (Taiwan): AV <UM>, PV -un, LV -an, IV si-
>Tondano (North Sulawesi): AV <UM>, PV -en, LV -an, IV i-
>Kimaragang Dusun (Sabah): AV moN-, PV -on, LV -an, IV i-
>And here is what Jean-Claude Potet had to say about Toba Batak's affixes:
>"... Toba Batak has the -um- infix as well as the mang-, ma- and pa-
>prefixes. Besides its mar- prefix corresponds to Tag. mag- (cf. van der
>Tuuk's RGH law)."
>And from Waruno Mahdi: "The Malay form alternance referred to earlier
>involves the use of the suffixes -i and -kan, not any prefixes. Indonesian
>Malay has meng- and peng-, but no cognate of  *ma- ..." and "For Tag. mag-/
>TB mar- Malay has ber-, which is quite
>Below is a list of resources the above people have provided me:
>Dahl, O.Ch., 1986 , "Focus in Malagasy and Proto-Austronesian", pp. 21-42 in
>     Paul Geraghty, Lois Carrington, S.A. Wurm (eds.), FOCAL I: Papers from
>     the Fourth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Pacific
>     Linguisics series C-93, Canberra: Australian National University.
>Dahl, O.Ch., 1978, "The Fourth Focus", pp. 383-393 in S.A. Wurm & Lois
>     Carrington (eds.), Second International Conference on Austronesian
>     Linguistics: Proceedings, Pacific Linguisics series C-61, Canberra:
>     Australian National University.
>Reid, Laurence, (with Andrew Pawley) "The Evolution of Transitive
>Constructions in
>Austronesian." In: Paz B. Naylor, Ed., Austronesian Studies: Papers from
>the Second Eastern Conference on Austronesian Languages. Michigan Papers
>on South and Southeast Asia, No. 15. Ann Arbor: Center for South and
>Southeast Asian Studies, The University of Michigan. Pp. 103-130, 1979.
>Reid, Laurence, (with Stanley Starosta and Andrew Pawley) "The Evolution of
>Focus in
>Austronesian." In: Amran Halim, Lois Carrington, and Stephen Wurm, Eds.,
>Papers from the Third International Conference on Austronesian
>Linguistics, Vol. 2: Tracking the Travellers. 145-170. Pacific
>Linguistics Series C, No. 75. Canberra: Australian National University,
>VAN DER TUUK, Hermann N. (1971) _A grammar of Toba Batak_ The Hague: Martinus
>Nijhoff Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde [KITLV]
>Translation Series 13
>Again, thanks. I appreciate it.
>--Christopher Sundita

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