Summary of "Focus system in non-Philippine languages"

Vanish8080 at Vanish8080 at
Wed Jun 26 18:00:47 UTC 2002

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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